5 Best Practices for Providing Customer Self-Service with a Full-Service Feel

From banking to bill paying, self-service is the new norm. Consumers are increasingly being empowered to do almost anything themselves online, from checking prices to checking in at the airport. Where there’s a will, consumers want a way, and that includes procuring their own customer service.

In a report titled The Real Self-Service Economy, 40% of approximately 3,000 consumers in a global survey said they prefer self-service to human contact for their future contact with companies, and 70% expect a company website to include a self-service application.

This aligns with Forrester Research’s most recent North American Consumer TechnographicsCustomer Life Cycle Survey that notes respondents are now using the self-service FAQ pages on a company’s website more often than speaking with an agent on the phone. According to the survey, self-service channel usage has increased from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014, while phone usage remains the same at 73%.

Help Me Help Myself

So how do you create a self-service experience that lives up to increasing online customer expectations? Because if you can find out online how many home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927or how many miles of internal telephone lines The Pentagon contains (68,000), you should also be able to quickly find out how to return running shoes, cancel a travel reservation, or troubleshoot problems with your laptop or appliances.

Search engines have also dramatically increased the demand for all types of self-service content. According to the Microsoft 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report, 75% of 5,000 consumers surveyed said they’ve used the search engines to try and find the answer to their customer service questions.

Delivering Self-Service with a Full-Service Feel

Is there a way to combine convenience with quality when it comes to self-service support? Here are five self-service best practices to consider:

1. Make Self-Service More Inviting

There’s nothing that will turn those looking for self-service convenience away faster than pages of disorganized hyperlinks and information to sort through. Ask.com is an example of a brand that has created a convenient and inviting self-service support offering, putting the answers to its most frequently asked questions and most popular topics front and center, along with the name and friendly face of who’s helping to provide the answers at Ask.

2. Make Self-Service an Option, but Not the Only One

As part of a knowledgebase or FAQ offering, give customers an easy way to ask a question if they can’t find the answer they’re looking for by adding a more personalized channel such as support ticketing/case management or live chat.

3. Deliver Consistent Content Across Channels and Platforms

Your self-service content is only as good as your customers’ ability to find it. Ensure your content is indexed for the search engines and available in as many alternative locations as possible, including social media and via a mobile-responsive support portal. According to a recent consumer survey, 75% of consumers think companies should make answers to all their common questionsavailable via smartphones (Synthetix).

4. Never Be Content with Your Content

Generate consistent, fresh content and customers will look to you as a trusted resource, visit your site more often, and share your insights and information with others. Your search engine placement will benefit, as well, bringing more customers to your brand and your self-service offering.

5. There’s Always Room for Improvement

Though customers want to get their answer and go via self-service channels, as a brand, you need to know whether they got what they came for. Add a survey or feedback tool to ask customers if they found the content provided helpful, and if not, let them answer why. There’s always room for improvement.

About Tricia Morris

Tricia Morris is a digital transformation, customer experience and customer service thought leader championing both employee empowerment, as well as innovation and improvement to engage customers at increasing expectation levels. Tricia is involved in the development of Microsoft’s digital transformation and customer service research and thought leadership, and serves as a Sr. Product Marketing Manager for Microsoft Dynamics 365. Tricia has been recognized as an International Customer Management Institute Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leader, a Top 10 Author in Service and Support on CustomerThink, and is listed among the 2016 20 Best Customer Experience Blogs You Must Follow, as well as the 2016 20 Customer Service Influencers You Must Follow. You can follow her at @TriciaEMorris on Twitter.

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