Self-service or the human touch?
The research suggests that the answer is not one or the other, but maybe “both”. Better still, “it depends”. As usual in customer service, the world needs to be looked at in a differentiated way. Therefore, companies often offer a multichannel customer service, a mix of different communication channels.
A survey conducted by Steven Van Belleghem together with PSI suggested that 70% of modern consumers expect a company to include a self-service application. At the same, the results show that between 30% and 52% prefer self-service depending on the country of the participants. A third data point is the percentage of users who prefer to ask questions on the phone at different points in the buying cycle: during the pre-sales phase 27% prefer phone; this rises to 35% during post sale.
What does that all mean?
First of all it is clear that the habit of self-service is established (70% know they’ll find service options on the website and expect to use them). But a lot of these people do NOT have a preference for self service. On the other hand, many people still like to self-serve. At the same time and in particular circumstances, people will reach for the phone.
So what is a business to do? React in a differentiated way that is appropriate to its particular situation. If it has a business model that supports personal interaction, then it must figure out how to do that brilliantly.
But also figure out what can be moved to automation. Note that if, say, 30% customers call a business, then moving them to automation requires some novel journeys in IVR and SMS. On the other hand if most customers use online services (help center and then chat or email), then the focus must be on optimizing web self-service.
When self-service options are offered for basic support functions, consumers in the Information Age will not waste time on an unsuitable channel if they can get the answers quicker. Hence the increasing focus of contact centers on a variety of cost-efficient automated services: Email, online knowledge bases, IVR audio and SMS (itself often linking back to the knowledge base).
For us, the findings of the above report confirms a trait which continually differentiates market-leading multichannel customer service from the rest. The ability to optimize individual customer support channels based on the services a business provides and customers it serves.