To evolve with customers’ needs, field service companies should consider what they can do to help their customers, while also helping themselves. In an infographic, Zendesk asks: “Customers want to help themselves?” The answer is yes. Many customers prefer self-service options vs. traditional call center/technical support options. People are busy and value their time more than ever. Self-service options are important alternatives to traditional support. But it must be implemented correctly; poor self-service capabilities are immediately noticeable –self-service and aggravating – to your customers. Consider the following:

 

Online Access

Field Service News points out that “our expectations as consumers have changed. We live in an age where people are used to having instant online access to information on demand, from anywhere at any time.” How can “online access” enable and facilitate self-service? Here are some examples:

Service Requests: A customer’s washing machine just broke. It simply will not work, but the customer doesn’t have an entire day, or half a day, to devote to waiting for a service technician. Fundamental self-service capabilities allow the customer to describe the problem and request service for his/her washing machine via the web for, perhaps, Tuesday around 1:00PM. Slightly more advanced features allow the customer to select the make and model of the malfunctioning washing machine from a list of available options, or better yet, pre-populate the make/model information from a database containing information about the customer’s washing machine purchase or warranty registration. The servicing company receives the request and queues a technician to be there for that time.

The servicing company can then build a schedule for all service activities around the customer’s 1:00PM requested appointment time on Tuesday. Such a schedule will evaluate availability of potentially needed parts, technician skills and available times as well as travel distances and ideal routes. The resulting optimal schedule saves money, while meeting or exceeding customer expectations at the same time. It’s important that self-service options mesh well with the service provider’s existing software or with a planned software implementation.

Knowledge Bases and FAQs: Let’s go back to the question Zendesk posed in its infographic. “Customers want to help themselves?” The simple answer is yes, as stated before, but there is more to the answer than simply giving them online access. Give customers knowledge. What frequently asked questions or problems, and the answers to those questions or resolutions to those problems, crop up time and time again? Share that information. Help customers help themselves, saving them time, money and aggravation. At the same time, save your company time and money, and boost efficiency and productivity by avoiding costly and time consuming dispatches.

Accurate and current data is key in a self-service knowledge base. Creating a knowledge base that is intelligent and highlights relevant articles to customer-entered keywords and questions will take effort and may be subject to trial and error. To facilitate the process, track customer search terms and questions. This will help your company identify common issues, anticipate needs and present relevant information in response to customer searches. Bella FSM notes that “self-service interactions currently have lower satisfaction ratings (58%) than traditional voice interactions (61%). These ratings are not a reflection of technology, but rather the lack of attention around content management.” Managing knowledge base content by analyzing and using data from customer searches will boost customer satisfaction ratings.

Customer Journey is Important

CMSWire rightfully says, “customer experience is a key differentiator.” Adding self-service is not the end-to your customer service workflow. There may be a need for live service behind each self-service option, so it’s important that all data from customer self-service requests is retained and made instantly available to a responding field service or technical support technician when self-service fails and direct service intervention is required. Self-service availability can speed the delivery of accurate and relevant information, such as problem description and service history, to the responding field technician. As with most things, getting complete and accurate information to the right technician quickly limits costly mistakes or misunderstandings.

Field Service News stresses the importance of offering the same options through self-service as offered through a company’s call center. More technology does not mean it is time to trim customer service staff. Business2Community insists companies be “well prepared to field customer service questions online—as well as customer complaints.” Adding a knowledge base, FAQs section, and the ability to request service will not eliminate every complaint and every question. Your customer service representatives should be ready and able to field questions from customers who do not find their answer online.

Providing chat options through your website gives customers an easy way to transition from the FAQs section to speaking with a live representative. Field Service News suggests that enabling customer service representatives to open more than one chat box at a time and open conference chats with technicians serves an important purpose in an online service option. If a customer service representative has the ability to bring technicians into the chat to answer customer questions, miscommunications can be avoided and customer issues may be able to be resolved without an on-site dispatch. Such an approach can save time and money for all parties and also provide valuable knowledge transfer between technicians and the customer service representatives.

Mobile Compatibility

In recent years, customer service has evolved into something more than a pleasant—or not so pleasant—call with a call center representative. A recent article from Parature cites an unbelievable figure: over 90% of people “say their mobile phone is…just as important as deodorant.” With everything becoming more connected and IoT becoming more of a reality than a possibility, it is not surprising that people value access to the world in their pocket. These self-service examples merely scratch the surface. Self-service knowledge bases and chat capabilities become even more useful if they can be accessed from a smart phone or tablet. Google provides a mobile-friendly test that can help identify how “mobile-friendly” self-help capabilities are. Self-service access from any device provides customers self-service access from anywhere, at any time.

We pose this question: How can you help your customers help themselves?