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Can personalized self-service do a better job than an agent? - Jacada - Blog

Can personalized self-service do a better job than an agent?

Doing a better job than an agent

While a robot would never be able to take the place of agent 007, there is a school of thought that suggests that a personalized self-service solution offers many advantages over a human contact center agent.

There is no doubt that in the modern contact center, self-service customer support plays a critical part in the company-customer relationship. Today’s customers do like to do things for themselves, but at the same time, they tend to expect personalized experiences when they reach out to an organization. While there are more than a few challenges companies face when attempting to deliver personalized self-service to their customers, there are also many reasons why a personalized self-service can actually do a better job than a human agent.

An advanced and well-engineered automated self-service solution should, ultimately, be able to provide all but a few of the attributes that a live agent can, and often the attributes it does offer are done better.

Customers want answers

For one thing, customers are more concerned with getting the answer they seek – they don’t care whether it comes from an IVR or a human being - and a well-planned, multi-channel self-service solution will immediately enable the consumer to interact via the medium of their choice. This should deliver a far speedier response than if they had to call into the contact center and hold for an agent.

Another area where these systems can be better is in answering in the customers’ language of choice. It is worth noting that a fair percentage of US citizens today speak more than one language, and quite often English is only their second language. Since it is unlikely that you have too many agents who are multilingual, such a scenario could easily lead to a situation where a customer whose first language is not English ends up incurring a longer hold time. On the other hand, an intelligent automated system should be able to interact fluently in several languages. With the right intelligence built in, it may even be able to ‘learn’ the preferred language of frequent callers, enabling it to initiate the interaction in the customer’s chosen language. Not only does this eliminate the need for the caller to select a language preference, but it offers them a level of personalization they are unlikely to get from a human agent.

While a human agent obviously offers customers an attentive and courteous listener who is prepared to work with the customer to solve their problem, such a scenario is only really of value if the customer’s challenge is a complex and difficult one. For more common queries, the self-service solution can be programmed in such a manner that it can easily and quickly address and resolve these challenges, and do so consistently. In addition, automated speech is designed to be clear and precise, eliminating accents, colloquialisms, grammatical errors, abusive language or the simple problem of an agent speaking to softly or too rapidly.

Another challenge that can occur with human agents is that calls can occasionally become highly charged with emotions or end up going off on a tangent. In situations like these, it can be difficult for the agent to exhibit the correct levels of empathy and courtesy. An automated solution, on the other hand, will quite easily be able to keep interactions with the client linear, and a machine will never experience the type of emotions that might interfere with delivering the kind of customer service your company should pride itself on.

While humans are able to spot – and hopefully follow through – with opportunities to cross- or up-sell to clients, most contact centers still limit the decision-making authority of their agents, which in turn reduces their opportunities to creatively solve problems. A good automated solution, however, can be programmed with logic designed to parallel specific business rules, meaning that it can take the necessary decisions, while staying within the ground rules established by the programmer.

One of the most important issues related to personalizing customer service is to have access to as much information as possible about the individual customer, from the outset. While contact center agents generally have access to the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system, which is usually integrated with the telephony system, there are many other databases within the organization that may also contain pertinent information about the consumer. Electronic self-service solutions can be programmed to cut through the traditional siloes within a business and access information from multiple databases, meaning they will be better positioned than a human agent to deliver a personalized service.

In addition, such a solution should have access to the complete contact history of the customer. The last thing you want is for a client who is presumably already-frustrated to have to repeat the details of their problem multiple times. Furthermore, it is often the case that customers with long contact histories are making contact with a view to querying a recent transaction or performing the same task, such as checking an account balance. Good self-service technology will be able to incorporate all of the customer’s history, across all channels of contact, meaning that its IVR menu can dynamically adapt to these recent interactions.

Self-service solutions also offer customers a higher level of security in certain situations. There are very few people who are comfortable giving out vital information like credit card details to a stranger on the other end of the phone. However, if they are passing such information over to an automated system, they are less likely to fear doing so. In addition, a self-service solution can be programmed to utilize security options like voice biometrics, to further enhance the clients’ sense of security.

We live in an era where compliance is critical and it is vital to adhere to applicable laws and regulations. Automated self-service solutions not only ensure that every transaction is handled with honesty and integrity – in a financial services center, for example, it would ensure that the mandatory disclosures were accurately recited – but being electronic, it also keeps a clear record and audit trail, should any compliance issues be raised.

Finally, an intelligent self-service solution should be able to leverage advanced Web and speech technologies to complete not only basic, but even some complex transactions, along the lines of providing airline reservations for a client. And because it is intelligent, it is also able to remember other recent transactions undertaken by the customer and can thus anticipate the reason for their call and present them with a decision tree built around this particular knowledge. And which customer doesn’t want to have their needs anticipated? This is personalization at its very best.

It is a good time to be involved in the contact center space, as technology limitations have mostly been overcome and businesses today have a strong base of best practices on which to build their self-service solutions. While challenges certainly remain, there is no doubt that it is possible to deliver a personalized self-service that is, in many ways, equal to or better than human assistance. We know that customers are demanding quick and accurate answers, via their channel of choice. A personalized self-service offering can not only deliver these in a way that makes the customer feel special, but at the same time can save the organization a small fortune by reducing the high costs associated with human agents.


Publish Date: September 8, 2017 5:00 AM

2021 Buyers Guide Training


Call Centers
Contact Centers
Admin Training
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Davis-Mayo Associates

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Lieber & Associates

Training Executives, Managers, Supervisors, and Reps
Lieber & Associates provides training for all levels of the contact center team. The firm customizes its off-the-shelf trainings to meet your specific company needs,

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Manitoba Customer Contact Association

Making Training and Development Part of Your Corporate Landscape

Organizations are always on the look out to save money and make more profit. Usually when it comes to crunch time some leaders will scrap training in order to tighten the belt. The downside of this is the cycle it creates.

Because some employers see training as a flexible benefit, employee development is often taken off the table. When employees don’t feel valued it becomes easy to see a revolving door. The constant need to hire goes up which ultimately means costs go up; we know that hiring costs more than retaining the right people.

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OMNI HR Consulting (Pty) Ltd

Human Capital & Organisational Development
Omni HR Consulting provides business and people development solutions through Training and Consulting services.

We work across a number of sectors to provide solutions from both a Skills Development / Business perspective.

Skills Development: accredited & non-accredited learning solutions including Learnerships, RPL solutions and Skills Programmes, including a curriculum for developing future skills.

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Orion Learning Services Inc.

Learning & Development
Learning & Development for Agents, Supervisors, Managers and Administration/Support Staff

Orion Learning is a global leader in providing accredited learning and development solutions for organizations globally. We offer call/contact center certification programs for Agents, Supervisors and Managers, business certifications and examinations for wide range of topics including project management, change management and service management, leadership soft skills and a full suite of assessment tools which can be used for recruitment, talent management, succession planning and coaching/mentoring. We deliver our solutions to global community and all of our solutions are delivered digitally.
PH: 1-416-992-5158


VADS Training Center
PT VADS Indonesia as a Learning Center provides trainers, modules, development programs for individuals and teams. VADS Indonesia owns a vast curriculum for training provided by local trainers with flexible training locations that can be arranged at the client's place or PT VADS Learning Center. VADS Provide knowledge process, transformation consultancy, customer service training, leadership training, interpersonal development, and training for trainers.

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The Forum

Get connected to raise standards. Established in 2000, we are celebrating 20 years of best practice, our community of professionals is recognised as the ‘go-to place’ for innovation in customer operations, from contact centre and digital to field, back office, branch & retail services, working across all industry sectors.

We offer an independent and trusted space for learning and sharing, proud to welcome members are into a thriving and active community to network with other like-minded professionals. Benchmark against the best in class and learn from innovators and pioneers. Our team of independent experts can also offer bespoke advice, consultancy and training. We have helped many organisations develop the capability of their vital support functions.
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