Self-Service and Assisted Service: Putting It All Together

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When a newly purchased mobile phone didn’t arrive on the expected date, Hassard decided to find out what happened. “I called the customer service number, and the IVR said, ‘Hi, Rodney. I see you’ve placed an order for a new iPhone; just wanted to let you know it will be with you by noon tomorrow. Is there anything else you need?’” Hassard was delighted with the personalization available within the self-service channel—the system knew his situation and accurately predicted the most likely reason for his call—but he still had questions. “I pushed through to an agent, who knew what I had received through that self-service experience and was able to pick up on that conversation where self-service left off.” The transition was completely transparent, and even the agent seemed to be in better form because of the seamless handoff. Hassard says, “[The agent] knew I was surprised and happy with my experience so far, and the call ended in a good way.”

Though customers are increasingly able to conduct research and get their questions answered online, the amount of support an individual wants and needs from a combination of self-service and assisted service may actually go up. “You have these interactions for one situation that can traverse back and forth from self-service to live and back again, depending on how complex the issue is,” Aspect’s Kropidlowski says. When the platforms are working together effectively, brands can capture customers’ attention while also empowering them. “It’s important to have context and continuity to pass that data over so the customer isn’t frustrated that they have to start over,” Kropidlowski says. By placing an emphasis on reducing effort for both customers and the company, it’s possible for organizations of any size and in any industry to maximize the benefits of a blended service approach.

Some in the airline industry have already embraced the combined capabilities of assisted service and self-service. Frequent fliers, for example, often connect their phone number to their account. “When you call the airline, they know it’s you,” Horn says. Research conducted by [24]7.ai has shown that more than half of people who contact a company directly are still viewing the website. The airlines use those multiplatform connections to help move service calls along. “What the technology allows them to do is say, ‘Hi, Scott. We noticed you’re trying to book a flight from Los Angeles to Boston. Is that why you’re calling?’” Horn says. Based on the caller’s response, the system can direct the conversation into the self-service platform or on to a live agent. “You might ask about meal service or upgrade costs; that’s where assisted service and self-service used together in a conversational way are really powerful, particularly if it spans channels, from web to digital to voice,” Horn says.

Unfortunately, companies are often beginning at a disadvantage, simply because they’re working with legacy systems that either lack the horsepower to keep up with new technologies available in the service space or aren’t able to integrate with newer platforms designed to make the overall experience more robust. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could start with a clean slate and deploy based on today’s technology?” Hibel asks. Charting a course based on the existing environment is crucial, including working around any silos that are in place. It begins by looking at self-service and assisted service as two parts of the same customer journey. “Information should come with that customer to complete the transaction, not start a new transaction in a different live agent channel,” Hibel says. Integrating platforms so that transitions are seamless—whether a customer is escalating from self-service to assisted service or a live agent is handing them back to a chatbot or other self-service tool to complete their call—should be the goal.

Efforts to bring the various service pieces together may yield some surprising organizational barriers too. It’s not uncommon to discover that the people who manage branding or the company’s website don’t always talk with their counterparts running the contact center. Getting these stakeholders aligned and working from the same playbook can be difficult, but Horn says it’s necessary for success. “If you have multiple pathways for consumers to engage you—email, phones, website for chat, etc.—you’ve got to have contact center and website people involved in the process.” Once everyone understands the goals of putting self-service and assisted service together, the team can then plot a course forward to improve the customer experience and make better use of their technology and headcount assets. 

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