“Do you need me to fix the computer for you?” my father-in-law said in his thick Croatian accent with a gleam in his eye. The joke was clear; he’s in his 70’s, grew-up on an island in the former Yugoslavia, and remembers when the island first got phone lines. He has never taken the time to learn to use new technology. But last Christmas the most amazing thing happened. I bought him an iPad and in under an hour he had the news up and was playing Croatian radio. Simplicity was key for my father-in-law to embrace this new technology, and the same is true for customer service organizations striving to do more with less.
Web, phone, email, text, social, live chat – the number of customer service channels have exploded. Simultaneously, the issues that need to be resolved – from resetting Internet routers to understanding flexible spending accounts – have grown more involved. Meanwhile, consumer expectations for fast, easy, do-it-yourself service have increased significantly. Quite simply, providing quality customer service has never been more difficult. But we can learn something from my father-in-law and the user-experience visionaries who advise companies to dig deep into the complexity that plagues their businesses to find ways to simplify.
Nuance’s vision is to usher in the day when most self-service is automated and customers prefer it. To evolve self-service beyond a classic ATM experience, we must create interactions that are intuitive, easy and ultimately simple in their design. When we succeed in that, we will have delivered experiences consumers prefer and therefore use.
Achieving this goal requires companies dig deep into the complexity inherent in how they serve customers today – identifying what drives consumers to seek help and the source of any frustration and confusion. These points need to be determined and friction must then be removed. The future of self-service lies in anticipating when, why and where a customer might struggle, proactively eliminating issues and thereby creating a simple, intuitive experience.
We are already seeing signs of this future taking shape. Call Delta Airlines on the day of your travel and you’ll be greeted with, “I see you are flying today…” Delta anticipates the reason for the call and is able to offer the most pertinent information for your current situation, while also offering you the option to quickly interact with an agent. Or take, for instance, utility companies that send a text or an email letting you know there is a power outage and when it’s expected to be fixed. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Public Service Enterprise Group (PSE&G) emailed me twice daily with power status updates. I never had to contact them once. In the first case, an inbound interaction was streamlined and in the second case, the need to interact was removed entirely.
I applaud the companies that are innovating today – blazing the trail that will lead us to a time when anticipatory service is the standard, not the exception. These early adopters will be recognized by organizations such as JD Powers for their commitment to service and will see their market share grow while use of their self-service solutions drive costs down.
As we look to 2016, I encourage more companies to invest in creating self-service experiences that are intuitive and proactive, not merely reactive. It will soon be the case that if you aren’t anticipating your customer’s needs, someone else will be. I believe we are heading toward a new era where customers will never have to call customer service. If I’m right, digging deep and removing the complexity inherit to your service experience today will make you a customer service leader well into the future.