When Zappos founder Tony Hsieh is asked how his company grew so rapidly, he always responds with the same answer: by providing the best customer service possible.
Indeed, the entire organization is aligned around customer service, making it the responsibility of each and every employee–not just a department. Its success also is based on the understanding that not every purchase journey is seamless. But instead of looking at that as a revenue problem, Zappos sees it as an opportunity to earn brand affinity. Each positive customer-support experience is a chance to convert a casual shopper into lifelong brand loyalist.
Underlying the ability to deliver customer-support excellence is self-service support technology. According to Forrester, 72% of customers prefer to solve problems on their own rather than to pick up the phone or send an email–and then wait for a customer service representative to find an answer.
From a business perspective, self-service saves time and frees employees to handle other work. Underlying the ability to self-serve is natural language technology. Which one is right for you depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.
Let’s take a look at four approaches to self-service:
• Dynamic FAQs: Dynamic FAQs can prevent the most common, repetitive support tickets from ever being created. Using Natural Language Search technology, self-service systems analyze user questions as they are typed to provide helpful, informative answers from a knowledge base. Dynamic FAQs can make a support site responsive by adapting to users from the moment they arrive–providing businesses with valuable knowledge about the questions their customers ask most.
• Semantic Search Of Knowledge Bases: In spite of designers’ and programmers’ best efforts, the user experience can often be negative and frustrating, leading many shoppers to abandon their purchases. Natural Language Processing-based technology solves this; instead of customers having to search through multiple pages for the exact product they want, they simply ask out loud naturally as if they were speaking to a real sales clerk.
Semantic search prioritizes the meaning of the input–unlike a keyword search, which searches for exact text strings. Relevant answers are matched to user questions even if the phrases used in questions and answers are totally different.
When this is applied to a business’ knowledge base, users can quickly discover the content they’re searching for. For example, if a user is looking for products, then a link to the products section is suggested. If they are seeking solutions to a specific issue, then they will be shown articles, videos, or FAQs about how to troubleshoot their problems.
• Virtual Assistance: A virtual assistant can lower customer-support costs by handling common inquiries before they ever reach a live agent. Based on Natural Language Processing technology, users are given helpful and relevant information by human-like agents. A virtual assistant provides customers with a more personalized experience by creating a casual, conversational channel for customers to ask questions and find information.
Some companies have even developed a specific avatar to represent this system. Domino’s, for instance, recently introduced a voice-assisted ordering specialist named “Dom.” Avatars combine the intelligence of a virtual assistant with a personable, friendly virtual representative to make the support experience personalized and interactive for users without the expense of adding extra agents to a support center.
• Instant Answers: From the moment a customer starts creating a support ticket, Instant Answers technology suggests content related to the query in order to deflect unnecessary tickets. Using semantic search, Instant Answers analyzes users’ input and directs them to the information they’re seeking, essentially preventing support agents from being inundated with repeated questions.
Instant Answers lowers support center costs and boosts self-service success by enabling customers to answer their own questions rather than sending an email or creating a support ticket.
Implementing natural language into self-service tools is a solid way to differentiate yourself among competitors, please customers, and improve productivity among your employees. Helping customers help themselves can do a brand wonders.