November 14, 2022
By Pavel Jiřík in Blog
What is the one thing customers expect nowadays whenever they want to reach a call center? A speedy response to their question or issue.
If they are using email or social media (excluding Twitter), they are mostly okay with waiting up to a day. When it comes to phone or live chat, though, waiting two or three minutes on the line is the limit for most.
But we all know the reality of contact centers – with how many calls are coming in every day, answering them all right away is sometimes impossible. The good news is that there is a way to quickly give your customers the answers they need and your agents a break from answering simple, repetitive questions.
It’s called self-service. Even better, you can make using self-service far more convenient for all of your customers (especially those who are older or have some disabilities) if you add speech recognition and voice biometrics to the mix. Read on to find out how.
What Is Self-Service?
Self-service is when customers can find answers or solutions to their problems themselves online without having to reach out for support.
For example, let’s say that you are waiting for order delivery. Something came up though, and you want to change the delivery date for the next day. Do you really want to hold on the line for ten minutes or so just to change the delivery date?
Probably not. It’s far faster and more convenient to just change the date on the delivery company’s website, in their mobile app, or ask a chatbot to change to do so for you. That’s self-service in practice.
Because of the speed and convenience of self-service, most consumers now expect every company to provide a way in which they can look up the answers to their questions themselves. What’s more, 39% of customers said they would rather use self-service options than have to speak to a human agent.
Now let’s look at the same order rescheduling call from a support agent’s perspective. Answering the call, rescheduling the delivery date, and confirming that the new date is correct might only take a minute or two of their time and not feel like a lot.
However, if you added up the time spent on all calls about lost passwords, office hours, or appointment rescheduling, the total could be pretty significant. That’s time your customers could save by looking up the answers themselves, and time your helpdesk staff could use to focus on resolving more complicated cases.
Self-Service Benefits for Customers and Contact Center Agents
The first and biggest benefit of self-service is obvious – saving everyone’s time. If clients can resolve issues themselves, they don’t need to reach out to your customer support and wait on the line. As such, agents will have fewer tickets to handle and more time to spend on callers with more complex problems.
But that’s not all: your customers and agents can gain a lot more with self-service:
- Saves your money – according to Gartner research, the average cost of one contact with human agents (whether through phone or live chat) is $8. In comparison, a self-service contact like a chatbot costs approximately $0.10 only! By moving all simpler issues to self-service and leaving more sensitive issues for your staff, you can save a good chunk of your budget.
- Available 24/7 – compared to human agents who are only available during office hours, self-service options 9knowledge base articles, customer portals, or chatbots) can be accessed at any time of day or night. No matter where your customers are located or when they need help, they can find the information they need straight away without having to wait for customer support to start working.
- Makes customers happier –self-service is incredibly appealing to users because it makes them feel empowered. Thanks to “How to” guides, video tutorials, or FAQs with the most common issues explained, customers can find out how to fix their problems themselves and also learn new skills or ways to use a product or service.
- Frees your support from answering the same questions – do you look at your weekly support stats and see the same ticket topics cropping up repeatedly? That most likely means your callers can’t find the information they need elsewhere. If you add those topics to an FAQ or chatbot database, you will make it far easier for customers to find the answers they’re looking for without having to talk with your agents.
Customer Self-Service: How Can Contact Centers Provide It?
The main goal of self-service is to give website visitors as fast and convenient access to the information they need as possible. However, as they will be doing so through different channels, it’s no longer enough just to add an FAQ page and call it a day.
Instead, it’s essential to think about which channels customers might want to use for self-service and make them readily available. The self-service channels that are especially popular with users include:
- FAQ pages – customers can find the answers to common questions, such as about office hours or return policies. Such pages are also great places to list the most common issues with a product or service, together with a brief description of how to solve them. The key word here is brief – FAQs need to be simple and concise, ideally around 30 words each. An FAQ page is also an excellent place to include voice search queries, which will boost your search ranking.
- Knowledge base – contains FAQs, troubleshooting information, “How to” articles, video tutorials, and everything else your customers might be searching for on your website. Usually, there’s also a separate page with contact information for the support team in case users can't find the information they need.
- Community forum – a place where people can ask other board users for help with their problems, pose questions about how to use a product, or share their best tips or product opinions. Besides being a great place for clients to learn more about a product or service or find someone who can help them with a problem, community boards also help engage your users.
- Chatbots and virtual assistants – can provide always-on customer support and answer the majority of simple questions or issues. Smarter AI can also help customers complete simple tasks such as updating contact and billing information, changing their subscriptions, or asking for refunds.
Why Are Companies Struggling with Self-Service?
With all those benefits, self-service might seem like a win-win for your business. Your customers can find the information they need in seconds, solve problems themselves, and thus don’t need to call support.
Less incoming calls or chats means it will be easier for people with more serious issues to reach your agents, who will also have more time to handle calls without worrying about a growing queue of people waiting on hold.
If you look at some self-service statistics though, you can see it’s actually not that easy to provide exceptional self-service help for your customers. The biggest reason why people decide to use a knowledge base or chatbot instead of calling a support line is that they think they will find answers or solutions faster this way.
What if they can’t find it though? Then they will be doubly frustrated – they will have spent time searching for the answers but still now have to wait on the line for customer support. In fact, one study found that poor self-service support is worse than not offering any at all for 77% of respondents because it wastes their time.
Speech Recognition and Voice Biometrics for Boosting the Self-Service Experience
As you can see, an updated and easy-to-use knowledge base or a properly set up chatbot that knows when to pass customers to a human agent can be incredibly valuable for your company. On the other hand, it’s just as easy to turn clients off your company if the self-service portal doesn’t meet their expectations.
With the technology we have now though, enhancing the self-service experience for online users has never been easier. Take chatbots, for example. While simple, rule-based ones can still be useful when it comes to answering basic questions, they can only respond to the questions they have in their database.
AI-powered chatbots, meanwhile, can “understand” what a customer wants to do and either provide the most relevant answer or guide them through tasks such as updating contact information or rescheduling appointments. Moreover, as AI chatbots can gather, store, and analyze customer details, they can also personalize conversations to match the customer’s interests and preferences.
But what’s really impressive about AI chatbots is that they can understand human speech thanks to speech recognition and natural language processing. This way, they don’t have to rely only on typed keywords to understand what the user wants to do.
Instead, the user simply has to tell the chatbot what they want to know or do, and it will respond accordingly. Even better is that they can recognize and authenticate a user in a few seconds based on their voice alone thanks to voice biometrics.
For regular users, the benefits of using a voicebot are that they are far easier and faster to use than standard chatbots. Users don’t have to type a long query into the chat window, and there’s also no risk that the chatbot will answer with “I don’t understand” if the user makes a typo.
Meanwhile, passive voice biometric identification shortens the customer verification time from even minutes to just a few seconds, without asking them for a password or security question answers.
For disabled or elderly people though, speech recognition and voice biometrics technology used in self-service features can be life-changing.
How Can Speech Recognition and Voice Biometrics Help Disabled and Elderly People
For people with poor eyesight, mobility issues, or any other disabilities, using a regular website search engine, chatbot, or a touch-tone IVR menu is often far too complicated. Whenever they need help (be it with resetting their password or requesting a prescription), they have to use their phone and often wait on the line.
With the help of voice interface (powered by speech recognition) applications though, such people can use self-service features as well.
For example, let’s say that an elderly person wants to reschedule their doctor’s appointment for next week and ask for a new prescription. Typically, they would have to find and dial the telephone number to the clinic, wait on the line until the call is answered, and then talk with the receptionist about the visit date or a prescription.
With the help of a voicebot though, that person could immediately reschedule the visit just by saying they want to change the visit date. What about the prescription? The voicebot can collect all necessary information during the conversation and then pass it to the doctor for preparing the prescription.
To make sure the person calling is who they say they are, the voicebot might also verify their voice via passive voice biometric identification. That means comparing the stored voiceprint of that person to the caller’s voice to see if there is a match, and quickly alerting the management if there isn’t.
In the same way, speech recognition and voice biometrics technology can be used in any other industry – like telecommunications (to make sure no one is trying to buy an expensive product in someone else’s name) or banking (to prevent fraudsters from taking loans on another person’s account).
For companies that want to offer priority assistance to seniors, voice biometrics with an age estimation feature can also help them determine approximately how old someone waiting on the line is, even if they have never called the contact center before, and immediately route them to a human agent if desired.
Customers want to find answers or fix problems themselves and in the shortest time possible, and self-service is usually the quickest way to do that.
With a detailed knowledge base, concise FAQ, and an intelligent chatbot taking care of all simple tasks for your agents, you can make your customers much happier and also your staff more relaxed rather than being overwhelmed with tickets.
With the help of speech recognition and voice biometrics, you can also give your elderly or disabled customers the chance to use self-service as well, rather than force them to keep calling with every issue. So why not try to enhance your own self-service contact center with these amazing technologies?