Stop asking customers “How may I help you?” (and actually help them!)

Stop Asking Customers “How May I Help You?” (and Actually Help Them!)

“How may I help you?” It seems like an honest, straightforward way to start an interaction. A standard phrase that is friendly, polite and even feels customer-centric. For many decades, it has been the de facto starting point for customer service phone calls.

And that’s the problem. A phrase that defined the era of phone-based service is causing a very different reaction in today’s OnScreen, digital-first world. This simple, considerate greeting is starting to have the opposite effect as many see it as disrupting the digital flow of the customer service engagement.

The emergence of self-service digital tools, including FAQs and online knowledge bases as well as chatbots and OnScreen live chat has radically changed customer behavior and reset expectations. Where the customer journey once started with a phone call to a business, today most start online for self-service. When customers do engage with live agents, they are typically well along their journey, not at the starting point.

In fact, a number of studies have shown that customers usually complete anywhere from 57% to 70% of the resolution journey before engaging with a live agent. From a customer’s perspective, that’s somewhere beyond the middle—not the start.

Imagine you are midway through watching a movie when friends drop by and ask you to start again from the very beginning so THEY can catch up. Some might be willing for their friends, but no one wants to start over with a customer service agent.

After all that effort to get to this point, “How may I help you?” feels like a giant step backward for customers. A waste of time. Worse yet, it signifies that a financial institution doesn’t prioritize the customer’s time. A seemingly customer-centric question has become the exact opposite.

This creates frustration for the customer and also friction for the agents who are forced into this awkward situation. It’s not exactly setting them up for success.

Best practices from the legacy phone-based days do not translate well for today’s digital-first world. Digital Customer Service (DCS) has emerged as a better way to help customers. DCS starts by first meeting them where they are, which is increasingly online with live chat, OnScreen voice and video service.

True DCS solutions go a step further, to understand where customers are within their journey, assessing and even anticipating needs. Live Observation, for example, allows an agent to see where a customer is within the bank’s Website or app. If a customer is hovering over a loan application, for example, the agent can see this and offer to help complete the application. “Hi, it looks like you might need some help applying for a loan” replaces “How may I help you.”

The customer is not forced to start all over because the agent is now on the same page—literally. No need to restart the whole process because the agent is up-to-speed and ready to help. By offering CoBrowsing, agents can get even more proactive in guiding customers, launching web links or apps and even helping to fill out an application, say for a loan.

Ultimately, good service is about aligning to the customer and their situation at the moment. Agents that can quickly understand a customer’s needs, provide relevant help and remove friction points can help drive up customer satisfaction, drive down abandonment rates and help build long-term loyalty. That begins with the very first question. Which should no longer be “How may I help you.”

Glia is reinventing how businesses serve their customers in a digital world, supporting a growing list of financial institutions. Glia’s solution enriches web and mobile experiences with digital communication choices, OnScreen collaboration and AI-enabled assistance. Learn more at

To learn more about Digital Experiences, check out the new book Digital Customer Service: Transforming Customer Experience for an On-Screen World

Exit mobile version