Giving customers independence through digital self-service

With another U.S. Independence Day and Canada Day in the books, we reminisce on the freedom customers have to choose how they engage with brands. In exercising that freedom, many customers go straight to self-serve options such as automated guides or virtual assistance. In order to provide the right kind of self-service to these customers, brands must first understand this: why do customers choose to help themselves?

With another U.S. Independence Day and Canada Day in the books, and Bastille Day in France coming up, we find ourselves being grateful for the freedom many of us enjoy as consumers. Not only do we have the freedom to choose what we buy and from whom we buy it, but we have the freedom to choose how we buy it. 84% of customers take that freedom a step further and go straight to self-serve options to work independently, experiencing the brand on their own terms.

In giving their customers the independence they crave, brands must first understand why their customers want to serve themselves, then equip their self-service options with features that meet those needs. So why do customers prefer the freedom of online self-service?

Convenience: In a Nuance customer survey, 75% say self-service is a convenient way to address their customer service issues. They can do it any time they want and take as long as they need. In a time when smartphone owners perform the majority of their daily tasks on their phone while relaxing on the couch, self-service is the go-to experience 24 hours a day.

Brands can meet the expectation of convenience by making the self-help option highly visible, and even proactively present the self-serve availability upon entry of the website or app. They can make it even more convenient for their customers by implementing asynchronous messaging in their mobile experience; while not really self-service, it does give the customer freedom to interact with an agent when it is most convenient for them.

Efficiency: They don’t want to wait in queue to be connected to a person nor take the time to explain what they are trying to accomplish. They want to get online, quickly find what they want, click-click and they’re done.

Truly efficient self-service tools, such as automated guides or virtual assistants, should be intuitive and proactive in providing only the content that the customer wants. And when the customer has a unique situation that requires live human interaction, they should be seamlessly transitioned to a knowledgeable live chat agent who sees the customer’s interaction history thus far, therefore not burdening the customer with repeating the issue.

Control: Customers feel empowered when they can handle it themselves. They don’t want to have to rely on other people. Nuance found that 67% of customers would rather self-serve than speak to a representative. Also, these self-sufficient consumers like the knowledge they gain by finding out for themselves, adding to that feeling of control.

In order to ensure that desired feeling, brands need to make their self-service tools easy to use and navigate. They also need to listen to their customers and learn from their feedback; usability improvements that are implemented because the brand is open to the voice of their customers go a long way in putting the customer in the driver’s seat.

Online self-service is only convenient, efficient, and empowering when the self-service tools are optimized to easily answer common questions, no matter how they are asked, and when they operate in connection with live support when needed. Giving customers an independent experience that is backed up with a human touch not only benefits the customer, it delivers a greater ROI for brands.

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Bernard Louvat

About Bernard Louvat

Bernard joined TouchCommerce, now part of Nuance, in 2005 with a vision to assist online shoppers to buy online in more effective and measurable ways. Drawing upon his specialty retail and online experience, he embarked on creating a set of innovative technology solutions to target, engage and assist online shoppers in a more personalized online shopping experience. Today these solutions are leading the market in digital transformation for an omni-channel ecosystem, extending into the quickly-growing landscape of mobile technology and social commerce. Now, as SVP and General Manager, Digital Customer Engagement, Bernard leads this Line of Business for the Enterprise Division. Prior to TouchCommerce, Bernard was Co-Founder & CEO of Evolution Robotics (sold to iRobot), CEO & Founder of (sold to GE), GM at CitySearch, (sold to IAC), CEO & Founder of Office Depot France, President and Founder of The Disney Store France, and a consultant with Bain & Company. Bernard holds an MBA with Distinctions from Harvard Business School and a BA in Business Administration from HEC, Paris, France.