Do You Know Why Customers Bail on Self-Service?

Customers are happy to use self-service — if the experience doesn’t leave them with negative feelings. These three things could keep them from picking up the phone.

Your customer logs onto your website to check their account information. After a few minutes of searching and reading FAQs, they are already frustrated and pick up the phone. That switch to a live channel is costly — and completely avoidable. Customer service and support leaders have to identify and remove all such sources of frustration to contain customers in self-service.

Companies have invested heavily in self-service, but customers still contact live channels. Service leaders report that 20% to 40% of live volume could easily be resolved using existing self-service functionalities.

The problem is that most organizations design their self-service resources to signal comprehensive support to customers. But often, the result is an overwhelming maze of information that doesn’t help the customer to resolve their issues quickly and easily.

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Negative emotions drive abandonment 

We wanted to see exactly what keeps customers in self-service channels. In particular, we investigated whether a customer’s psychological state predicted abandonment to live channels. 

Notably, we found that trying to drive positive emotions — making a customer more engaged in the self-service channel — has little impact. By contrast, the presence of negative emotions — anxiety, frustration or doubt — has a huge effect on whether a customer abandons to a live channel.

Customers are more likely to remain and resolve in self-service channels when companies reduce their negative emotions. This makes sense logically, as customers’ negative emotions are heightened in self-service: No one is holding their hand, assuring them things are fine. 

Read more: Rethink Your Customer Service Strategy to Drive Self-Service

Customer confidence reduces negative emotions

To understand how a self-service experience can contribute to negative emotions and result in abandonment, we surveyed over 8,000 customers who interacted with a customer service organization in the previous 30 days. These customers evaluated their experience across a number of self-service attributes. From the data, we discovered these attributes group into seven factors:

  • Clarity: How easy it is to understand or act on given information
  • Confirmation: The presence of messaging that indicates resolution 
  • Control: Customers’ ability to influence or give input on a solution
  • Credibility: The usefulness or relatability of information 
  • Human touch: How well the self-service interaction mimics a live interaction
  • Personalization: The recognition of a customer’s relationship with the company
  • Variety: The ability to interact with the company in multiple, dynamic ways

The factors that best predict containment in self-service are clarity, credibility and confirmation. Each of these factors reinforces customer’s confidence in their ability to resolve an issue on their own: They are making progress, have the right information throughout and ultimately can resolve their issue. Customer confidence reduces negative emotions, and, therefore reduces self-service abandonment. 

Next steps for containment 

To reduce abandonment, organizations must build or maintain customer confidence throughout the self-service experience, ultimately avoiding negative emotions. This is done not through a more personalized, engaging and exploratory experience, but through simple and clear design and communication that is credible and confirms progress and ultimately resolution.

Hallmarks of self-service functionalities that best reduce these negative emotions provide clarity, credibility and confirmation, which together create customer confidence.

This article is excerpted from the Service and Support Leader Digest: 2019 Vol.2

Emily Potosky is a Gartner Senior Research Analyst based in Washington, D.C. In this role, she develops, conducts and supports research investigations to help customer service and support leaders understand the current state of the function and answer their most pressing questions. Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leader clients can read the Service and Support Leader Digest: 2019 Vol. 2.

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