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3 tips to building a powerful customer self-service strategy

Published: April 18, 2019

When self-service is done right.

It is unlikely that you will remember all the technology thought leaders and experts who were predicting that the first forays into virtual assistants, artificial intelligence, and robotic process automation would be miserable failures. In hindsight, that's exactly what we've witnessed among businesses that saw the cost savings opportunity promised by bot-assisted customer self-service and made the capturing of those savings a top priority.  

Unfortunately, this rush for quick cost efficiencies led to poorly executed bot deployments that damaged the customer experience. The feedback from your customers may have also aroused skepticism about the capability of artificial intelligence to give them greater control over their journey. So where did these "early adopters" go wrong when implementing their customer self-service strategy?

They didn't understand their customers. They failed to do the pre-work to understand the context of why customers were reaching out to them. Consequently, they didn't address relevant self-service opportunities.

Their approach was not well thought out. They tried to steer users through a path of multiple choice questions that resulted in dead ends when they failed to identify what the customer was trying to do.

They had no backup plan. When those customers did reach the dead end, there wasn't an effective way to try and get the conversation back on track. Customers were left with their "Job to be done" undone.

Many businesses that first tested the bot waters quickly packed in their experiment. But the damage was done, and on a broader scale than just these brands' images. These were the brands that experimented with the technology.  But it was the far greater number of end users trying to use those bots that stifled the innovative spirit. They had had a bad experience with that technology and feared what might happen if they tried it at their own company.

Your venture into bot-assisted customer self-service doesn't have to end that way. Rather than abandon your bot implementation because you had a bad experience with someone else's, try instead to recognize what dissatisfied you and actively correct that as part of your own rollout. Here are three tips of how to build a powerful customer self-service strategy:

Dig into the data.  Before you build, you need a blueprint, and that blueprint needs to be drawn from your Voice of the Customer (VoC) data -- not from surveys, but from analysis of unsolicited, unstructured text gathered from customer interactions. After that, document the steps a human would take to fulfill those customer needs and "train" the bot to complete those steps.

Put all the capabilities to work. While you'll naturally want to start with a focus on the basics, you should simultaneously build the vision for a more complete bot rollout. It's often said you should design your bot to handle the "simple" tasks while having human agents handle the more complex ones, but that mentality diminishes the true capability bots can offer.

You shortchange your customers when you fail to apply the natural language processing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence that add real value to the customer experience.  When you create a compelling, effortless bot experience for your customers, they will actually prefer to serve themselves.

Build an efficient escalation path. No bot will ever be 100% effective, so you will always need a clear, rules-driven plan to escalate the transaction to the best place for a rapid resolution. That may be having the bot ask a different question, but more likely, it will be a referral to a human being. Regardless, your plan should ensure the customer never arrives at a dead end nor finds themselves in an endless loop.  

When self-service is done right, everybody wins. Customers get their "Job to be done" done effortlessly, and they maintain a favorable view of your brand. You benefit from the cost savings that come with automation.  

But you have to do it right. If your primary goal is to cut costs, you will likely fail. You will find yourself pushing clients to work for you instead of for themselves and not only damage your brand, but likely increase your service costs as well. Instead, pull those customers to self-service channels and empower them to drive the journey on their terms. Find ways to save money with the help of an effective customer self-service strategy and improve your overall customer experience. 

Click here to learn how we can help you develop your customer experience strategy.