Thursday, September 30, 2010

Customer service through a website?

How can a company move customers to visit the self-service website? And, how can customers stick to that channel? It is a fair question, because self-service websites are a lot cheaper than a customer service rep (CSR) and additionally, most questions customers ask, can be found on the website. Unfortunately research of the Customer Contact Council shows that 57% of the customers surveyed, have already been on the website first, before calling the organization.

Customers may be overwhelmed by all the possibilities self-service channels offer. They can choose between voice prompts, mail, online support communities, social media, email, chat and so on. A lot of customers are not able to make a choice. So, they will pick up the phone and call. Because that's the easiest thing to do. The CCC found a best practice in Cisco Consumer Products. Cisco guides its customers to the self-service channel it determines will suite them best, based on segment-specific hypotheses.

Different customer segments can find their (service) way on de website. Customer with almost no knowledge about technology are directed to another environment than the tech gurus. The first group will be served with a step-by-step instruction program, while the technology oriented customers will find their answers in the technology breathing segment of the website, like an online software community. When Cisco started this, only 30% of its customers were being served through the self-service website. Nowadays that figure is 84% and still rising.

Cisco has millions of customers, so a slight increase in the number of self-service activities means a huge amount of money. Maybe your organization operates a self-service website as well. You can make some quick wins. Assess the website on jargon, layout, readability and navigation. Cut out the jargon, simplify the layout, improve the readability and navigation and see what it does in the Customer Effort Score.

This post is part of a series of blogs about the relationship between customer satisfaction and loyalty. That is a research project from the Customer Contact Council and has been published in the Harvard Business Review, edition july/august 2010.

Previous post: Interpersonal issues in customer contact events.

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