Due to becoming more mobile and more tech-savvy, customers have increasingly high standards when it comes to customer service. The emergence of customer self-service is a reflection of an evolution of customer expectations.
Speedy service ranks high amongst these expectations: in a survey by Interactive Intelligence Group, “short response times” ranked higher in importance for customers than “efficiency”, “knowledgeable agents”, and even “professionalism”. Meanwhile, customers also consider first call resolution supremely important.
Customers want answers to their questions and solutions to their problems, and they want the search to be both expeditious and easy. So how can support teams of finite means and manpower reconcile these demands? Offering customer self-service could be the answer.
What is customer self-service?
Customer self-service offers constant and immediate access to the fixes for common service issues. These resources aim to eliminate the need for getting in touch with a human support representative.
Customers may find live chat impersonal, figure email is too slow, or fear losing time if they get in touch over the phone. With self-service resources, customers can find the answers they need without resorting to navigating alternate support channels, and the process is usually quicker and less painful.
Customer self-service resources can take the following forms:
- FAQs: a collection of recurring and obvious questions and queries related to your product or service. These are made available in an easily digestible format.
- Knowledge bases: a centralised database of useful information, usually part of your CRM.
- Self-checkout: lets customers select, compare, and purchase items without any assistance.
- Interactive Voice Recognition: IVR lets customers interact with an automated voice system tailored to their needs in order to perform a specific task.
A Pew Internet study shows that 92% of people use search engines to find information on the web. It stands to reason that users would expect the same kind of ease and efficiency when it comes to the businesses they patron.
Read on to find out the advantages of customer self-service both for your business and for your clientele.
What can customer self-service do for your business?
A consumer survey by Nuance Enterprise found that 75% of respondents considered customer self-service a convenient and welcome way to meet their support needs. Let’s try to convince you as well.
Here’s what implementing a customer self-service plan can do to improve your customer support strategy.
Make you more available
Self-service databases and FAQs are available round the clock, and accessible from anywhere in the world. Unless your support team operates from many different time zones, this isn’t the case for your human agents.
Offering self-service resources will help ensure that your customers aren’t left high and dry outside of regular business hours. Since it can be a huge pain point to need service and be met with an answering machine or away message, your customers will thank you for it.
Rescue your support agents
A large part of dispensing customer support is providing the same solutions to repetitive issues. Presenting an FAQ page or a knowledge base can make the answers to recurring questions more obvious to your customers. This has two benefits: first, it saves the customers time and effort, which they’ll appreciate. Second, it saves time and effort for your agents as well.
Customer service isn’t an easy gig. It takes boundless empathy, rigorous organization, and a great deal of patience. Repeating the same phrases and facing the same issues every day will take a toll on your team’s morale. Agents will be less invested, more prone to burning out, and more likely to churn. Agent attrition is a huge challenge facing support teams, especially given the high cost in both time and money which accompanies the recruitment and training of support reps.
Self-service resources can offer relief to your agents, and spare their mental health, well-being, professional involvement, and, yes, your bottom line.
Relieve overloaded support channels
Giving customers an alternative to traditional support channels can be a smart move. Common complaints of dissatisfied customers include long wait and response times before getting a representative to help them or respond to a query.
If you find that response times aren’t your team’s strong suit, it may be that they’re overloaded. If hiring and training supplementary agents isn’t in your budget, then offering customer self-service could lighten the load for your team.
Indeed, 40% of users report only calling in to a support hotline after having failed to find answers on their own. If a customer has to try your business across several channels, they’ll get more irate with every escalation. But if you make a customer’s solo search for answers a success, then they won’t need to burden your phone lines or blow up your inbox.
Given the previous two points, it’s evident how the presence of customer self-service can be good news for your bottom line. They will help your team get more done, and be freed up to tackle the most challenging issues.
You could get away with funding a smaller team than you’d expect, slimming down your communications budget. A study by Forrester Research and Oracle found that such tactics could reduce your cost per call by a whopping $11 per call!
Providing your customers with the means to solve their own problems is the gift that keeps on giving. Millennials are on their way to making up the majority of the workforce as well as the client pool. It’s been very trendy to revile them for their alleged aloofness and entitlement, but the fact remains that Millennials are independent, resourceful, and aspire to self-sufficiency.
This age-group overwhelmingly prefers self-service resources to talking to a human representative. Therefore, it would behoove businesses to accommodate that growing preference. Besides, empowering your customers to problem-solve is beneficial in of itself: it truly promotes the complete adoption of your product. People are more willing to engage with a brand with which they’ve created a bond. Letting customers solve their own problems will give them a sense of accomplishment, and a renewed appreciation of your brand.
Of course, this doesn’t mean leaving them fully to their own devices. When their issue is too hairy for customer self-service, your support team needs to be easy and willing to help.
Tips for providing quality customer self-service resources
If your business is going to provide customer self-service resources, it should be done right. Here are some ways to make sure this strategy serves your customers and your team well.
Identify customers’ needs
There’s preliminary work involved in supplying customer self-service. If customers are going to get the most use out of your service, the resources ought to be relevant to their needs.
Identify recurring questions and issues, decant novice users and experts, separate tech issues from usage and from skill. If you segment your knowledge base for disparate customer needs and skill levels, you’ll find that those resources are more readily utilised by everyone.
Make them visible
Since you want customers to try your self-service database as a first recourse for mundane issues, you need to make it obvious. Display your self-service resources prominently, and encourage customers to try them before escalating their demand.
Have a button lead customers to your database on your website, in email signatures, next to product specifications, etc. Your customer self-service should coexist with your sales and support funnels, not be apart from them.
Customers do prefer self-service. But if the presence and benefits of your own resources aren’t evident, customers will miss out on the opportunity.
Make them functional
Customer self-service should be intuitive; having to teach customers how to use self-service is a rather oxymoronic waste of time. Make the interface easy to use and navigate:
- Include varied media such as audio, screenshots, and video tutorials to maximise customer engagement and understanding.
- Implement a basic search which leads into a more specified one, so that a customer can precisely identify their own issue.
- Provide suggestions based on frequent association between two issues, or an issue and a customer profile.
- Remove all dead ends. If a customer is navigating your database, they should find a solution. If they don’t, they should be presented with alternative support options.
- Make your resource available on all platforms. If a customer can’t use it on the go or on the device of their choosing, it will lift their autonomy, not to mention try their patience.
Monitor and fine-tune, always
To make your customer self-service always more relevant and better utilized, you’ll need to keep tabs on it. The secret to improvement is a solid monitoring loop: constant monitoring, measuring, analysis, and implementation.
Customer issues and needs evolve, and your database is never complete. Keep flagging new issues and retiring ones that are no longer relevant, always according to customer feedback. Encourage customers to actively tell you what they think, but remember to monitor their usage. You’ll discover parallels between issues which will give you insight on how customers use your product and how to better their experience.
Keep track of how specific users interact with your interface. Much as you’d keep track of support tickets in a customer’s CRM file, it’s useful to keep track of how customers use your self-service resources. This way, if they do need to escalate their demand, your team will already have insight on their needs and usage.
Have you sampled Aircall’s VoIP business phone system?