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Is customer self-service replacing contact center service?

Helping customers help themselves through self-service can reduce costs, but your self-service strategy should include monitoring and supporting internal operations, expert Scott Sachs advises.

Contact centers have historically used customer self-service tools as a means to reduce not only the number of calls that agents have to field, but also operating expenses.

While this has been a successful strategy that can enable agents to focus on high-touch, complex issues, it also presents a new set of challenges. Companies -- and contact centers, in particular -- must be prepared to address the following issues in order to support a successful customer self-service strategy:

It requires a renewed focus on internal operations. Self-service is effective in "cherry picking" low-touch transactions that don't require as much human intervention, such as providing bank balance information or purchasing an airline ticket. As a result, a larger percentage of the calls that are now received in contact centers are much more complex, which requires agents to have strong problem-solving skills, be better trained and have more effective tools at their fingertips.

It requires improved customer relations tools. In many cases, a customer will pivot to a call channel after using a self-service channel. Organizations need to develop tools that minimize the pain that customers must endure during the pivot. Part of reducing this friction involves mapping the customer journey to diagram the various pathways that customers may travel as they move from one channel to the next and the reasons that may prompt them to switch channels. As customers move from self-service to higher-touch channels, systems must capture the actions taken during the customer self-service experience and provide the information to agents to avoid redundancy and have a more productive interaction.

It requires organizations to monitor self-service channels. Organizations must monitor the success of self-service channels using tools including Web analytics and Interactive voice response (IVR) data to determine where customers drop out to either pivot to another channel or abandon the transaction altogether. It is critical for organizations to leverage feedback to drive continuous improvement in self-service channels and enhance the customer experience.

Whether organizations drive customer self-service or not, it is critical that they realize that other service delivery changes are required to make such a strategy successful.

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What is your customer self-service strategy?
Our strategy is to provide streamlined and efficient services. Whether that comes from a self-service offering or via a contact center depends on the service that is being offered.
My strategy is providing user experience, especially asking them to upload video or send their satisfaction rate.
Great idea, huge potential cost savings, but a difficult proposition for many. We've avoided self-service and still have old fashioned humans answer our phones. Every time we run into another "Press 1 for Jim, Press 2 for Jane..." systems we're even more convinced that the logic behind this software has a long, long way to go. Too many choices, too many menus continues to deter us.
Hi Scott,
Some good points made. One of the things you may have overlooked is the age demographic of a company's customers. Millenials simply don't use the phones to speak into to the same degree as other generations would have. So having a self-service app can become a must-have to continue to engage with those customers. 
As a side note, I also find it's more satisfying to solve the problem yourself than have a contact centre employee solve it for you.
I’ve not seen that self-service is replacing contact center service so much as it is augmenting it, providing an alternate means of service that can be more more efficient and cost effective in some situations.