The goal of self-service is to make things easier for both the customer (to find information) and customer service agents (to deflect information requests from assisted service). But making things easier always begins with hard work.
Expectations for, and of, self-service are growing at a rapid pace. For the first time in the history of Forrester Research’s North American Consumer Technographics Customer Life Cycle Survey, consumers now say they are using self-service FAQ pages on a company’s website for customer service more often than speaking with a live agent on the phone. According to Microsoft’s own Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report, more than 90% of the 4,000 consumers surveyed say they now expect brands and organization’s to have a customer self-service offering.
Despite a growing preference for self-service, Forrester shows that assisted channels still lead when it comes to satisfaction, with satisfaction ratings for phone at 69% and live chat at 63%, while web self-service trails at 58%. Leaders in customer self-service are starting to bridge that satisfaction gap in six key ways:
1. Strategy. According to Gartner Research analyst Brian Manusama in his recent research note, Why You Need to Rethink Your Customer Self-Service Strategy, “by the end of 2016, at least 80% of organizations that fail to plan their self-service implementations will incur higher customer service costs and will not achieve the savings and benefits expected.” Leaders in customer self-service define budget, baselines, objectives, promotion, delivery, escalation methods, maintenance and more right from the start.
2. Knowledge. At the heart of a successful customer self-service offering is a well-developed knowledgebase. Leaders invest in the technology to easily add, edit and deliver information and use customer feedback from across channels, agent knowledge of frequently asked questions, keyword search data and more to provide the answers and information customers want and need most. According to Gartner Research VP and Distinguished Analyst Michael Maoz in his research note Knowledge Management Will Transform CRM Customer Service, “by 2018, the rapid creation and retrieval of relevant content (KM) will be a key attribute of leading enterprises.” Maoz notes in the same report that customer support costs can be reduced by 25% or more when a proper KM discipline is in place.
3. Transparency. Leaders in customer self-service are also more authentic when sharing customer-facing knowledge. Notes Microsoft general manager Bill Patterson in a new MyCustomer and Microsoft Self-Service Guide, “these organizations are a little forward leaning in terms of their willingness to reduce the barrier of information that needs to be held inside their corporate walls.
“What customers truly appreciate are brands that are transparent and willing to admit their faults as much as their successes. That authenticity drives a higher degree of loyalty with customers that are engaging with those brands.”
4. Delivery. Brands and organizations leading in customer self-service deliver consistent information that is searchable and well organized by topic, most-viewed, most-recently-added, etc.
Their self-service offering seamlessly matches their organization’s visual branding to assist in adoption, trust and repeat use, and top placement for trending issues or popular topics makes it a go-to destination for customers seeking timely information. Increasingly important is a mobile-responsive self-service offering. In Microsoft’s 2015 Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report, 60% of the 4,000 consumers surveyed said they have a more favorable view of a brand that offers a mobile-responsive support portal.
5. Self-to-Assisted Escalation. Leaders in customer self-service make it easy for customers to escalate to an assisted channel if needed by providing phone, email, support ticketing and live chat options as part of their self-service offering. They also give assisted service agents key insights into what the customer has already tried through self-service (for example, self-service articles viewed) so that the customer does not have to convey or repeat their previous experience to achieve resolution.
6. Maintenance. ThinkJar Principal and Founder Esteban Kolsky, in a recent blog post, notes that just 34% of companies have proper maintenance budgets for knowledge management maintenance. When ignored, self-service content quickly becomes dated and/or inaccurate, and use and customer satisfaction swiftly decline. Leaders not only maintain their self-service offering; they add to, delete or revise based on usage reports, customer feedback, ratings and keyword searches.
Customer self-service allows brands to consistently provide the right answers across channels, 24/7, at scale. Not only does an effective self-service offering satisfy the customer, but it also benefits brands through deflection of frequently asked questions, lowering costs and giving customer service representatives more time to spend with customers needing assisted service for more complex questions and issues. Forrester Research estimates that an average of $22 million is spent in unnecessary service costs due to channel escalations, meaning that if customers can’t effectively self-serve, it costs brands money.
Leverage the six tips above to become a leader in this increasingly preferred and expected customer service channel.