Supercharge Your Online Customer Self-Service With These Four Techniques


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In 2016, Forrester reported web self-service use had increased to 76 percent. Following up in 2017, Forrester indicated the continued expansion of self-service was #1 on their list of top trends for 2017.  Self-service has become a critical part of any company’s online service strategy and those not providing it in some form—web and mobile knowledge, communities, live chat, or chatbots—are not only missing the boat in terms of providing a low-cost avenue to service, but they run the risk of upsetting customers who expect these capabilities to be available.

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While simply providing these capabilities might satisfy the requirement, even more can be done to leverage these investments. Let’s take a look at a few simple tips to make your online self-service that much more useful (and cost-effective) and take it to the next level.


Of the tips offered here, this is probably the easiest to implement.

As a service center, you handle calls, emails, and chats consisting of many topics, but some quickly become more common than others. These same issues you are addressing with live support your customers are going online to find solutions for. So put the solutions front-and-center!

Determine what the five to ten most common issues and their solutions are. Even if you don’t have a knowledge base in use, document the answers in a PDF or standalone web page. Now, place that list in a highly visible location on your service home page. Maintain its effectiveness by periodically re-examining what the “top ten” issues are and update the list accordingly.

Omni Search

Let’s assume you offer multiple forms of online self-service: communities, one or more knowledge bases, and other documents or standalone web pages. That’s great in terms of offering flexibility and multiple channels for customers, but challenging in terms of making it easy for customers to find the solution to their problem amidst all that information.

“So offer search,” you say. By all means, of course. But the disconnect occurs when the customer must individually search each one of those repositories. The customer will either neglect to search an area or get frustrated.

Instead, federate the search for the customer. Then, a single search includes all available sources of information. Bonus points if you offer a search preview—a list of potential results—as the customer is typing in the search box, just as your favorite search engine behaves today.

Hide The Nonsense

Now that search is federated across many information sources,  you have greatly improved the likelihood of the correct solution appearing for the customer. Improve those chances further by eliminating topics that most likely wouldn’t apply.

Depending upon what’s information you require from customers in order to interact with your website (e.g. requiring them to log-in before granting access), you might know very little to very much about your customer. Here’s an easy one: if their IP address is U.S.-based, for example, filter for answers that only apply to that region. If the customer must log-in and the products or services they currently use or license is known, filter on those products and services. The bottom line is to apply some intelligence to what most likely is of greatest interest and value to them. Of course, make it possible for them to remove those filters to expand their search as needed, but by taking this initial step for them to further filter their results, the likelihood of finding a solution is greatly improved.

Embed Knowledge

If you have made the wise choice to invest in knowledge management, don’t limit its availability to only those customers who explicitly browse or search. Consider opportunities to present potential knowledge articles to customers as they seek assistance via other means.

For example, as a customer is typing an email query for assistance, offer suggestions. As they interact with employees over chat, present possible matching solutions. If they are submitting a case online, match keywords in the case to problem descriptions in current articles. Such methods are just a few illustrations of how you can offer proven solutions to solve an issue in-the-moment.

Reducing Barriers

“If you build it, they will come” was advice espoused in a popular movie. Unfortunately, that’s not always true in customer self-service.

Though you might have invested heavily in documenting solutions, they might not be living up to their full benefit if customers aren’t searching them. Take time to consider implementing one or more of these suggestions. You will reduce or eliminate the barriers between a customer with a problem to its likely solution. The result will be faster problem resolution, higher utilization of your self-service resources, and that much more in service cost savings.

Paul Selby
I am a product marketing consultant for Aventi Group. Aventi Group is the first product marketing agency solely dedicated to high-tech clients. We’re here to supplement your team and bring our expertise to bear on your top priorities, so you achieve high-quality results, fast.


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