Industry Insights: Finding the right balance between self-service and full service

We all know customer service is critical: 94% of consumers say a positive customer service experience makes them more likely to purchase again from that company, and 82% recommend companies that have delivered excellent customer service to them, according to Salesforce’s 2022 State of the Connected Consumer Report.

Trouble is, different people have different definitions of excellent customer service, making it tricky to find the sweet spot between self-service and full service.

There’s growing demand for self-service, at least for routine matters: 73% of consumers want the ability to solve issues on their own and not have to speak with a customer service rep, a 2022 Statista survey found. However, others still prefer talking to agents, especially for complex problems.

What’s more, companies and their customers don’t always agree on how good their customer service is, according to Zendesk 2022 Customer Experience Trends Report:

  • 72% of hospitality leaders agree that customer service is a critical business priority, yet 57% say that it’s still not owned by the C-suite
  • 56% of healthcare companies gave themselves high marks for the quality of their service, but 54% percent of patients report that customer service feels like an afterthought

Self-service is increasing but needs improving

Self-service is a good match for customers’ demand for speed, control and personalization because it provides tools for them to solve their own problems. Interactive voice response (IVR) and automated chatbots can provide on-demand answers to simple questions such as how to update billing details.

The result is mixed, however. Too often, consumers try the chat function only to see the message “agent offline” or worse, receive no response. Equally off-putting are companies that make it hard for customers to switch from self-service to full service when warranted. They don’t include customer service numbers on their websites or bills and/or require consumers to go through mind-numbing rounds of automated options and repeating their customer information to multiple reps.

Even the best self-service won’t be able to replace full-service options. Not all grocery store shoppers want to use self-checkout lanes. And while automation and digital communications have reduced the number of calls mortgage holders make to servicers, the remaining customer service calls are taking much longer because they are dealing with more complicated questions and answers.

With both customer experience and cost in mind, now may be a good time to assess your own service processes and options for billing and payments. Use this window in the business cycle to look at operations and see what needs tweaking. Here are two places to start:

Clear communication comes first

Repair the processes that make it harder to deliver a good customer experience. Expand training and upskilling, for example. Address any barriers that prevent customer service reps from accessing the data and records they need to provide efficient, personalized service.

Go through your templates to make sure communications with customers are understandable and concise. Add marketing messaging and promote self-service features. To empower the consumer, you need to clear a path for them.

Make technology work for you and your customers

An uncertain economy might spur action toward a low-cost solution, but that’s not the way to future-proof your business. Software or services that are inexpensive upfront and prove incomplete or needlessly complex, add time and frustration for employees and customers.

Consider ways to improve consumer satisfaction and engagement. Three out of 4 consumers want electronic statements, according to Instamed research reported in our white paper Gain Control of Your Omnichannel Collections Communications. “Using preferred contact and communication methods increases the likelihood of getting paid,” said Tim Buckles, chief operating officer of Simon’s Agency.

Take a good look at your website and payment portal. Can customers easily access statements or set up a payment plan from your portal? Our ExpressoPay® electronic bill presentment and payments system enables companies to add links in texts and emails to a branded payment portal. Once enrolled, consumers can view all communications sent previously using our integrated Expresso platform.

Self-service is increasingly important because customers want the convenience of getting things done on their schedules, often through digital channels. Some customers will always stick with the traditional forms of communication, but you may be able to shift more to self-service if it’s done right.

For more information, please contact us.