Customer Experience News & Trends

When customers want self-serve — and when they don’t

If you’ve been pushing customers to self-service for most things — even if they seem to want it — you might want to reconsider that strategy.

Customers love self-service, such as on a website or within an app, in some cases.

But they want help from a person — on the phone or in an email — in some other important situations, the recent West Interactive Services’ CX Marks the Spot study found.

Specifically, they prefer a personal interaction when:

  • Making or changing appointments or status (about 50% of people prefer email or phone calls, while 34% want to do it online), or
  • Understanding how their information is used or breached (about 60% prefer phone and email, while just 29% want to see it online)

On the other hand, people prefer self-service when:

  • Buying or paying (about 70% people prefer a website or mobile app, while just 30% want to do it in person), or
  • Learning to use something new or troubleshooting (about 50% prefer to do it on the web, while about 40% prefer to do it over the phone).

Limit to social media

“Regardless of the situation, most customers don’t consider social media to be an effective arena for … interaction when there’s a task to accomplish or urgent information to convey,” the researchers found.

More often, customers turn to social media to voice concerns, give feedback, or get entertaining content and special promotions. Sure, social media is an avenue to interact with customers, but customers often approach it more anecdotally than as the ideal way to take care of business, researchers said.

Five ways to add personal touches

On the other hand, in situations such as data breaches, personal appointments or detailed, complex issues customers want the reassurance of hearing a live person on the phone.

When customers reach out by the phone, the issue is often more important than routine business, and customer service professionals want to be ready to provide a personal touch and reassure them.

Here are five ways to provide one:

  1. Circle back. Even when you think you’ve taken care of everything, ask again if there’s more you can do. In a study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers found that waiters increased their tips by 23% when they returned to tables with a second set of mints. The “check-back,” not extra mints, creates a feeling of personalized service, researchers concluded.
  2. Cut the friction. If customers take the time, and have the need, to contact your company personally, they do it anticipating no pain points and little friction. The call or the email needs to go directly to someone who can handle the issue. If it can’t happen immediately, one service pro needs to take charge of finding the solution and delivering updates and a final answer.
  3. Share more information. Customers who reach out directly to your people tend to like to be “in the know.” They’re concerned about when something will be delivered, fixed, finished or available. Appease them. Send more updates via the communication channel they prefer.
  4. Stay solution-focused. Service pros who deal directly with customers should be your best listeners, because customers who call want to be heard first and foremost. From there, though, employees want to stay solution-focused so customers recognize that they listened and understand what’s at stake. Use positive, solution-focused phrases such as, “Let’s work this out right now,” “The worst is over,” or “This is important and I can resolve it right away.”
  5. Use customers’ ideas. Customers who call and email for a personalized experience are often your biggest champions. They might have more to say — good and bad — but it’s because they care about the relationship. So listen to their suggestions, and more importantly, tell them when you’ve used them. It reassures them that the personal relationship is important to you, too.

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