Self-Service Customer Engagement: To Automate or Not?

This post continues my recap of a three-part podcast series on self-service design featuring Judith Halperin, principal consultant in speech engineering at Avaya.

My first post conveyed Judith’s observations on some key aspects of designing a user-centric and user-friendly self-service experience.

This installment, which covers the next podcast in the series, explores design practices for navigating that fine line between fully leveraging self-service while still providing personalized service. You can tune in to the podcasts below to hear the full conversation.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Organizations that employ self-service systems have to perform a kind of high-wire balancing act: encourage the majority of customers to stay in self-service, while extracting top-tier, or demonstrably antsy customers to an agent before their experience deteriorates.

When should the agent option appear? Analysis of 50 Fortune 500 company IVRs by telecom research firm Software Advice found that most customers typically navigate three menus or more before reaching a live agent.

Customers will usually roll along with self-service as long as they don’t have to provide too much information or go through too many steps to accomplish their goal. At the same time, they‘re much more patient with people than with systems, and just because something can be automated doesn’t mean it should be. Complex and one-off service needs might best stay with human agents, while simpler interactions can be done in self-service.

Here are some other self-service design considerations:

Design for the majority of callers. Find out which service requests are most popular among callers and identify those who are most repeatable and automatable. These can be considered your low-hanging fruit requests that can be addressed in self-service.

Keep the agent option active. Callers will ask for an agent whether you want them to or not. They don’t necessarily need to be transferred to one immediately, but the self-service system should at least acknowledge your customer’s request. If a caller has exhausted the options in primary and secondary menus, it may, in fact, be time to transfer or at least provide the option to request an agent.

Before sending customers to an agent, it can be helpful to ask them for information that can enhance the service they receive and/or enable them to be routed to an agent with the right level of expertise. Some organizations find it beneficial to provide a short explanation as to why it is valuable for the customer to provide the information.

Use caller segmentation. Based on demographics, CRM data and other factors, you can leverage your self-service solution to actually create dynamic content and experiences for your customers. It may determine that some callers prefer to help themselves and can handle seven or eight options in self-service, while others may have a better experience with fewer automated options. You can even do data dips to help identify certain top-tier customers that may need to be transferred immediately or automatically at dial-in.

How are you capitalizing on the benefits of self-service while maintaining a superior customer experience? Please share your thoughts. And be on the lookout for our final podcast, in which we explore some natural language design tips.

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