I guess this idea boiled up to the surface as a result of the number of conferences and webinars I've recently attended on the subject. That and the fact that I guess its my job to think about these things. Things such as where customer service is heading; not next year or in five years but way out there. Since my Magic 8 Ball seems to be on the fritz tonight, let's focus on an opportunity for right here, right now.
A logical place to start is with a definition. What is web self service? For purposes here, this is a pretty good definition. Do you have something better?
To give this post a dash of credibility, I conducted a very unscientific review of 50 websites across various industries. In over 70% of the cases where the website had some form of self service like FAQs, the most predominant feature of the 'customer service' or 'contact us' tab was the company's 800 number.
So whats the message? "We gave a cursory pass at a self service feature here, but its most likely not going to answer your question. So here's the phone number. You're going to end up calling us anyway"
On the topic, I had a really interesting discussion recently with the principals at S3 Integrity; a consulting and technology firm with a passion for self service and a focus on customer service as the key stakeholder in the development of technical solutions.
The guys at Integrity use the ATM analogy with me. To effectively leverage the financial and operational benefits of web self service without sending your customers packing to the competitor, you have to do two things:
1. Make self service the most convenient channel through which to interact with your company so customers will be funneled to that channel. Then,
2. Create an exceptional self service experience that is far superior to anything you will receive by dealing with a representative to keep customers coming back to it.
So, that got me thinking. Customer service people know these two things implicitly. So why isn't customer service the owner of these projects across the board?