Verizon's Growing Online Self-Service Initiative Meshes With Consumer Preferences

Verizon's recent enhancement and expansion of online customer-service support tools tracks with independent research that shows more than a third of online consumers strongly prefer to find answers for themselves rather than reaching out for help via telephone or e-mail. 

According to a December 2009 Forrester Research report titled "It's Time To Give Virtual Agents Another Look," 36 percent of consumers strongly prefer to be self-reliant online.  That preference is even higher among younger consumers: 46 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and 42 percent of 30- to 42-year-olds.

"If more than a third of our customers also prefer to use self-service tools online to the maximum extent possible and would report a truly satisfying experience, that means we're doing the right thing by enhancing our digital and Web-based self-service channels," said Lou Sigillo, Verizon vice president of customer service strategy.  "Our online support has been enriched so broadly that if we can get even more of our customers to try our customized, self-service tools, they'll become quick and loyal fans."

The Forrester report contains the results of the North American Technographics® Customer Experience Online Survey for the fourth quarter of 2009. 

The survey, which polled 4,653 individuals, offers broad insights into consumer behavior and resulting satisfaction levels.  For example:

  • Only 28 percent of the survey's respondents preferred to resolve a service issue by speaking to someone on the phone. 

  • 55 percent had used "help" or "frequently asked questions" on company Web sites, and 56 percent were satisfied, voting "4" or "5" on a five-point satisfaction scale ranging from extremely unsatisfied to extremely satisfied.

  • 29 percent had used a keyword search on a company site and 59 percent reported satisfaction.

  • 26 percent had used telephone self-service options and 44 percent were satisfied.

Well-presented help using the latest technologies has high potential to reduce telephone calls from customers seeking help with hardware and services, the report showed.  Customers could, for example, rely on "avatar" agents to successfully walk them through troubleshooting actions.

Verizon's support pages at www.verizon.com and www.verizon.net, as well as those available via the Verizon In-Home Agent self-help application, offer step-by-step guidance covering various issues from setting up a TV remote control to adding a computer to a home Wi-Fi network.

"It makes sense that customers might prefer reading along with the instructions and getting the information they need themselves, so they can work at their own pace and maybe printing out the guidance for future reference," said Sigillo.

Verizon has significantly enriched its self-service tools for wireline residential customers, enabling them to do everything from shopping for bundles of services to paying bills to fixing problems with TV and Internet services - at any time of day or night.

The enhanced online and voice-activated tools are designed to be easy for customers to use and to put them in direct control of their specific service needs.  The tools also meet the needs of consumers, a growing number of whom use self-service tools every day for such things as paying bills, purchasing airline tickets and making hotel reservations.

With the self-service expansion and enhancement, Verizon now has five signature self-service tools: the Support section of Verizon.com; online ordering for existing and new customers for bundles and a la carte services within Verizon.com; FiOS TV Interactive Media Guide (IMG); In-Home Agent (IHA) software; and a telephone voice response system.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving more than 91 million customers nationwide.  Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America's most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers innovative, seamless business solutions to customers around the world.  A Dow 30 company, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of approximately 222,900 and last year generated consolidated revenues of more than $107 billion.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.