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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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