The Value of Omnichannel Self-Service in the Digital Age

April 14, 2021
The Value of Omnichannel Self-Service in the Digital Age Effective IT Asset Management During COVID-19 | Essentials for Productivity, Security, and Resilience

This is the FIRST blog in our series that explains how and why Collaboration is the Core of Service Management Excellence. In this article, we explain The Value of Omnichannel Self-Service in the Digital Age and how it aligns all your company’s existing modes of communication into a single customer-facing experience. Offering options in the way that your customers engage with IT is essential to providing the best customer service experience possible. In our second article, we discuss The Impact of Collaboration on Business Performance. Not only does collaboration positively impact your employees’ work, but it also impacts your company’s financial performance, customer satisfaction, product quality, and its propensity for innovation. In our third and final article, we talk about The Power of Collaboration through Automation. Most IT personnel believe that ITSM automation is limited to relieving their teams of repetitive tasks. What many people do not realize, though, is that it also saves time and reduces the cost of the work being done. Automated workflows integrated in an ITSM platform route requests to the proper party and then update team members who are collaborating on the task or project—so everyone stays informed and engaged.

What is Omnichannel Communications?

Every service desk deals with a wide range of demands. The type of incidents, service requests, and information requests that your service desk handles depend on the type of business you are in. The profile of tickets in a manufacturing organization, for example, will vary greatly from the profile of tickets in a financial institution. Whatever your industry, you can be sure that the people across your organization have different needs and preferences—influenced by who they are, what they do, how they work, and where they do it.

Omnichannel communications is the seamless integration of an organization’s channels, processes, and strategies to gain the ability to engage with customers anytime, anywhere, and on any device. It tracks conversations at relevant touch points for actionable insights. Omnichannel is about true continuity of your experience. As a combined platform, omnichannel incorporates all your company’s existing communication modes such as voice calls, email, instant messages, video conferences, web browsers and applications, voicemail, mobile devices, desktop sharing, directory services, and geolocation services, and aligns them into a single customer-focused experience.

Suppose, for example, a business traveler opts to receive text notifications for itinerary changes and the airline cancels a connecting flight. If the traveler fails to read their text message, the “system” is automatically triggered to reach out to that passenger via voice, email, or whatever other backup mechanism is in place to attempt to fill the gap. By including backup communications methods, the airline has significantly improved its chances of reaching that passenger and informing them of the change—thereby minimizing the impact.

This approach provides customers with a seamless brand experience as content is optimized for each channel and device. In turn, organizations that employ an omnichannel approach allow requesters to migrate from one channel to another in a consistent and seamless way. When all your company’s channels are properly aligned in such a way that they present a single “face” to your customers—along with a consistent way of doing business—you have achieved omnichannel communications.

Omnichannel Communications graphic.

Omnichannel Communications Solves the “Instant Gratification” Dilemma

Customers’ expectations are directly influenced by their consumer-life experiences. People expect a range of options for communicating with retailers, service suppliers, and government organizations so they can choose the channel that is most convenient for them at any moment in time. The quality of the customer experience is one of the key battlegrounds where your company has an opportunity to win (and lose) customers.

Customer experience and satisfaction should be important considerations for your IT department. Offering options in the way your customers engage with IT is essential to providing a modern service experience. To do this, you need an omnichannel service desk with IT support capabilities that span phone, email, self-service portals, mobile devices, walk-in, and enterprise collaboration platforms—while maintaining a panoramic view of your employees and customers. People want options, so your service desk needs to have a fully integrated view of everyone who interacts with your company across all channels of communication.

  • An employee or customer in a noisy airport, for example, may prefer getting support via a live chat or chatbot on their smart phone, instead of struggling with a voice conversation that competes with loudspeaker announcements and hundreds of other sounds.
  • If an issue requires a series of confusing technical steps, the requester may want to move their email conversation to a live chat so they can verbally walk through the steps and ask questions along the way.
  • Walk-in support is great for situations where your requester needs to learn how to do something on a device. In this scenario, a service desk agent can walk through the “How do I…” steps in person.
  • In the event of a catastrophic failure that disrupts business operations, the requester will want (and need) to speak with a human—immediately. They may also need to escalate their conversation to a service desk manager or someone who is authorized to make instant decisions and promptly implement the best course of action.
  • In the aftermath of COVID-19, most companies have made extensive use of collaboration tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Creating a dedicated support channel and implementing a chatbot in a collaboration tool allows requesters to get immediate access to services and support without leaving their preferred digital environment.

Employees and customers alike need access to services, support, and information through a wide variety of devices. This is the reason why your service desk needs to offer a wide range of communication methods—so requesters can select a channel that works best for them. By catering to everyone’s needs, your omnichannel service desk can improve the customer experience, boost employee productivity, and drive-up satisfaction scores for everyone. Consequently, your organization will also reduce costs as traffic is diverted away from your expensive phone support lines to the lower-cost digital channels listed below.

Self-Service Portals (SSP)

A self-service portal is a website that allows employees and/or customers to assist themselves when it comes to their need for help, information, or service. It is one of the many components of omnichannel communications that aids those who need it, without requiring assistance from support personnel. This takes the repetitive workload away from your IT staff and allows them to focus on more complicated tasks. It also enables your limited IT resources to scale as your company grows. These capabilities are not limited to just IT support, as self-service portals are also highly beneficial to other departments such as Human Resources (HR), Facilities, Legal, and more.

There are many ways to help customers find solutions, but a comprehensive FAQs page is the most widely implemented self-service channel. Even if customers cannot find the answer themselves and need to contact a representative, the availability of reliable information helps facilitate the customer experience. This reduces the amount of time it takes the customer service agent to solve the problem and the number of times a customer needs to contact customer service.

Voicemail-to-Text Transcription

If you told a hundred random people on the street that voicemail was still used today, most of them might not believe you. After all, when was the last time you left or received a voicemail on your personal phone number? The days of personal voicemails are rapidly disappearing, but voicemail for business is still very much alive. Even a small business receives dozens of calls each day—often too many for a sole proprietor or small staff to handle as they come in. Instead of allowing customer calls to go unanswered, voicemail is there to let customers explain what they need and allow the company to get back to them as time permits.

While voicemail is still used in business, VoIP service providers have streamlined the process with voicemail-to-text transcription. This feature combines the versatility of voicemail without requiring you to grab a pen and paper and listen to your messages—over and over—until you finally capture all the details. Using speech recognition technology, VoIP services create a transcript of any voicemail you receive and send it to you via email or text message. This means you can quickly glance at a message and understand the content much faster than it would take to drop everything and listen to the entire message.

Putting voice mail to work for your supported customers can help provide an easy way for ‘non-technical’ users to submit a request. Through the simple deployment of a toll-free number, customers can call in and report their issue or make a request via voice mail. The omnichannel empowered organization can then take that voice mail and convert it to a ticket for them. This means requests can be submitted 24/7, even when the customer may not be able to connect directly to the internet, self-service portal, or other channels. When powered with automation, this can result in a much easier customer experience that is responsive regardless of the availability of support staff and eliminates hold time to submit a request entirely.

Automated Request Fulfillment

Imagine a situation where a customer needs to reset their email password. In some companies, this person would have to log a ticket with their request and wait to be contacted by an IT support agent before they can finally access their email again. IT organizations with self-service capabilities might have a knowledge base article that explains the steps they can follow to securely reset their own password. The person would access the knowledge base, then follow the process to set up their new password. Companies that have an ITSM system with chatbot capability would allow a requester to chat with a virtual assistant to get their password changed. Once the request is verified, the virtual assistant can automatically perform the steps to fulfill the request and notify the requester that their request has been completed.

When interacting with a service desk chatbot, real-time sentiment analysis, which analyzes the tone of their input, can determine if an IT customer is relaxed or irritated. This mood information can be viewed in real-time by a service desk, so that they can respond appropriately. If the customer is flagged as very irritated, the ticket can be automatically escalated for immediate personal follow-up from an agent to ensure the customer gets the best possible experience.

Automatic Ticket Field Completion

A chatbot can also be implemented to help requesters fill out their support tickets with more complete information. The system can help fill out incident or request forms by asking the requester one question at a time and using the responses (and natural language understanding) to either fill in information on the ticket or route the ticket to the correct person or department. Over time, through machine learning, a chatbot learns the best questions to ask, how to categorize tickets correctly, when to automate request fulfillment, and when to ask a human agent for assistance. Automatic ticket field completion helps ensure that incident management and request fulfillment tickets are convenient for requesters to submit, while reducing errors and turnaround time for fixes.

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