Perhaps the best word to describe how many customers feel about the voice self-service channel is ‘conflicted.’ While they understand why businesses use self-service, and they appreciate self-service options when they work well, customers also become highly frustrated when they don’t. This “love to hate” dynamic seems to come down to poor service design and then a lack of choice: Customers are often forced to start and complete a long, ungainly process that clearly serves the business more than it serves their needs, and it’s irritating to have to run this gauntlet before being allowed to simply talk to an agent. (We’re using the word “forced” deliberately; how many years has it been since customers stopped expecting a human to answer the phone when they call customer service?)
No one is suggesting that your contact center eliminate or even limit your voice self-service. However, it absolutely would benefit your customer satisfaction scores – and your business’ overall success — to take steps to minimize your callers’ internal conflicts. So we’ve come up with the following checklist to consider, whether you’re initiating voice self-service or just updating your existing system.
1. Have you prepared by asking the right process questions?
Before you build or make any updates to your self-service options, there are a few key questions you should answer:
- What kind of calls and/or inquiries are bogging down your agents today?
- If you could automate one process in your call center, what would it be? (Typical processes that are great candidates for self-service are account inquiries, card activations, payments, etc.)
- What information do your customers want the most, and what data should they provide in order to get that information?
- How are your agents currently handling these processes? To avoid “culture shock” for your customers, it helps if your newly automated process follows a similar path as the agent-assisted one they’re used to. This also helps your agents (see below).
2. Have you thought through your service options?
The digital transformation has made so many advances in this area that it’s important to prioritize and plan for future expansion up front. For instance:
- If your system does not already include AI solutions or natural language processing, have you created a design that will easily integrate them later?
- Do you want to expand your VoC program with automated surveys?
- Would it help any part of your workforce to have access to automated reporting?
3. Does your IVR…
- Include language options within the initial menu?
- Design each self-service task to best facilitate the caller’s experience?
- Use menus and features designed to keep calls as short and direct as possible? (See our related how-to blog posts here and here)
- Add convenience by proactively reminding callers to make a payment, confirm an appointment, or other personalized option after the initial task has been completed?
- Make it easy and quick to reach an agent, even providing multiple paths? Best practices here include:
- Never make a caller request an agent more than once.
- Once the request for an agent has been made, don’t make your caller listen to messages about how different self-service channels can assist them.
- However, do alert callers to hold times and give them other options if the wait time is above your designated threshold.
- Provide an easy path to correct errors? (As just one example, when an error is made, the explanatory response should rephrase the options in order to clear up confusion.)
4. Does your voice self-service “play well with others”?
Building in an omnichannel approach is the best way to minimize customer frustration; do everything you can to eliminate any effort that you’re forcing your customer to make, like repeating information as they move between channels, waiting on hold, etc. Further, it’s critical that other departments such as marketing, sales, and R&D have access to deeper analytics within your customer-service databases to support their decision-making.
5. Have you actually used the system to observe the customer experience?
Make it a habit to periodically call your own self-service system and try to complete different tasks just as your customers do; in fact, best practice could be to also have team members call it periodically and report back on their experiences as compared to other self-service systems they use in their personal lives.
Remember that your goal is to eliminate as many points of confusion, slowdown, and irritation as possible. Is the system working the way you intended? Immediately address any unforeseen irritations, just a few of which could be:
- Repeating call-recording announcements too often
- Adding unnecessary messages in advance of the menus
- Not allowing enough time for responses
- An audio interface that sounds too “canned”
6. Have you made sure your agents are fully aware and on board?
There can be a certain “rock and a hard place” aura around contact center operations these days; customers either love to complain about the self-service options, or they love to complain about their interactions with human agents when they find them lacking in some way. Don’t make your agents’ jobs harder by not fully informing them about any changes happening inside your voice self-service channel.
In fact, informing them is the bare minimum. Your agents should be trained on the self-service system and its capabilities so that they may effectively help customers, as well as helping the operations team understand any problems that have arisen and how the automated options can be improved. Part of this training is to help your agents understand how the self-service system improves their own jobs. Further, now that you’re rerouting some of their more time-intensive job duties, it’s important to provide additional education and training so that your agents are the positive, efficient and knowledgeable representatives that your callers want to talk to about their more complex customer-service issues.
This checklist gives your team a lot to think about, and it’s likely that some parts of the list are higher-priority for your operations than others. Start with those items and keep the others in the back of your mind for later updates. When you need a professional hand with creating your ideal voice self-service, Plum Voice had overseen thousands of successful, long-term application deployments; we’re trusted by more than 600 enterprises in 150 countries.