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Self-Service and the Power of Control


by Michele Carlson

Today’s consumers increasingly prefer to solve their customer service problems on their own. In fact, research shows that more than 81% of customers[1] will try to fix their issues on their own first. They often see calling your contact center directly as a last resort. Yet according to research by SuperOffice, consumers also expect brands to make it easy for them to find near-instant answers to their questions. It comes down to the desire for control—or at least, the perception of control in our digital-first marketplace

For many of us, control equals satisfaction. As consumers, we want to feel like we’re in the driver’s seat, able to direct our experiences and control our interactions on our timelines. How can the best brands meet this need, while also optimizing contact center resources? The answer lies in effectively leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

First, contact center leaders need to change their perspective from what AI can do theoretically to what it can do now in real-world application. That means reframing our traditional notions of customer control and satisfaction in the context of smart self-service.

Smart Self-Service Is Responsive, Not Robotic “Good self-service starts with rapid recognition of intent,” says Dan Miller, lead analyst and founder at Opus Research. “Instead of using automation to try and shoehorn a customer’s question into a pre-determined set of answers, make your self-service approach more responsive.”

That requires tools that help determine intent and need automatically, and then, guide customers to their answers while empowering them to act on their own terms. AI is a valuable asset here, as the right technology can collect information and make appropriate suggestions for customers. Instead of cycling through basic responses until a problem is solved or the customer is directed to a contact agent, today’s tools respond to what customers are actually saying, including vocal tone cues and more in order to offer custom solutions and pathways. AI-fueled responses empower customers to help themselves.

Amplifying the Voice of the Customer Providing the information your customers need while still allowing them to choose their path is key to ensuring satisfaction. Self-service does not mean hands-off for your brand. The most innovative AI tools on the market today can be trained using your own customer data, along with a massive history of customer interactions to identify sentiment accurately. Miller points out that this is one area where all channels and touchpoints come into play for self-service.

“The real voice of the customer is what they say on their channels of choice,” Miller says. “It’s not the marketing term that refers to the byproduct of learnings from a customer survey.” As your CX approach and platforms continue to learn from conversational data and get smarter over time, you’ll be able to anticipate needs and guide consumers wherever they are to make their own choices along the way. As you continue to collect new data, you’ll get smarter with every interaction.

Evolving Metrics With an AI-driven, digital-first approach, you’ll want to constantly reevaluate your performance metrics. Miller says effort is essential to your mix, offering opportunities for customers to let you know where friction exists. This metric can also highlight problem areas in your self-service, especially if you include open-ended response opportunities in surveys. Ultimately, what you measure should align closely with your AI insights.

We all like to feel in control of our lives, and few people enjoy calling in to customer service, waiting on hold and trying to get their problem solved quickly. Understanding that customer control leads to satisfaction will help you create a smarter CX approach that empowers customers through AI-driven self-service. Focus on how to identify what your customer needs and create an AI-centric approach that adapts to them. Minimize friction with every interaction to maximize satisfaction.

Read more from Dan Miller and the Opus team in their white paper to learn how AI is redefining self-service, making smart experiences, and more resolutions, a reality in digital channels. [1] Dixon, Matthew. “Kick-Ass Customer Service.” Harvard Business Review, September 15, 2020.


Michele Carlson Michele is a Senior Product Marketing Manager who helps brands accelerate their digital transformation with cutting-edge AI and analytics solutions. She brings a warm, energetic approach to connecting businesses and consumers with technology to drive results. Her experience with AI and analytics spans over a decade and includes product development, change management, data analysis, and coaching skill development. Outside of work, Michele is a mom of four and enjoys skiing and yoga.

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