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A 2020 report from Zendesk found that 69% of customers will first try to resolve an issue themselves before talking to a human, a number that is feasibly higher now due to COVID-19. With phone lines exhausted and storefronts shut down for over a year, customers have had no choice but to become more autonomous in how they get the information they need – from YouTubing how to fix a product to scouring online forums for answers to commonly asked questions.

Self-service has clearly taken a lead, yet businesses can’t discount the human element of customer experience. They need to combine the automation of self-service with the personal connection customers crave. This means prioritizing self-service options like intelligent knowledge databases, chatbots, and conversational AI with seamless transfer to a live agent when needed. In other words, creating a service experience that blends both digital channels and human assistance.

Example of Blended Service

A customer buys a product in-person with a great experience from the in-store sales associate. They bring the product home; however, they discover that it is missing a piece. They go to the company’s website to obtain a customer service number but instead see the option to communicate with an AI-powered digital assistant. The customer begins communicating with a conversational bot which, after assessing the situation, escalates the interaction to a live agent. The agent receives all context of the conversation and is able to smoothly continue the interaction. The agent apologizes and schedules the missing piece to be shipped out immediately. They also offer the customer a 15% off coupon for a future purchase.

We can see here both digital and human channels working together to enable a seamless, effortless, and unified customer experience. This arrangement offers the best of both worlds: the time and cost-savings of AI enabled self-service capabilities with the intuitive, emotional connection provided by human agents. This combination allows brands to provide the ultimate sought-after service experience; one that provides customers with relevance and immediacy while helping businesses lower costs and minimize use of their most expensive resource: agents.

Why Prioritize Blended Service Experiences

Enhance both agent and self-service abilities

Agents are able to help self-service technologies improve, and these technologies help agents do their jobs better in return. Chatbots, for example, help agents by suggesting responses, taking actions, predicting intent, and issuing automatic replies. At the same time, agents can train chatbots by providing transcripts and tagging conversations so the technology can improve over time. Customers then get the leveled-up automation for their simple needs and the dynamic human interaction required if they need more complex problem-solving.

Prevent self-service failure

No matter how well your self-service solution is implemented, there is always the chance that it won’t meet your customers’ expectations. As mentioned earlier, your business can’t discount the human element of customer experience. Doing so is a one-way ticket to damaging your brand and customer relationships. For whatever reason your self-service options aren’t meeting a customer’s needs, you can rest assured a human can step in to supplement what AI cannot do – rescuing the interaction and reinstating the customer's trust in your brand. 

Provide options to your customers

A blended experience allows you to provide options for your customers depending on their need and level of comfort with self-service. For example, a customer may suspect their issue is more complex than what can be addressed by AI. If your self-service system is set up to recognize that a customer would rather work with an agent, they can skip the self-service portal that would only frustrate them. This approach makes the customer feel as though they are in control of the interaction from the beginning, empowering them and cementing their affinity for your brand. Generally, blended service enables you to cater to most customers who prefer going through self-service channels to start their interaction with human back-up if needed.

Gain flexibility for the future

As the customer experience evolves, it’s clear there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to achieving stellar CX. With both advanced technology and superior agent talent, your organization will be ready for all current and future customer preferences.

Want to learn more? Servion is a consultative, end-to-end technology specialist ready to help your business master self-service and blended service. Reach out to schedule a free consulting session with our CX specialists