When interacting with organisations, customers value convenience, speed and consistency above all. Self-service systems deliver in all three of these areas, which is leading to their widespread adoption on the web. But self-service isn’t stopping there. Advances in speech recognition and voice to text technology mean that companies are beginning to look beyond websites to applying self-service to channels such as the telephone, in the contact centre and to apps on mobile devices. This convergence opens up new opportunities for engagement and improving the customer experience.
At present however the web is the primary channel for many consumers looking to interact with organisations through self-service. Whether accessing websites via traditional PCs or mobile devices such as tablets or smartphones, the web is an intrinsic part of the relationship between customers and brands. According to Forrester 52% of consumers say they will abandon an online purchase if they can’t find an answer quickly to their question. Essentially, consumers don’t want to have to switch channels to get a response, which means that companies need to invest in technologies such as web self-service to deliver the right customer experience.
Natural language powered web self-service makes it easy for customers to get answers to their questions, with minimum effort and maximum accuracy. It goes beyond static FAQ pages or keyword search by understanding the whole question being asked and then providing the most relevant answer from its centralised knowledgebase. Advanced web self-service systems use technologies such as linguistics to analyse the context of the whole question, and therefore get the heart of what the customer actually is looking for. So, for example, it can tell the difference between cricket the game and the flying insect by reviewing the words around it. Questions that cannot be answered satisfactorily through web self-service can be automatically escalated to agents via email, and the resulting answers then added to the knowledgebase.
At a time of rapidly rising customer contact volumes on digital channels, web self-service provides five key benefits:
1. Improved customer service
Nothing annoys customers more than having to switch channels unnecessarily when they have a query. A well-structured web self-service system understands their question using natural language techniques and delivers a fast response, avoiding the need for them to call or email. This improves customer satisfaction ratings and has a positive impact on Net Promoter Scores (NPS).
2. Greater efficiency
Analysts Contact Babel suggests that it costs £3.87 on average to answer a query over the phone and £3.70 via email. In contrast web self-service has a negligible cost per transaction, as there is no need for direct agent involvement. In most cases web self-service has reduced calls and emails by over 50%, while still improving service levels. The efficiency savings are therefore potentially large, whatever business sector you operate in.
3. Reduced load on other channels
By deflecting incoming interactions from other channels, the load on contact centre agents is correspondingly reduced. This means they have more time to deliver personalised answers to more complex questions, such as around accounts or billing queries, that cannot be provided through web self-service. In turn this improves the customer experience.
4. 100% consistency
With a single knowledgebase behind web self-service, customers receive the same, consistent answer however they phrase their question. The same knowledgebase can be extended to underpin other channels, for example being provided to agents answering email or phone queries, further increasing efficiency and multi-channel consistency.
5. Advanced insight
Static FAQs provide no insight into the questions your customers are asking. In contrast, web self-service systems can be analysed to view the most popular questions and the insight used to improve business processes. For example, if 90% of queries are asking if a specific product is available in blue, or 75% of questions are sent at a specific point in the checkout process, companies can use this information to modify their operations and boost revenues.
Natural language powered web self-service is a technology that benefits organisations and their customers equally. In an increasingly competitive market, all companies should investigate how it can help them boost engagement and increase efficiency – before their rivals do.