Increase Customer Satisfaction with Digital Channels and Self-Service Options
As part of Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series—a collection of contributed columns written by industry experts in maturing software categories—Alison Durant, the Chief Marketing Officer at EngageSmart, explains how (and why) self-service digital channels are essential to improved customer satisfaction.
Recent years have seen stunning advancements and innovations in the digital realm beyond what anyone might have dreamt of only a decade ago. Driven by a rapidly evolving global landscape and the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, brilliant minds across every sector have mobilized to advance the role of technology in distance learning, telehealth, contactless deliveries, and more. And while digital payments have made significant strides—for example, many have seen significant increases in digital payment adoptions—the experience of paying bills online is nowhere near as streamlined as it should be, given that digital payments were introduced in the mid-1990s. Limited options and glitchy interfaces are still shockingly commonplace.
Ineffectual digital customer interactions are costing companies both customers and employees every day. Too many organizations prioritize digital growth but fall short in their optimization. Cumbersome processes have serious ramifications and can create dissatisfied customers who channel their frustration through help desks while employees spend valuable time fixing preventable issues.
More and more large companies, ranging from Nike to JP Morgan Chase, are doubling down on integrating technology, enabling the kinds of smooth and customized options that today’s customer-driven landscape requires. It’s time for other organizations, regardless of size, to shift their attention from simply maintaining digital offerings to creating customer experiences that facilitate self-service and options that are not only tenable but delightful.
Self-Service: The Way of the Future
Gone are the days when simply offering digital payment and account management options differentiated a company from the competition. In today’s landscape, customers expect to take care of payments and other account activity easily, on their schedule, and online. According to a McKinsey survey, consumers are more likely to recommend companies to others with consistent and personalized experiences across channels. That means the infrastructure to support and facilitate these interactions is now table stakes.
McKinsey also finds that a substantial 62 percent of customers prefer self-service options over speaking with a company representative, and 75 percent agree it’s more convenient. In many sectors, the secret to happy customers is to leave them to their own devices—or at least provide the tools that enable them to handle essential functions and issue resolutions on their own if they choose.
While the need for streamlined digital payment options is more evident in some industries than others (i.e., insurance and utilities), every industry can benefit from paying more attention to keeping customers happy through better digital options. This requires access to choices that make self-service easy and a strong team standing by to help customers who prefer a more personal touch when interacting with a brand.
An interesting use case is in the non-profit world, an often overlooked but critically important sector that tackles some of the world’s biggest challenges—from access to clean water to furthering medical research and human rights. Raising funds for these missions requires a payment process that facilitates donations, which becomes a heavy lift when in-person fundraising is suspended, like during the pandemic.
During that time, non-profits were forced to identify new ways to engage by providing the proper support while keeping customization and self-service options fully available. For example, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of New York successfully shifted its major annual fundraiser from an in-person bike ride to an accessible virtual event, raising more money than ever.
Driving Self-Service Payments
Savvy companies realize that offering self-service options in the form of tools like online payment portals, AutoPay, and digital wallets is more convenient for customers and hugely beneficial for their organizations. Results include:
- Fewer payment-related customer service calls and in-person visits
- Reduced mailed-in payments
- Less organizational and administrative spending
- More productive and satisfied employees
- Increased customer satisfaction from an enhanced user experience
Of course, adjustment to innovation can present challenges. For instance, what happens when customers choosing to self-serve need help during the payment process? They may still contact customer service or skip the payment altogether. This is incredibly counterproductive since driving customers to self-service routes is meant to save employee time and ensure consistent collections. Companies must be all-in on creating the most frictionless and streamlined payment solutions possible to ensure they reap the full benefits.
Self-serve options are now expected, driven by developments like self-check-out kiosks in stores and restaurants offering online and mobile ordering. Organizations must do their part to meet this rising tide—this expectation extends even to the unpleasant task of paying bills. As the calendar changes to 2023, self-service routes that are easy to find and utilize may prove even more essential in the billing and collections space than any other.