The dos and don’ts of customer self-service

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I love reaching out to customer support when I have a problem, which is not a common sentiment, as far as I know. Let me explain myself. First of all, I enjoy the fact that I can connect with almost any company in the world and ask for help. Second, I love the feeling of getting quick assistance and fixing issues on my own. The same is true for most people — we like being in control.

And, as the lockdown proved, we are fit for doing almost anything ourselves. Zendesk’s report from 2020 proves it with numbers: 69% of customers try to solve issues on their own first, and 63% of customers usually check the company’s online resources when they have an issue. What does it mean for businesses?

Businesses are expected to provide customers with self-service options, which addresses their need for control, and make sure these materials and tools actually help, which addresses customers’ high expectations. Previously, the highest point of customer self-service used to be knowledge bases or FAQs. Today the bar is raised much higher.

Let’s talk about major dos and don’ts of customer self-service to see how to get it right and boost customer satisfaction.

The dos

When businesses offer self-service via standalone resources or customer portals, they need to address ever-changing user expectations that go beyond the feeling of control. It’s also about the overriding need for convenience reflected in a combination of speed and efficiency.

Do choose the right technology

The current trend of customer-centricity makes it impossible to avoid adopting the relevant technology, particularly when setting up self-service tools. Businesses are investing into mobile technologies, user-friendly chats, back-office process optimization, chatbots and virtual assistants, customer portals, and video conferencing tools.

In order to understand which technologies to implement, companies need to list their requirements and expected results and match them with corresponding services. The next best action is to find a reliable partner (unless you have an in-house development team) who will consult on suitable technologies and assist with their implementation.

Do integrate customer data

Businesses engaged in self-service implementation should understand that throwing all kinds of possibilities at their customers is not enough. A more agile and efficient way is to provide customers with the precise tools they may need along their journeys. For example, if they start their journey from the website, provide them with intuitive navigation to your resources.

In other words, prior to self-service implementation, try to accumulate enough data to see a full picture of how customers engage with your company. A full list of touchpoints your customers use to interact with your company can help you find out patterns and match channels with particular requests. You can also accumulate website usage analytics to locate possible gaps and weaknesses on your side.

Do automate

Automation is key to self-service implementation. First of all, it takes off pressure from service agents by streamlining repetitive processes, such as ticket creation and routing, email follow-ups, case progress notifications, and more.

Second, it makes it possible to provide support around the clock via chatbots. You can connect your chatbot to a knowledge base so that it can take answers from the most comprehensive source on the matter. Trust it with dealing with the most common and straightforward requests where there’s little space for making a mistake. Meanwhile, it’s possible to train chatbots on customer data and more complex interactions to let bots engage into more personalized and nuanced conversations. Make sure, though, that your chatbot does help, not causes more frustration.

Do include escalation options

The worst-case scenario of chatbot interactions is infinite loops when a user can’t resolve their problem while a chatbot keeps getting back to the same question. For this reason, it’s crucial to provide an escape hatch for users so that the issue could be escalated to a human agent or automatically turned into a ticket in case an agent is not available. It’s also important to offer an option of contacting a human agent via a live chat or phone from the very start of the interaction as some people don’t fancy communicating with robots at all.

The don’ts

To make your self-service resources truly useful for your customers, not only should you include several options but also avoid certain actions.

Don’t forget to maintain the service

Many companies invest much in self-service deployment but then leave it as it is once implemented. Such an attitude can result in a frustrating customer experience as some materials can get outdated and useless and customer expectations can change.

It means that customer self-service always requires tending to — so companies need to review materials and train chatbots on new data constantly. It’s also important to monitor user behavior to understand how people use self-service options, for instance, when exactly they quit.

Don’t limit support options to self-service

It’s true that self-service is growing in importance, but basically, it is one more engagement channel that customers may (or many not) use along their journey. There are always situations when people need a human touch when dealing with various challenges. Having this in mind, never push self-service as the only or best option to your customers and make it a part of your omnichannel strategy.

Don’t keep self-service in a silo

As customer journeys are highly fragmented and involve multiple touchpoints, it’s essential to incorporate self-service into a common customer-facing process, sync it with all the other channels, and communicate with customers within the same context.

This way, customers won’t have to repeat themselves when talking to different representatives or enter the information they have already shared with your company via a different channel. They will also feel the agent recognizes them even if they talk for the first time or will be able to get relevant and personalized recommendations within the self-service tool.

In a nutshell

Self-service is one more support channel where users expect to quickly resolve issues on their own or easily switch to other available support options. Under these circumstances, businesses need to implement efficient self-service tools synced with other touchpoints and shaped based on accumulated customer data.

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