If you do not yet offer service or support on a messaging channel, consider starting with SMS, which is still the one channel reaching the largest audience – anyone can text, even users of old feature phones. The advantage of using a hitherto unused channel is that you won’t be interfering with any other customer care programs in your organization. You will have less procurement and approval hassle internally, and will be quicker at “getting your feet wet” with this new technology.
However, make sure that SMS is actually an attractive and affordable channel in the region you want to deploy this in. Different countries have different market saturation and pricing models for SMS.
If you already offer service & support on a messaging channel, e.g. web chat, start there.
Begin by automating the most mundane tasks your tier 1 agents handle today: authentication and pre-qualification. For authentication, you need backend integration, so if you want to get something out there quickly, you could skip that and just implement pre-qualification, i.e. determining why the customer is messaging you, so that you line up the right resource to help them.
Consider advertising to your customer base that they can now get to your agents quicker and with less hassle, simply by texting “call me”:
This will let you accomplish 4 things:
- Reduce cost by bypassing your IVR, thus avoiding operational IVR cost (vendor technology, telephony)
- Reduce cost by turning an inbound call to your toll-free number to a cheaper outbound call (check how telephony cost differs for inbound/outbound in your region)
- Improve the customer experience, as your customer now no longer has to wait on hold to speak to someone
- Improve the agent experience, as your agents now no longer have to repeatedly ask the same basic questions over and over again throughout the day
From there, you can later add “real” self-service; e.g. try to automate the top 3 conversations your customers are having with agents today, and only hand the ones over to humans that are different, require human problem solving intelligence, or required human emotional intelligence (e.g. to calm an angry customer down.)
By going this route, you are playing it safe: you are setting the right expectations with your customers (e.g. that the service cannot yet solve their questions, but can make the path to the agent faster and less burdensome.)
Alternatively, you can start right away with automating one or more of your most frequently asked questions, which will lead to savings quicker.