The Customer Service Survey

Pushing customers into self-service

by Peter Leppik on Tue, 2011-12-20 16:17

I don't think it's any secret that some companies "hide the ball" in customer service, and made it hard to reach a person in hopes that customers will use self-service instead. Most industry experts agree that this is backwards thinking that went out of style with Duran Duran, but it still happens.

But does it work? How often will a customer successfully use self-service despite being frustrated by an inability to reach an agent?

It turns out that as part of our National Customer Service Survey where we interview customers immediately after a customer service call, we have some pretty robust statistics around this question. The answer surprised me, and it might surprise you, too.

The answer is: For all intents and purposes, Never.

Among customers who (a) reported that it was hard to reach an agent AND (b) did not speak to an agent, less than 5% reported that they got what they needed on the call.

The use pattern where a customer starts out trying to reach a person, finds it difficult, then successfully uses the IVR instead does not exist to any meaningful extent. Instead, the customer starts out trying to reach a person, finds it difficult, then eventually gives up in frustration (perhaps to call back later).

So why do so many companies keep making it hard to reach a person? Three reasons:

  • They think it should work.
  • It looks like it works when customers hang up without talking to anyone (in reality, most of them will probably call back later).
  • They don't bother to measure customer opinions about self-service.
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