Customers have grown accustomed to speed and immediate solutions because of the conveniences offered by technology today. In fact, many studies have shown that customers want their questions answered and their problems resolved quickly. Here are a few notable ones:
- Four out of ten customers expect an email response from customer support within 6 hours. (Forrester Research)
- Three out of ten customers that tweet support questions expect a response within 30 minutes. (The Social Habit)
- Fast response time is the most important element of the customer experience. (Ipsos Mori)
These demands have left companies feeling pressured as they try to please customers with limited customer service personnel. No wonder self-service is expected to grow from $4.33 billion in 2016 to $9.38 billion by 2021, according to a 2017 study published by MarketsAndMarkets.
What is Customer Self-Service?
Customer self-service enables organizations to provide web support to customers without the need for a human representative. There are many self-service tools that companies use today such as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, knowledge base, online discussion forums, and an Interactive Voice Response (IVR).
Self-service allows customers to obtain answers to their questions or address problems with a product or service quickly. It has become particularly popular for handling types of issues that customers can often handle on their own such as checking their bank account balance through an app, paying a bill through the website, or finding solutions on how to fix a simple product issue.
Why Self-Service is Important?
Customers prefer to help themselves, and a self-service portal enables them to do just that. According to Forrester Research, 72% of customers actually prefer self-service to resolve their support issues over picking up the phone or sending an email.
Self-service centers that have online community forums are also beneficial. For instances when a support page or a representative is not available, customers can engage with other customers who can provide each other support.
Additionally, self-service is more cost-effective than other customer service interactions. Forrester Research was cited saying that Web self-service interaction will only cost less than $0.10 to support, while each phone call averages $6 to $12, web chats at $5, and email responses up to $5.
Finally, because a self-service portal can reduce the load on other active customer service channels, your call center agents and other support reps can give more attention to inquiries they receive.
Ways to Have an Excellent Self-Service Support
1. Keep information in one place
Even if you run many websites, applications, or communities for a single product or service, unify your support information in a single knowledge base. 60% of companies store support information in multiple places, and customers end up having to look for information for answers in multiple systems.
For example, if you have both a desktop and a mobile application, link to the same FAQ page that’s optimized for different screen sizes. This way, customers will be familiar with that support page. Be sure to link canned responses for social media and email requests to the same page, too.
2. Provide the most useful knowledge base possible
The most important and most daunting part of your self-service portal is the knowledge base. It requires hours of research and documentation.
If you haven’t started one yet or wish to improve your existing one, start by finding out what the most questions or issues your customers have. The best practice is to interview support agents and survey customers on what kind of content is needed in your knowledge base. Start writing content on problems that receive a high volume of support requests.
Great knowledge bases are like instructions for building furniture—they include visuals! If you need to provide customers step-by-step instructions, provide them screenshots and annotate them to show what they need to do. You may even go a step further by recording a video instructional.
3. Develop a great search experience
Thanks to the rise of search engines like Google, everyone—including your customers—have gotten used to search bars. With that, your self-service portal should have a search feature that is easy to find and use. However, research has found that six out of ten customers are often left feeling frustrated with the search bar of support centers.
To make your self-service effective, optimize the search bar. Provide automated guidance while they’re typing a question, keyword, or issue so they can find a specific response (if available) without having to scan the entire database for a single answer.
A great way to ensure that your content is searchable is to use tags on your support pages. For example, if you have an article on how to track shipping information, tag that page with relevant keywords such as “shipping,” “track shipment,” “delivery information,” etc. This way, if a customer types in any of the keywords, the correct support article will be shown to them.
4. Keep your content relevant and updated
Maintaining the content on your knowledge base is as important as creating it in the first place. As your company, product, or service evolves, so will your customers’ concerns change. To help you keep your content fresh, leverage search analytics made on your self-service center. This way, you can fill in content gaps, search trends, and create an even better self-service experience for your customers.
You should also aim to get customer feedback on every single support page to make sure they’re helpful to customers. Many companies do this by adding the question “Was this page helpful?” then a button for a yes or no or a rating system.
You can also get recommendations from support agents. If similar issues are being tweeted, emailed, or called about, it might be time to create support articles for those issues so that agents can direct customers to that page in the future. Doing this can prevent repetitive cases and improve agent productivity.
Today’s consumers are more than ready for a self-service option in resolving product or service issues with your company. To have an effective self-service center, however, be sure to unify information in one place, provide useful and relevant content, and develop a great search function.
Once you’ve done this, your business will be on its way to increasing agent productivity, enhancing customer satisfaction, and reducing customer service costs.