FIY – Contact centres and an approach to helping customers

FIY or Fix It Yourself is a business approach to reduce pressure on customer care teams.  How do you make it work for you not against you?

Not “Falling Into You” by Celine Dion or Federazione Italiana Yoga (Italian: Italian Federation of Yoga), FIY is a mindset of using technology and people more cleverly to help facilitate customers resolving their issues.

With some very basic tools implemented well you can save your customer care headaches using a combination of tools.

There will always need to be a mechanism for more complicated issues but for the vast majority of challenges, helping customers help themselves, makes everyone happier.

So what tools enable FIY and do you have them available?

  • Where this comes from
  • Toolset
  • RTFM
  • Wrap Up

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Where this comes from

The scenario

No matter what your product or service there are always going to be questions.

You have a very wide variety of people and personalities who are going to be interacting with your business output.

When a question does arise the speed of response and quality of answer sets an impression of your brand.

This distinction is important.  Your brand is different to your actual product.  Your iPhone is different from the brand of Apple.

Apple is part of every iPhone sold but your iPhone is yours.

When you have a question / something goes wrong not just your iPhone but your entire brand is now under review with this person.

Every interaction counts and has an influence.

A brand has touch points.  Touch points are interaction points with your business.

Whilst usually the marketing department focuses on people’s perceptions of touch points, the importance of this communication is the responsibility of the entire business to maintain.


Triage and basic FIY

Triage is a medical term meaning the process of quickly examining sick or injured people, for example after an accident or a battle, so that those who are in the most serious condition can be treated first.

In a contact centre triage is the process of quickly examining an issue and working who / how best to treat your issue.  Your experience of triage greatly affects perception.

The moment a question or an issue arises, you want an answer.  There tends to be three grossly oversimplified groups to target.

  • Newbies or Noobs
  • One off
  • Complainers



FIY for Noobs means teaching new users how to help themselves with future issues.


When you unwrap something or use something for the first time there is a learning curve.  This first interaction is important in setting perceptions.

Think back to the most positive and most negative experience you had with a new product or service.  How important were the first moments of interaction?

Yet how much of your perception of the first time you had an issue / didn’t have an issue affected your perception of that brand?

So a business needs to target and identify quickly the groups that are interacting with their business.

As I have discussed before, there is no fear in using a new product, in the traditional sense of the word fear.

Yet their is the fear of shame which is when you appear silly or stupid to your peers as you didn’t realise how to properly operate your new product or service.

Is there any wonder why I don’t like the gym?  It’s only stupid if you happen to know a better of doing it.

So the question here is how to help the customer and the question is what could that gym have done better to help their customer?

Helping new customers, removing and managing the fear of shame means recognising in the customer the right approach.  Again grouping customers can help better serve them?

There is a fine line between patronising and helping a customer.

Experienced customers who know what they’re about vs. inexperienced customers who just are too proud to ask for help means there is a certain art of diplomacy required by the business.

Your approach needs to cater for the two ends of the spectrum, not just have one size approach fits all.


One off

Hopefully your majority of contacts.  FIY hopefully now sees people better able to find answers for themselves.

As part of the process the customer should feel less worried about their issue as they know how to take care of themselves.


People who just want an answer and giving them one asap is the goal.

The solution is to get them quick answers and leaving them with a positive image of the brand and of themselves and their ability to fix what they perceive as issues.



FIY will never work for this groups.

This group represent a draw on the business.


Sometimes the processes are more about positive human contact than your product or service.

Also when there is a nefarious approach by the customer to get something for free, this category can be quickly reached.

You may be able to convert their opinions but these are detractors from your business and need to managed carefully.



The process flow

Apart from the touch points for customer care (phone, website, physical and social media) there needs to be a support manual somewhere available for the customers to access.

The support manual can take the form of a paper booklet or a website tool.


A flow to help troubleshooting is useful but searching is the primary desired trait.  I don’t want to know everything, just the answer to my query.

The solution is to build separate user experiences by touch point to deliver the same overall goals.  A good FIY experience.

Technology in the toolset

Now for some name dropping as to what tools may help your processes.


If you contact by phone then you will have a phone system. PBX or Public Branch Exchange depending on its age and capability gives you options.

IVR or Interactive Voice Response is a press 1 for this, press 2 for that system.

If it has the ability to use APIs data based on the incoming caller and information from the IVR can redirect the call automatically to different teams, if not different countries.

Unified Communications has a PBX element but can also manage email, website requests and even live chat technologies through a single platform.


A data warehouse can provide all the customer data in a single centralised point making it available to systems and employees to help resolve issues.

A website can not only provide sales information but can also provide a contact platform.

When used properly you can also add your own version of Wikipedia to your business.  Called MediaWiki this tool allows you to build a knowledge base online.

A logic flow, such as the one above can also be implemented in software to help navigation of your company encyclopedia work more smoothly.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) allows the customer to speak or write their their question as in a natural conversation.

The AI hears the question, turns it into text and then can search for improved answers.

This all ties into the FIY thing of… I don’t want to know everything, just the answer to my query.


I just want to speak to someone!

The above process flow requires some basic steps.

  1. Gather some basic details about the person to best direct their query
  2. Use data systems to automatically “enrich” or give the appropriate direction to the caller.

Even if you as the customer do get to speak to someone, you’re hoping your issue can be directly quickly to an answer.

Yet the debate of process following vs. speaking to someone experienced who can skips larges chunks of the process as they know the answer is hotly debated in contact centres.


Quality checks should ensure that basic checks are performed for safety, security and impression reasons.

When you go into a hospital you are asked basic routine data gathering questions… when you’re sick, you’re sick.

Yet even a doctor / nurse is completing a mental triage process to figure out what best to do with you.

How can your business triage your query as per the process flow above?


The Challenges

How the internet helps

If a customer rings up technical support depending on the soft skills of the person they speak to they will have a good to awful experience.

This means you’re placing your brand reputation into the hands of your agents.  Everyone can have a bad day, customers and customer service agents alike.

Here’s an example of what might happen.  I believe this caller to be pranking the call centre.  The supervisor deals with it well in my opinion.

I personally would use the phonetic alphabet but hey hindsight is 20:20

If you decide to use your website, or a tool on your website, you have a person with computer experience, which requires UX or User eXperience consideration.

As a result people can’t appear stupid when they interact with a computer, so for a lot of people they prefer using the Internet.

No one wants the noob experience.  You ring up and find out you’ve been pressing the wrong button.  YouTube and hopefully the company will have a helpful website.

I am lucky enough to have the Internet, so there has to be a few communications channels.

Yet with so many bad technological experiences possible why wouldn’t you just pick up the phone and ring?


Data to back up the discussion

Microsoft famously have a lot of customer service interactions being one of the leading global suppliers.

Naturally they reviewed their contact centres and their customer service and here’s what they found.  They were looking at all their customer care / FIY touch points.

You can download a copy of the 2017 report from here.

  1. In the U.S. the phone is the customer service channel respondents use most, more often than email, in-person, live chat, mobile app, self-service, search engine, social media, online community, text message, or chatbot.
  2. 74% percent of respondents have contacted customer service by phone – email is the next most popular channel at 62%. (Remembering that more than one contact per issue is possible)
  3. About as many respondents typically begin their customer service interaction over the phone as online, 43% versus 49%, respectively.
  4. When asked what the most frustrating aspect of a customer service experience is, over a third of U.S. respondents (34%) chose “Automated Telephone System (IVR)/inability to reach a live person for customer support.”

This irritated them more than:

  • Not being able to resolve an issue or find information online: 18%
  • Having to repeat or provide information multiple times: 22%
  • A representative not having the knowledge or ability to resolve an issue: 26%



Read The Fricken Manual or however you choose to expand on that acronym is the often referred to approach by technologists.

Most people learn experientially.  Pick it up, play with it and figure out how it works from that.

When it doesn’t work as we think it should we might contact support instead of reading the manual cover to cover.

Often this is because manuals aren’t written in a way that’s understandable or we feel that the manual is too patronising.

With a paper manual there is only one experience.  A website offers the capability to give different experiences to different people depending on their categorisation.

How do you turn your manual into a positive experience.

You need two parts to it.  First is you need a body of knowledge.  The second is a navigation system to help people find the information they want quickly.

The two are separate and both need reviewing with customer experience by group in mind.


Is the new approach working

Customer service questionnaires and follow up surveys can use systems like Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Effectiveness Scores (CES)

These approaches allow your business to gauge, are our customers happy with our approach?

Remember with FIY the customer wants a quick answer appropriate to them.  Some areas you will succeed.  Some areas will need improvement.

Being able to categorise your results by Noob, One Off, Experienced and within that First Time Query vs. Recurring Query.

Will greatly help you to focus on what is or isn’t working in which area.


Wrap Up

One size solutions do not fit all.  FIY reduces effort on your business but it also can greatly enhance the presentation of your brand.

Modern contact solutions talk about First Call Resolution (FCR) metrics, yet at the back of it all, happy, repeat customers who will advocate your brand is what’s desired.

There are many combinations of the tools but using the FIY groupings will help your care approach significantly.

If there’s anything in this article you’d like to chat to me about you can contact me here or on social media.



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