When was the last time you called your airline to select or change your seat assignment? I can’t remember the last time I spoke to an agent to request an upgrade or a specific seat. Ten, fifteen or twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have hesitated to pick up the phone to ask for an aisle seat in 12C. Today, we pick up a mouse, verify the quality of the seat though Seatguru.com, and finalize the process through the airline’s web self-service application.
We’ve become so comfortable using self-service for customer service that I think we’d almost prefer not to talk to anyone. We even complain now via the web and will air our grievances over Twitter instead of “asking for a supervisor.” Truth be told, I will do everything to ensure that I don’t need to interact with a live human being and reserve those conversations for the most complex transitions.
We’re picking up the mouse a lot more these days. Case in point: Telstra, the Australian telco giant was pleasantly surprised to see that customers are shifting to web self service. Within six moths of launching a new online strategy, 28 per cent of their transactions were conducted via web self-service.
The mouse isn’t the only self-service vehicle. Smart phone platforms such as the iPhone and Adroid will also drive the self-service revolution. While still in its infancy, mobile customer service applications hold tremendous promise. Today, every company has created a basic self-service mobile application to manage routine tasks. In the future, mobility will follow our location, preferences, and history to deliver a seamless self-service customer experience – and remember this context whenever a live human being is required.
Self-service has become woven into the fabric of our lifestyle. Twenty years ago, my parents complained about the advent of the ATM machine replacing their favorite teller. In the same way, eleven years ago I was forced to check into my American Airlines flight via a self-service kiosk at the airport and was indignant to wanted speak with with a live human. This month, American Airlines changed terminal 4 at LAX into a self-service destination. And, it’s conceivable that you can now take flight without ever needing to interact with a human being.
So what does this mean for customer service organizations? Companies should learn from Telstra, American Airlines and other do-it-yourself trailblazers and employ the following three strategies:
Invest: Customers are willing and receptive to self-service. My mother is finally comfortable utilizing web and mobile self-service technologies to conduct routine transactions – she’s a good litmus test for me in this area. The airline and financial service industries has trailblazed the self-service concept for years and have dramatically changed consumer behaviors. Companies should invest in web and mobile technologies that replicate commonplace interactions into the contact center.
Connect the Self-Service Dots: Web and mobile self-service will often escalate to a live agent. It’s a fact of life. When an agent receives this escalation, they should be aware of the self-service history and context. A customer shouldn’t be required to repeat basic account information and the nature of their call.
Empower the Phone: Since self-service has now become the new “font line” for customer service, phone calls will be reserved for the complicated and complex. As such, phone agents should be highly skilled and able to seamlessly continue the conversation from their self-service counterparts.
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