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Integrate Customer Self‑Service Into the Customer Journey

Improve customer satisfaction levels with self‑service support options.

Customer self-service is becoming an increasingly popular tool among companies that have their own websites. In fact, nearly 70% of customers now prefer self-service channels over talking to a support representative.

In this digital age, there are tons of self-service options out there, from AI chatbots to online knowledge bases. Customer self-service portals empower customers to proactively solve their own problems. In turn, this frees up time for your Support team to dedicate to the more complex customer queries. You’ll have happier customers and happier employees, too.

What is a customer self-service portal?

Customer self-service is a model for customer support that guides customers in finding their own solutions. There are all kinds of customer self-service tools out there—even something as simple as an FAQ page is a type of self-service support.

Usually, when we think of customer support, we imagine call queues and emails, but self-service options don’t involve any contact with a live customer service representative.

This means that your Customer Service team can concentrate on giving phone support when it’s really needed, so all customers get the answers they need as quickly as possible.

Examples of customer self-service portals

Choosing the self-service resources that are right for your company is key to providing great customer support. It might be tricky to pick from the plethora of options out there, from more complicated customer self-service software to video tutorials, but we have your back.

Let’s look at a few examples to get you started.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages

Probably the most popular form of customer self-service nowadays is the FAQ page that almost every website has. It covers the most common questions a company might get, along with basic information like shipping or return policies.

The best FAQ pages are easy to access, simple, and concise. What your customers need to know most urgently might change, so keeping your FAQ page updated is essential.

For example, if shipping times are delayed due to a seasonal sale, putting this information right at the top of the FAQ page will help to reduce the number of calls and emails sent to Customer Service reps.

Customer-facing knowledge base

Knowledge bases contain more in-depth content than FAQ pages, but they also deal with commonly asked questions.

Knowledge base articles can cover all sorts of topics, helping to resolve issues that require a bit more explanation but can still be covered in a few hundred words. They answer questions that might otherwise be sent to support reps but are more easily explained in writing or contain specific steps to follow.

The best knowledge bases are easy to navigate, with relevant and well-organized information presented in simple, concise copy.

Video tutorials

Video tutorials are a very accessible way of helping a customer understand how to use a product. They’re easier to understand than written answers or diagrams because they combine visual and verbal communication.

They’re also a great marketing resource because they show potential customers exactly what they can expect from your products and services.

Community forums

A community forum allows customers to get together and share knowledge, solutions, and tips with each other. It should have an easy search function so that people can see if other customers have already had the same questions answered.

A moderator, usually a Support Representative, can be a real asset to a community forum. They can step in to answer questions when nobody else can, verify the best approach, and clear up any confusion that customers might have.

Interactions between customers can create a real sense of community, and forums are a great place for your Sales team to gain valuable insights about what your customers need and what they really want from your company.

Interactive voice response systems

Interactive voice response systems, or IVRs, are a technology that responds to customer questions with prerecorded or electronic responses. Customers communicate with these systems by dialing numbers on their telephone keypad or by stating simple phrases.

When it comes to speech recognition, many IVRs use natural language understanding, a form of machine learning that recognizes certain keywords in speech.

A common form of customer self-service, IVRs are often used as part of phone support, so that the person calling can be directed to the relevant resource or a Customer Support agent if the issue is more complex.

By sorting out which problems are best solved through customer self-service options and which might be better answered by a live customer service representative, IVRs lighten the load on call centers so support reps can provide faster responses to the customers who need them most.

Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots

AI chatbots are a great way to provide live chat support without needing a customer service rep behind the screen. They’re able to automate routine tasks that might otherwise become too tedious or repetitive.

Though chatbots require training and need to comply with rules and regulations to make sure they answer questions accurately and efficiently, they provide a great return on investment by removing the need for your reps to have repeated simple conversations.

If a chatbot can’t answer a question directly, it can be programmed to direct users to relevant knowledge base articles or other self-service resources that are likely to help solve the problem at hand.

Mobile app

A mobile app can bring together a range of digital channels in one place, making customer self-service even easier. If your customers already access your service or products through their phones, you can integrate self-service options into the app itself.

For example, if you provide a food delivery service, you could give customers the option to flag if their food is late or if they received the wrong order, with simple steps to follow if they want to make a complaint.

The benefits of customer self-service

Self-service solutions benefit both the customer and customer service reps alike. They help companies provide better customer service experience at a lower cost, reducing pressure on support agents and leaving customers genuinely satisfied.

More efficient customer service

A great self-service and electronic support ecosystem make customer service so much more efficient.

When customers can solve their own problems without needing to wait for a customer service rep to become available, only the issues that are best dealt with by Support teams get through to your call centers.

This in turn reduces ticket times and call queues, so the customers who do need the help of customer service reps get that help more quickly.

24/7 customer support

Providing round-the-clock access to traditional Customer Service teams is expensive and often impractical.

Customer self-service tools live on the web and are available at all hours of the day. You can also provide information about your call center opening times should the user prefer person-to-person communication.

Higher customer satisfaction

With faster responses and reduced wait times, self-service options make for a better customer experience overall.

What’s more, self-sufficient customers tend to be happier because they are able to access the information they need more directly.

Lower customer service costs

Customer self-service is less expensive than in-person Support teams. In comparison with the latter, it offers a better return on investment. It also helps your Customer Support representatives resolve customer issues more efficiently, leading to lower costs overall.

More productive support staff (and a happier team)

With a great customer self-service strategy in place, support agents won’t need to waste time responding to repetitive and easy-to-answer questions. Over time, getting the same questions can become tedious and frustrating, so having chatbots or VRIs perform routine tasks can make things a little easier for your team.

With more time and more varied work, Customer Service teams are better placed to provide better and more proactive customer service.

Increased customer loyalty and sales

In a recent KPMG survey, 56% of customers said that a great customer service experience was key to winning their loyalty. As we’ve already seen, a good self-service strategy helps you provide the best customer support you can.

How to create a great customer self-service strategy

Now that we’ve covered some benefits and examples of self-service channels, it’s time to think about what makes a great self-service strategy.

Design a clear and simple customer experience

A self-service portal should be as easy to use as possible. If a customer can’t easily find what they’re looking for, they’re likely to get frustrated, which can negatively impact their experience with your brand.

If you’re using multiple kinds of self-service tools, integrating them on your platform and social media channels will give your customers a seamless experience, helping them get their answers as quickly as possible.

Ensure your customer self-service portals are easy to find

When it comes to self-service, accessibility is key. For a knowledge base or FAQ, dedicating a section of your website to self-service portals is a great way to help your customers easily access the information they need.

Beyond that, you can give your users opportunities to access the relevant help they need by including a link at the bottom of your email template.

If you think they might need help understanding how to use your product, you could include directions to a video tutorial on your website in the product information leaflet or provide a link through a QR code.

Use search engine optimization

Another great way to make sure your customers can access the help they need is through search engine optimization (SEO).

Your customers might not go directly to your website to search for answers to their questions but use search engines instead. Using SEO properly will make sure that they can access the relevant articles or FAQs straight from their online searches.

Set up intuitive navigation

The best customer self-service tools are not just easy to find, they’re easy to operate, too. A simple search bar and clear categorization will help customers find the relevant resources easily.

Highlight your most common questions

There are lots of ways to figure out which questions your customers are asking again and again, but the most efficient method is to use customer relationship management (CRM) software. It will chart the most common queries for you, so you highlight the answers to these in the self-service tool of your choice and get your customers the information they are looking for.

Provide quick and easy access to your Customer Service team

When it comes to more complex or highly specific questions, sometimes the best option is for customers to speak with an actual Customer Service representative.

Making contact information easily accessible won’t impact the benefits of self-service channels as the majority of customers prefer self-service and will actively seek it out. But for users who need to speak with your Support team, having quick access to the right phone numbers and email addresses will pave the way to a positive customer experience.

How to maintain your customer self-service channels

If you’ve invested time and money into providing your customers with a great self-service experience, you’ll want to make sure you can continue to reap the benefits in the long term.

Here are a few tips for keeping your customer self-service portal in top working order.

Regularly update your customer self-service portal content

Businesses and customers change over time. You’re likely to bring out new products, update your pricing plans, or change your contact details.

With these changes, you’ll need to make sure to update your self-service content so that your customers always have access to the most accurate and relevant information when trying to solve the problems they are having.

Introduce new customer self-service tools

Maintaining your self-service strategy means keeping up-to-date with the latest available technology. Proper integration of new tools with existing resources is really important to maintaining a good customer experience.

For example, if you introduce an AI chatbot into your service arsenal, you might include a prompt at the beginning of the conversation for users to check out your existing knowledge base, or train the chatbot to suggest knowledge base articles as part of the answers it provides.

Maintain consistent branding

As new information comes through, the structure of your self-service portal might change, especially if you’re looking to add new kinds of tools.

Keeping strong and consistent branding across multiple self-service channels will ensure a seamless customer experience so that users continually feel that the information they are accessing is trustworthy and secure.

Use metrics to improve your customer self-service portal

One of the best things about self-service is the great range of insights it can provide. For example, you can track the most-searched terms in a knowledge base or see the watch time of a video tutorial. You can even ask customers to rate how helpful they found a particular article.

Regularly reviewing these metrics will help you make useful improvements to your self-service platforms and continue to provide your customers with top-notch support.

Optimize support with customer self-service

Customers want to solve their problems as quickly as possible and most of them would prefer to find the answers themselves. With customer self-service, you can empower your customers to get what they need right when they need it, leading to a great customer experience they will remember.

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