Self-Service and Assisted Service: Putting It All Together

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There’s also the long game to consider. The payoff for combining self-service and assisted service shouldn’t be calculated on a single-transaction basis. Research conducted by Aspect shows that while 57% of consumers expect to live-chat with an agent, a variety of other channels that leverage some form of automated chat are close behind. Benefits from partnering the two approaches are likely to come in the course of multiple calls and touchpoints. “If your systems are good, even if a customer is transferred to other groups and departments, or they come in at a later time through self-service, agents would have that threading to know what happened in the self-service environment,” Kropidlowski says. Systems that are maintained separately—or only connected for the purposes of transferring calls but not data—likely wouldn’t have the ability to provide this level of support during future interactions.

Looking ahead, pairing self-service and assisted service may be a way to make both platforms better. Hebner points to the potential for real-time learning. “As the system doesn’t know something, the human intervenes and can teach the machine how to do things,” Hebner says. Human experts will continue solving problems, with the self-service system tracking those advancements and incorporating the solutions along the way. With the current crop of self-service conversation applications, someone needs to go through and build the rules, but the applications of tomorrow can change that dynamic. “I see it learning from what agents and experts are doing in solving these problems,” Hebner says. “The machine learns from them on how to do this and how to do it better.”

Customers Continue to Shape Service Strategies

Trends in the consumer space are driving the way many companies approach both self-service and assisted service. Where customers may have been limited to only a few communication pathways in the past, today they have a multitude of channels available to them at all times. “The problem with more channels is that customer expectations are rising and they’re touching organizations in multiple ways,” Hassard says. “They’re starting in one channel and moving to others.” It’s often difficult for organizations to maintain a presence across every channel, but it’s something customers increasingly want and expect. The Kate platform by Genesys is just one of the latest generation of systems developed to cross these previously distinct borders. “Mobile devices have given rise to multiple channels and multiple interactions, and organizations are turning to artificial intelligence and multi-modality to try to deal with that,” Hassard says.

Changes in the marketplace itself are also influencing how consumers and companies engage. Horn points to Amazon as the poster child for this evolution. “Amazon shows very well what a personalized, automated experience can be like when it’s thoughtfully done,” he says. Though the e-commerce giant has a multitude of agents available, customers interact with them only rarely. One reason for the success of Amazon’s service platforms is the company’s ground-up development of much of the technology. “A lot of companies, due to their legacy systems, don’t have that capacity,” Horn says. Amazon’s culture also places a heavy emphasis on data analysis. “They’re understanding what consumers are trying to do, and then they built the whole thing to be personalized,” Horn says. As a result, consumers often use their service experiences at Amazon as points of comparison and expect other companies to keep up.

In addition, the consumerization of powerful interactive technology is changing perceptions about what is possible. No longer does the average person assume that what they’re given is the best that’s available. “It’s this explosion of the smart speaker in the home that has shown the world what speech technology can do,” Hebner says. Even with the limitations that still exist in these platforms—commands sometimes need to be spoken very clearly to trigger the correct response, for example—he says, “People are seeing how powerful it can be when it works.” When someone can have an easy, frictionless interaction at home with a piece of voice-linked technology, their expectations around customer support also evolve. “These great experiences are changing the way people think about dealing with an enterprise, and their patience for it,” Hebner says.

Getting the Service Recipe Right

What does it look like, both to the customer and to the organization, when self-service and assisted service are brought together effectively? Hassard recently had a chance to experience a blended transaction that successfully married self-service tools with assistance from a live agent.

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