When You Should Be Anti-Self-Service in Customer Service

With the rapid growth in AI and bots, self-service applications are improving a company’s ability to understand and classify customer intent. That sounds great but might not always be the case.

During a recent online panel discussion about customer experience, technologies, and — of course — the use of generative AI, bots and other emerging tech, a participant asked, “What is the impact of generative AI on self-service?” Some panel members explained that with greater understanding of intent comes a greater ability to service and deliver successful results. We discussed the power of AI in the employee experience — and a bot’s ability to surface knowledge in real-time as a customer/employee conversation is unfolding.

Then, I introduced this thought.

“With all this advanced technology and understanding, it certainly will be easier to provide self-service. But we need to keep in mind that sometimes the worst thing you could do is actually allow someone to self-serve.”

Knowing the Right Time to Be Anti-Self-Service

Self-service can be great — for both customers and businesses. But it’s a component of a much broader customer experience strategy and design. Knowing the right time to surface and guide users to self-service is the key.

Imagine this: A top-tier customer is out surfing your digital property or entering your voice system. You’ve been sending this person offers and identifying cross-sell and up-sell opportunities to expand their products and services with you; now they’re on your doorstep. Would you really want them to just serve themselves and go away?

Consider another scenario: You’ve been trying to reach a customer for information on an issue, application or maybe late payment — and now they’re on your website or in your IVR. Do you want to let that person self-serve and go?

There are opportunities that we might let slip through our fingertips across all touchpoints. For the right opportunity, it makes better business sense to spend a little more time and effort to engage this person with a human resource to differentiate the brand, generate revenue, or drive retention and customer loyalty.

According to the recent Genesys report, “The State of Customer Experience,” 86% of consumers say that a company is only as good as its service; one-third of customers said they switched brands in the past year over a negative interaction. These are moments of truth that should be evaluated and designed with the same due diligence as the mission, the logo and the next campaign messaging.

I love a good self-service experience. I analyze company experience designs and performance every day. I’ve experienced very very good applications that get me the answer I need quickly and get me back to the thing that’s really important to me — my life.

But I’ve also had experiences where I’ve struggled to find answers; didn’t have time to research the answers; or was contacted by the company for an offer, an issue or an alert only to find that they don’t know who I am or what I’m responding to when I reach out to them. During these times, I really appreciate when an informed company engages me with a specialist — and that specialist (because of the value of the relationship) understands the friction I’ve experienced.

When I connect with a specialist of a company that knows how to differentiate the brand, they know who I am, where I’ve been in my journey, and the relationship [or lack thereof] I’ve with the company. As I participate in this type of conversation, I don’t have to put forth a lot of effort to explain myself. I feel known, heard and understood.

This type of experience and this type of understanding at scale requires orchestration — having the ability to visualize journeys and identify the points of friction and the paths for success across all your customer experiences. Experience orchestration uses AI to stitch together identities across touchpoints into a unified customer profile that’s always learning and adapting. With this unified identity, you can now stitch together events from across experiences — digital, contact center, back-office, even IoT events — across the customer lifecycle [marketing, sales, service, fulfillment].

Armed with this information, you can target and prioritize change and improvement that delivers the biggest customer and business impacts.

Delivering End-to-End Orchestrated Experiences at Scale

When a brand can’t deliver orchestrated experiences, even a human-assisted interaction could feel as impersonal and disjointed as a bad self-service experience.

To deliver these end-to-end orchestrated experiences at scale, contact centers need to connect channels, data and knowledge to guide users to the right resources that deliver successful outcomes for them and the business. Leveraging AI to monitor activity and predict moments where the experience or relationship is stalled or regressing. In those moments, companies must engage customers proactively in real-time to address challenges as well as discover and define intent or opportunities.

As you engage, it’s about connecting each user with the right resource: bots, knowledge, content, and/or the right human resource — and then providing that resource with the context to enter the conversation from a place of understanding. It isn’t asking the customer to repeat information they’ve already given, either in their profile, their input or their activity history.

And part of experience orchestration is also about assessing, evaluating and improving all your resources. This means understanding where your knowledge content is working — and where it’s not. You need to tune your bots to better understand intent and guide users to content and representatives.

Finally, you can’t forget one of your biggest brand differentiators: your brand ambassador and the voice and persona of your brand in that moment – your human representatives. Experience orchestration includes understanding their strengths and weaknesses, keeping your workforce engaged and involved in the business and the mission, and providing them with coaching and information at their fingertips to reduce the cognitive load. This enables them to focus on customer needs, build relationships and positive customer experiences, and create successful outcomes.

Designing the Best Experience for Each Customer

The promise of AI and technology is a big and beautiful thing. The sophistication of self-service will continue to improve as we scale better understanding and our ability to surface answers and solutions through technological advances. But there’s still a bigger picture to consider. And this picture needs to capture your customers, too.

Customers don’t think they’re experiencing a marketing motion or technology A or B. They experience your brand.

Delivering on the promise of tomorrow requires us to be experience designers — connecting the dots and unifying the data and technology to deliver seamless experiences for customers and employees as well as real business value to the company.

When do bots make sense? When should customers self-serve? When should a contact center agent step in? The answer to all those questions is, “It depends.”

It depends on who the customer is, where they’ve been, what are they trying to accomplish — or what is the company wants to accomplish. Technology allows us to evaluate those variables in real-time and take the right actions that benefit everyone.

See what Experience Orchestration can do for your organization. Watch the Experience Orchestration demo today.