Truly effortless self-service: The future of proactive customer support

Self-service has an inherent flaw: Effort. What would you do with all of the time and energy you’d save if you didn’t have to stop working to diagnose and resolve issues? The next evolution of self-service shifts that effort from customers and technical support staff to proactive technologies.

Today, self-service requires a lot of effort

phone-and-coffeePicture yourself as a system administrator managing an enterprise-wide application.  A business leader contacts you to report concerns that have been impacting the productivity of his staff for a week. This sets off a time-consuming process of investigation and diagnostics. You could search a vendor’s support web site to find articles related to your condition or post to a community forum, but if all else fails, you’re calling the vendor for help. Depending on the complexity of the application and problem, this can take hours, days, or weeks of work. Work that takes you away from more important activities. Meanwhile, the business leader who’s having the issue is losing money, and becoming frustrated with you and the vendor. Value erosion is growing by the minute as productivity is lost.

…But there’s a brighter future

In the next generation of self-service, you’re still that system administrator. You wake up in the morning and an app on your phone tells you that the enterprise system is experiencing performance degradation. The app sends you a knowledge base article with details on the problem and lets you know that a self-healing fix is expected to resolve the issue within the hour. A Service Request has already been opened for follow-up and the system will report back at the end of the day if the fix has been successful. Since the performance degradation has been identified before it becomes a truly impacting problem, the problem will resolve itself before the business leaders lose any productivity. The system itself is doing the heavy lifting, so instead of performing manual diagnostics or researching fixes, you can finish your first cup of coffee.

Internet of Things technologies, data analytics/machine learning, and robust knowledge capture best practices are making a new proactive support engagement model a reality, transforming the technology support industry. In this new proactive model, the “voice of the product” will be the communication mechanism to vendors and manufacturers. Rich data streams will provide real-time information about assets. Analytics and machine learning technologies will identify immediate problems, trends, and patterns to knowledge in the form of recommendations, solutions, benchmarks, and self-healing fixes.

When resolutions are not already known, proactive service requests will be initiated, kicking off an investigation by the vendor’s support staff, and notifying the customer of its progress. All of this value can be delivered back to the asset or customer proactively through any number of communication channels.  A loop that automatically identifies a problem, matches it to a solution or service request, and provides that solution with little to no human interaction is now complete.

Further insight

promo_Mar31-2016_blogThis proactive support experience becomes a competitive advantage for the customer through dramatic productivity and product efficiency gains. Machine to machine communication and auto correction are becoming a reality and will be the backbone of tomorrow’s support organization.

On March 31, I’ll a part of an expert panel featuring Jordi Torras, Founder and CEO of Inbenta, and Melissa Burch, Knowledge Strategist with Irrevo, for a webinar titled Preparing for the Next Evolution of Self-Service. Join us for a deeper dive into how self-service will evolve, and hear actionable strategies that will help you future-proof your self-service experience.

Journey Mapping 101: Expert Answers to your Questions, Part 2

Our recent webinar, Journey Mapping 101: Reduce Customer Effort and Improve Customer Experience, covered key points on how to create a customer journey map, and related that to a reduction in customer effort and improvements to the customer experience.  We had a large, passionate audience, so it’s no surprise we couldn’t get to all of the questions during our Q&A period.

In this series of posts, our Senior Knowledge Consultant, Melissa Burch, and David Kay, Principal of DB Kay & Associates, take on some of the insightful questions asked by our audience.

Q: In the webinar, you mentioned removing all other questions from transactional surveys and just keeping Customer Effort Score. How would you measure other things that help you improve the customer experience?

Melissa: In many cases it is possible to collect data from internal systems that allows you to measure some aspects of the customer experience without asking the customer. For example, it is more accurate and less of a burden to the customer to calculate “time to resolve” details from the internal system.

DavidOne of the things that journey maps do is help you know where and how to instrument your processes, as Melissa suggests. Also, while transaction (post-case) surveys are short, you get to ask more questions in an annual relationship survey. Just make sure never to ask a question unless you’re willing and able to take action on the answer.

Q: What software do you like most to track actual customer paths through systems? Is actual tracking of customer usage not always required to accurately understand real-world paths? 

DavidWe’ve had customers successfully follow paths with Omniture and to a degree with Google Analytics, as well as heat maps with Crazy Egg. That being said, the customer journey gets most interesting when they go across touchpoints and time, so no web tracking software will give you the full customer journey. It’s why getting the right people in the room (including, potentially, customers) is so important.

Q: How is measuring effort actionable?

David: Customer Effort Score is an indicator, not a diagnostic. That’s why I’d use the customer experience journey mapping to do the diagnostics. I’d want to measure the effectiveness of the actions that I take in reducing customer effort through use of the customer effort score. So absolutely through CES we see where we are and we see where we’re trending and if we’re making things better. It’s pointless to ask the question unless you’re going to make things better. That’s where customer experience journey mapping comes in, and the triage or priorization approach that Melissa talked about.

Further insight

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch a recording of this webinar.

Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for more Q&A from this session, and follow us on Twitter to be the first to know when we share new posts.

Customer Journey Mapping & Customer Effort: Your Questions, Expert Answers

Our recent webinar, Journey Mapping 101: Reduce Customer Effort and Improve Customer Experience, covered key points on how to create a customer journey map, and related that to a reduction in customer effort and improvements to the customer experience.  We had a large, passionate audience, so it’s no surprise we couldn’t get to all of the questions during our Q&A period.

In this series of posts, our Senior Knowledge Consultant, Melissa Burch, and David Kay, Principal of DB Kay & Associates, take on some of the insightful questions asked by our audience.

Q: What are some tips/tricks to help us figure out how to quantify customer effort?

Melissa: I think examples are the best way to share tips and tricks. So, let’s assume you want to quantify the effort it takes to log a web-based help request/service request.  You could quantify on several variables including: number of minutes it takes, number of clicks it takes, number of questions asked, and number of screens presented.  Establish a consistent scoring mechanism that you use to translate the raw data into a scoring sheet.  Then, as you watch a user complete the task, capture the data for each question.  After the user is finished, translate the raw data to the scoring sheet to arrive at your overall effort score for that task.  It would probably be helpful to watch a few internal testers to make sure that you don’t observe another data point that you would like to capture.

Q: Who are the right people to have in the room to do a customer experience journey map?

David: The most important people in the room are the ones who actually do the work—interacting on-stage with customers, and implementing processes backstage.  While it’s great to have managers involved as well, we find that managers often know the theory of how things are *supposed* to work, and how things work in the real world can be significantly different.  Of course, you also want a cross-functional group that can speak to the end-to-end process we’re mapping.

Q: How do we pick which journeys to map?

David: This is one of the most interesting parts of a journey mapping workshop.  You want journeys that are “just right.”  Too broad, like the complete end-to-end customer lifecycle, doesn’t let you get into enough details to learn much of anything important.  On the other hand, journeys that are too narrow are likely to miss out on important key moments of truth, which often happen in the hand-off between groups or processes.  In general, look for a journeys that are a single experience for the customer (even if it lasts weeks or months), but which involve cross-functional efforts on your end.

Q: We really need to give more attention to our customer effort.  Where do you recommend we start?

Melissa: Begin by reviewing the data your customers have already provided.  This likely will be in various formats but when reviewed as a whole, will give you some ideas on how to address customer experience opportunities. Perhaps there are already teams who look at it, but chances are they are reviewing it with a specific purpose in mind.  I recommend you look at it with a wider lens to help identify and quantify some specific pain points. After getting armed with data, present your recommendations to the executive sponsor.  Then, we recommend you move forward and gather data to quantify observations. The data is required to help prioritize and focus efforts.

Further insight

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch a recording of this webinar.

Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for more Q&A from this session, and follow us on Twitter to be the first to know when we share new posts.

Finding Quick Wins to Decrease Customer Effort

Customer Effort Score is a measurement of how much effort a customer has to put forth to do business with a company. Studies have shown that customers who rate their interactions with a company as high effort are most likely to churn, regardless of how satisfied they are. The Maya Angelou quote comes to mind: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” When crafting your customer experience, it’s important to note that customers will remember what you said or did, but how you made them feel is a widely underestimated component of their experience.
customer-effort-scores-trade-time-for-resolution

Measuring Impacts of your Customer Effort Score

The quickest way to learn from your customers is to simply ask them, “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” The answers to this question measures the customer experience more accurately than any other statistic. It tells you how much of your customer’s most valuable asset – time – you’re asking them to trade for a resolution to their issue. Once you understand how easy or difficult your customer interactions are, you can introduce changes to make these interactions easier. 

Many of the ways you’re already measuring your customer experience are key indicators of where your customers encounter difficulty. For example:

  • Are you tracking effectiveness within your knowledgebase? Are most customers who use your support content able to find answers on their own? If your support content isn’t deflecting calls, it simply isn’t effective content.
  • What is your First Contact Resolution rate? Many call centers already use this statistic to measure the effectiveness of their agents, but FCR trends can also indicate a breakdown in the customer experience. If policy drives CSRs to tell their customers to call back later, that’s a major dissatisfier that can be remedied by strategic changes.

Using Support Content to Reduce Customer Effort

Once you’ve identified some root causes of customer effort breakdowns, one way to address them is with your support content. Here’s an example
of what this discovery process looks like:

  • What questions drive calls to Customer Service?
  • Is there support content that provides these answers?
  • If there is, but customers still require support, where is the missing piece?
  • Are they not able to locate a satisfactory answer, or is the one they encounter unclear?

The Broader Solution: Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey mapping is an exercise that gives you visibility into the customer experience from start to finish, so you can anticipate and eliminate areas of intense customer effort and maximize customer satisfaction. My colleague, Melissa Burch, along with David Kay of DBKay & Associates, have presented on this topic in a recent webinar,  Journey Mapping 101: Reduce Customer Effort and Improve Customer Experience. The recording provides you with everything you need to start mapping your customer journey, including strategies on reducing customer effort.