The Evolution of Self-Service
When you think about customer service, it used to be the differentiator. It is why people would do business with your company. This changed, as most things do, with increasing cost pressures. When these pressures occurred, the immediate reaction was to hire entry-level employees to read precise scripts. Do not think, we will provide the answer! Reading scripts became customer service. And then, still under the constant cost pressure, companies searched the world for the cheapest “English Script Readers.” The representatives were following a well-planned script, and not going off it. It didn’t take long before the obvious question arose: Why don’t we put the copy of the script online and let the customer solve the issue themselves when it is convenient for them?
This allows the customer to solve their frequently asked problems or find answers to questions whenever they want, any time. This self-service is using technology to solve common repetitive problems. However, this solution does not work for unique problems. The unique problems require unique people that have the unique mixture of skills – some empathy, some sales capabilities, some technical skills and most importantly the ability to think like your customers. There’s only so much information an FAQ can hold, and unique situations need more than an algorithm. To solve this problem, companies turned their focus back to American shores for the next step in the evolutionary journey to find resources that can connect with customers across the board with agents that are like their customers.
- Like Telecom customer service done by a Telecom’s customer – or
- Diabetic consulting done by diabetics directly – or
- Technology sales done by people who LOVE the technology brand, but are living wherever they want to live
When you bring those tasks back to the U.S., the last thing you want to do is build a brick and mortar center, geographically limiting yourselves to entry-level employees and individuals without “life’s scars” to relate to your customers. You want someone on the line who has empathy, and you want this on more cost effective basis without stranded technology/Bricks and Mortar assets, and limited flexibility to respond to your customers when they need you. You want to be able to handle the peaks, not just the average. You need the flexibility to ramp up and down throughout the day and handle seasonal peaks with experienced individuals. After all, who knows when the customer is going to call?
Airline reservations are a great example. Booking a flight used to involve an airline representative, a travel agent, an airline call center, and your tickets sent to your home in advance. Remember the days when you would never go to the airport without tickets in hand? Now you go through the process without even needing paper. You just type in where you want to go, and the computer does the rest. Booking online cuts out the intermediaries, and it the perfect example of Self-Service. There are FAQs for common questions, and Get Details pop-up steps along the way to booking your flight. BUT when something difficult comes up, there are things a self-service/pre-written script can’t answer. Everyone knows bad weather can hit, flights can be canceled, and planes can be missed. It’s often a unique situation that cannot be prepared for in advance. You need a large amount of resources in a short time – thousands of micro call centers with customer service people who can think on their feet, look for a solution, and show empathy for a caller in a frustrating and stressful position. The last thing anyone missing a flight wants to do is to talk to someone who can only read from a script, or click on links to questions that do not relate to their timely and current predicament. An empathetic voice who can facilitate the process with thorough service and support becomes invaluable. No longer just a script or a web page form, the Arise cloud provides access to human problem solving that is cost effective and with unmatched flexibility. Customers can resolve their issues any time of day through self-service, but when it takes more than a machine, an experienced, friendly voice needs to be there.
That’s why the world is turning to the cloud, and the next natural step in this evolution is the innovative platform provided by Arise.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John A. Meyer is Chief Executive Officer of Arise Virtual Solutions and a member of the Arise Board of Directors. John joined the company in 2011 to drive the organization’s growth, set the strategic vision and manage the global operations of the business. John has over 33 years of leadership experience with large publicly traded organizations, and building high growth organizations in both the United States and internationally.
Prior to joining Arise in 2011, John served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Acxiom Corporation, a $1.2 billion global interactive marketing services company with more than 6,500 employees. Previously, he served as President of the Global Sales and Services group of Alcatel-Lucent for five years, where he was responsible for more than $6 billion in annual revenue and the management of more than 20,000 people. Prior to joining Lucent, he spent almost 20 years in a number of high-profile positions at Electronic Data Systems Corporation (EDS), including Chairman of the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Operating Team, President of the Banking Divisions, and CIO for the company’s GMAC business.
Before entering the business world, John served as an ICBM Missile Launch Officer flight commander. He holds a MBA in Quantitative Methods from the University of Missouri and a BS from Pennsylvania State University.