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It is Not Self-Service if You Have to Call

It is Not Self-Service if You Have to Call
May 11, 2012
By: David L Butler, PhD
Executive Director, National Association of Call Centers
Besides being the Executive Director of the National Association of Call Centers, my wife an own a consulting company where we work with organizations assisting with their call center operations. The consulting company carries the standard business insurance, workers compensation, liability, and so on. One of these policies is through Travelers. Each year we receive a letter that says something like, "You have been randomly selected to be audited..." which is clearly not random. If it were random, I would own my own Caribbean island having won the lottery at least 2 times with such randomness.
This year the letter, instead of asking us to go through out files for the past year and make copies, and send them into to them, asks us to go online to their new system, ePHR, to submit the information electronically. While I a still a bit peeved at being "randomly" audited each year for the past forever, at least Travelers is moving to a self-service model, which is efficient and cost effective. Something that you should know, besides researching the call center industry for the past 15 years, I have also been studying the self-service emerging industry for the past 5 or more years as well.
All was going well last night when I was completing my self-service audit online until I had to upload my last 4 quarters of payroll data. When I searched for the file it found it just fine, and then pressed "upload" and poof!, the field disappeared (see image) and nothing was uploaded. I then searched again, cleared out again, nothing uploaded. I re-read the instructions, nothing about no .pdf documents, the size of my file was only 1.6M nowhere near the limit to upload. So, I tried again, nothing. I was stuck. So what did I do? I search out help of course. The problem was it was 8pm CST when this problem occurred and the hours of available support are EST and not open when I am doing this project. Note number 1, if you are going to have a 24 hour self-service system, at least for the first trial period have 24 hour support available.
So this morning, after getting done my much needed items I tried the self-service system again. This time I was hoping that there was only a technical glitch and that it had been reported and fixed by now. Same screen, same problem. Note number 2, if you are going to have a 24 hour self-service system in place you must have a 24 hour technical support available on call as well. With the problem not solved, I called the audit department help desk. I explained the problem to the nice woman on the phone, and she told me that it was a common problem. The system would not allow me to upload form my computer but if I emailed her the document, she could upload it for me. So I did email it to her.
Note number 3, and this is a big one. Self-service is intended to not only offer the customer flexibility in a 24 hour system it is also supposed to add a channel that reduces cost by moving simple tasks to the self-service channel and away from the more expensive channel such as the call center. However, since the system does not work, or not always works, then the cost of the self-service solution is sunk and also the cost of the call center is also still ongoing. In essence, I cost Travelers double because I used the self-service and the call center. This brings me to note number 4, test, retest and retest again before launching a self-service application. Otherwise, you lose the one chance of migrating your customers to this channel and cost savings down the road. You can be assured, when I am "randomly" audited again next year, and it will happen, I will probably chose to call and send in the documents via mail or email since my first experience with the self-service channel was less than successful.
If in doubt, go purchase something at Amazon.com. If your self-service channel is not as easy as purchasing an item from Amazon.com then rework it so that it is. Amazon.com is the standard that we are all expecting as consumers.
Copyright © 2012 David L. Butler

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