Do you want to reduce costs or grow?

Most organisations are either looking at ways to reduce costs or improve engagement with their customers. The unfortunate thing is, reducing costs rarely leads to better engagement.

When was the last time you felt truly engaged while speaking with someone from an overseas call centre?

I find it incredibly hard to understand how companies outsource customer-facing operations to overseas call centres and expect it not to affect the customer experience.

It’s understandable businesses looking to reduce costs in such a competitive world, but at what cost? Is it possible to lower the cost of delivering front line service without making the customer feel like they’re being abandoned?

The answer is yes; if we’re talking about ‘Level 0’, or as some call, self-serve. If it’s done properly, Level 0 can provide a real win-win arrangement, where both the customer and the business are both receiving a great outcome.

And this cannot be stressed enough. Time and time again, as a client, I have experienced it done poorly – leading to anything but what you’d call ‘customer service’.

The greatest challenge in delivering an effective and empowering Level 0 is related to what’s actually being offered. When I’m talking about Level 0, let me be clear; I’m not talking about companies that use a Web form for customers to write up their issue or request. That isn’t Level 0; that’s just a client entering a request/issue into a ticketing system!

In the simplest form, providing a Web chat, where the customer can talk to a customer support agent is a start. But the unfortunate fact is, on the other end, the customer support agent is usually the same overseas person you would have spoken to if you had picked up the phone and called them. They even use the same script.

To make things worse, that same person is multi-tasking 3-7 conversations at once, leading to a slow and frustrating experience. It’s pretty easy to discern the customer support agent is reading and reacting to the conversation by following a basic script.

I can honestly say that over the past four years, there have only been two cases where I have used a Web chat service to communicate with a provider and not felt this way.

On the other end of the scale, there are systems that are designed to deliver true customer service through Level 0. These systems offer a real self-serve experience; allowing the end-user to request actions (E.g. create a new Windows domain account or install a program on a user’s PC), as well as troubleshoot issues or reset passwords. All this is possible by a non-technical end-user – through a guided experience using just a Web browser.

This is where I see a real win-win experience for both the end-user and the provider. The customer gets what they want when they want it, and they remain in total control. The business saves money and resources, which allows them to offer more services around the clock while responding dynamically to their customer’s needs.

Don’t forget this important principle – anything but a win-win experience is a lose-lose transaction. The outcome may not be obvious immediately, but it will become self-evident down the track. You can count on it.

Check out the SpiceWorks Webinar replay: What you don’t know will hurt you.

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