It’s a common misconception that ‘good customer service’ means doing everything for a client – no matter how small the task. Perhaps it’s time to flip that idea on it’s head? In the 21st Century, great customer service means making every transaction easy, simple and manageable.
Although it feels counterintuitive, the best way to improve customer experience might be to let them do some of the work for you by implementing self-service technology.
Terry Eames, co-founder and Director of Sales and Partnerships at SurePayd, was one of the people who brought internet banking to the world – the most prolific type of self-service technology.
“The driver for the banks was their customers. The customers wanted to access their information, and they were happy to do the work themselves to get it. They'd rather do that than sit around and wait for a statement to turn up in the post.”
The bank-customer relationship mirrors many B2B relationships – particularly for supplier businesses. Could implementing smart self-service technology increase the customer service experience for B2B companies too?
The key is understanding when clients want to do the work themselves, and why.
Businesses on both ends of the B2B relationship want to save time. While client communications does build strong relationships, going back-and-forth on small details is a time waster. Email reminders and playing phone tag to chase invoices or complete basic transactions are not a smart use of staff time and expertise.
This is true for your clients and their staff too.
According to Terry: “A small business owner might be working on their accounts at night, so there’s a mismatch in availability. It’s completely frustrating if you’re trying to resolve something after hours when the people that can answer have gone home.” From a self-service customer portal point of view, you want something that will give the customer everything they need about their account to do their business with you.”
Self-service technology speeds things up by reducing the back-and-forth communication required to do basic, routine tasks by letting customers do it on their own time, at their own pace.
In our digital world even traditional customer service roles have been replaced with low-touch replacements. Where customers once made phone calls to troubleshoot issues, they now interact with digital chatbots.
“Pre-internet, if you needed to know your account balance on a daily basis, the only way to get it was to ring up the call center and sit on the phone for a long time, get a statement in the post, or go onto your branch,” Terry says.
We don’t want to return to those days of banking, so why ask clients to do the same for every small query?
“By allowing customers to serve themselves, they can carry on business efficiently and do it when they're ready, as opposed to when the bank or when the supplier is ready.”
If it’s done right, adding a layer of self-service technology can strengthen your client relationships. Giving clients more control over their interaction with your business builds trust – it shows that you believe they are responsible and valuable.
“When you automate basic tasks, you can free up the staff to build relationships with customers. And when you build these relationships and give customers what they want, they're a lot more likely to stay with you as customers rather than become an attrition number.”
Self-service builds a more meaningful relationship based on the important things – making strategic decisions, negotiating and resolving issues.
“So often we hear that staff haven't been able to do that because they haven't had time beyond dealing with all the accounts manually. That’s an opportunity.”
Technological advancement is inevitable. And when it comes to self-service technology, early-adopters of platforms like SurePayd ultimately set the standard that clients expect from every competitor.
“It gives you a competitive edge over other suppliers in their industry that don't have a system like this. The end customer wants that – they want to do the work.”