Is There a Better Self Service? Maybe

I was approached by my good friends at KANA (client) a few weeks ago about doing research and coming up with a better model for Customer Service.

If you know me (well, even if you don’t – but you read my blog) you know that opinions about how to improve customer service I have.  Plenty.  More than plenty, some people would say.

They asked me to come up with a model and prepare a webinar and white paper based on the concept – I liked the challenge, so I took to it.

To me, and your mileage and opinion will definitely vary, there are two aspects of self-service that need improvement: delivery of knowledge at the point-of-need (down to each device and place where it is used and necessary), and finding and providing better answers.  Both are equally interesting to explore, but the delivery of knowledge at the point of need is the one that has the longest time to deploy and be understood ( not to mention that requires the better answers to be available already).  I explored in a more detail how to provide better answers to customers.

Here is the bottom line: customers demand more effective interactions with organizations.

They want to get the right answer, at the right time, the first time.  If I, as a customer, ask you, as a business, a question about your products or services there are two things I am looking for: the right answer, and how it applies to my situation.  The right answer is simple, of sorts, since it requires a match of the content I am seeking with the content in the knowledge-base.  If I ask about operating hours, I get the days and times you are open.  Simple content match, simple technology.

To improve on that answer, and to personalize it even further, I would like you not only to provide me with the hours – but maybe use location-based settings (GPS, for example) and give me the operating hours for the closest store to me.  And driving directions.  And product recommendations based on my history of purchases.    This is about adding context to the inquiry – pure and simple.  Context helps you personalize, partly, the inquiry and extend the value in the answer your provide me.

Alas, this is not the end of it.

There is a third element to inquiries: intent.  Intent is the reason I ask the questions I ask – if I ask for operating hours for a store, it is because I need something? what other data and circumstances in my life put me in the position to inquiry about operating hours at a store? does my location, context, and time of day (for example) provide a better answer? If I usually buy groceries in the morning and it happens to be the morning – could you improve the answer by giving me (in addition to the hours and directions) coupons for groceries? or information about sales and specials if I usually shop with coupons or buy mostly products on sale?

This is the improvement that intent can bring to answering inquiries from the customers — and this is what I explored in a bit more detail in my research.

consider the problem as presented in the following slide:

now, register for the webinar to get the answers :-).


Will publish the slides on slideshare (and the white paper on my site) once I am done – but i would truly appreciate it if you are interested enough to register and attend (and bring your questions) so we can share and talk about the information I found so far.

What do you think?

2 Replies to “Is There a Better Self Service? Maybe”

  1. This is excellent. It seems so simple if looking at from customer perspective.
    I have several examples of frustrating Customer Experiences – I should be able to find answers easily myself on Company website, but it is exceptionally difficult to navigate and get an answer for very simple questions. Finding hours that store is open are usually buried or not present at all
    An experience I had yesterday with Rogers regarding how do I upgrade my modem, turned into an hour long frustrating experience, plus a drive to the store. Why was it not easily found along with the promotion on the website? No specs available either – that was a separate search, Twitter only added another layer of frustration. Chat online? It pushed an application to me that didn’t work on my Mac – this is 2011! And when finally obtaining the new modem, documentation was unavailable and we had to do a Google search to find. And we pay a lot of money for this service.
    This is just one example of how on the surface a company website and social media presence appears to be stellar, but actual real value – well sucks!


  2. Maybe I only want opening hours, and nothing more. Over-serving through virtual service channels (phone line, online networks might prove to be as irritating as the guy in the shop asking “may I help you” as soon as I cross the doorway (I really hate those).
    People do not want to engage with brands online, unless they have a job-to-be-done which includes this kind of interaction.
    Which context would be enough to know you aren’t over-serving? Is intent a slice of thinking I want to make available to people I don’t care about?
    Fact is we find more and more things irritating, as most tools are just intermediators between people. Quick and dirty example: I just registered to your webinar. Fields not marked as required were, in fact. So go for second screen… And why had I to scroll way down a long list of US states to specify “other”, if this list doesn’t pertain to any country beside the US? With more tools at our disposal, caring about customers might begin to look like a mine field.


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