Extending the Bounds of Digital Self-Service Beyond Customer Service to Fuel Business Growth


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Self-service for customer service and support is just a first step in a much broader digital engagement strategy enabling brands to engage with customers online and via mobile devices throughout the entire customer journey – before and after they buy.

With the proliferation of digital channels, customers have changed the rules of engagement: They want speed, convenience, and efficiency when they interact with organizations. A digital-first approach is the new customer experience reality today.

Customers today are more self-reliant and tech-savvy than ever before and they want the freedom to engage with a brand or business on their terms when, where, and how they want. Businesses must step up their customer experience game and offer convenient self-service capabilities or face becoming irrelevant.

Everything is going digital, while everyone is going mobile, and AI seems to be just about everywhere. Digital transformation has accelerated significantly throughout the pandemic and customer expectations for frictionless experiences are on the rise.

But digital self-service does more than provide customer service with efficiency and expediency; done right, it is a key contributor to business growth in today’s digital-first age.

Providing a “Digital Pane of Glass” for Better Customer Experience

Everyone wants an Amazon-like customer experience that’s convenient, fast, and reliable. Customers have a clear list of demands for brands: Don’t waste my time, I don’t want to wait, and I want it now; make things simple and streamlined and deliver on your promises.

This is not only happening with consumers. We are seeing these expectations spill over into the business-to-business (B2B) sector, too. According to Gartner, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels by 2025, while 85% of customer service interactions will start with self-service by 2025. And per the 2022 B2B Buying Disconnect report by TrustRadius, virtually 100% of buyers want to self-serve throughout all or part of their buying journey when researching B2B technology – up 13% from 2021.

Like consumers, B2B buyers want the speed, convenience, and efficiency of a digital self-service and support experience when they engage with organizations. And brands need to heed the call. Our research of 1,600 businesses worldwide showed a very concerning trend. Customers are leaving at extraordinary rates; with an average customer turnover rate of nearly one-third worldwide, while in the US, businesses are losing nearly one out of every two customers they gain. More than half (58%) said their rate of customer churn increased year-over-year, and 71 percent suspect customers are leaving due to poor customer service or experience.

Thankfully, delivering great customer experiences is getting easier with digital self-service options. These capabilities provide a “digital pane of glass” for sales, marketing, and service professionals that is crucial to helping B2B companies create “high-definition” customer experiences and cultivate customers for life.

Digital Self-Service: Five Key Customer Experience Benefits

Redefining your approach to customer service with digital self-service capabilities has the potential to deliver key customer experience benefits, including:

  1. Convenience – Customers want suitable channels to let them interact on their terms. They want you to make it easy for them to engage – no effort required.
  2. Speed – Customers demand near real-time interaction and quick response times, just as Google gives you instant answers.
  3. Efficiency – Customers don’t want to wait and desire to skip unnecessary administrative steps that will extend delivery/fulfillment times.
  4. Personalization – Customers want and expect each and every engagement to be tailored to their individual needs whether it’s through self-service or a human interaction, especially in the case of seeking guidance or recommendations.
  5. Reliability – You must deliver on your promises: provide a correct answer, solve the customer problem, or simply offer them the product and service that meets their needs.

Enabling customers to self-serve not only increases customer satisfaction, but it can reduce the overall inbound service call and ticket volume, as well as operational and infrastructure costs. Customers can find answers or solve problems on their own terms, so teams can spend more time on more value-added services.

However, if the focus of a self-service approach is primarily on cutting customer service and support costs, it will backfire. You need a comprehensive strategy that encompasses both self-service and human service. The key is to blend the right balance of self-service with assisted service to automate the mundane and humanize the exceptional.

Extending Self-Service All Across the B2B Customer Journey

It’s important to recognize that true customer service involves far more than responding to support requests and resolving issues. Self-service capabilities are about creating better customer experiences in the moments when it matters to retain customers and nurture and build relationships for improved profitability.

If you look at the entire customer journey, there are many other touch points and areas of engagement that are not necessarily customer service or support-related that start much earlier in the buying cycle during the marketing or sales process. The ultimate goal is to enable digital engagement across the entire customer journey.

Looking ahead, we will see self-service capabilities becoming highly relevant beyond the traditional after-sales service use case to include the advent of sales and deal room scenarios, online contract negotiations, collaboration with channel partners, and easy online access to all relevant business documents and transactions.

As an example, a salesroom can be an online portal for sharing personalized content, relevant sales and order documents, and facilitating contract negotiations for prospective customers to access and request discounts for an item. In addition, self-service capabilities will modernize customer onboarding at scale.

Self-service for customer service and support is just a first step into a much broader digital engagement strategy enabling brands to engage with customers online and via mobile devices throughout the entire customer journey – before and after they buy. Self-service capabilities empower customers to get answers quickly, and beyond this, to create a superior customer experience in the moments when it matters with the right mix of human and automated interactions to drive revenue growth.

Volker Hildebrand
Volker Hildebrand is Senior Vice President, Global Product Marketing at SugarCRM.


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