How Psychology Explains the Benefits of Website Self-Service

I have written often about the business benefits of website self-service solutions. So have others, like Alex Hisaka in this recent post on LinkedIn. The three key benefits we regularly see for businesses that adopt AnswerDash are:

  1. Decreased customer support costs

  2. Increased sales conversion rates

  3. Better insights into customers’ behavior and needs.

However, there are other benefits that get overlooked with a pure business assessment like this. In fact, these overlooked benefits may be the most important benefits of all: the psychological benefits of website self-service. This insight will help you understand why a self-service approach to online support is more important than ever.

Our tools become us


Anthropologists have long understood that a way to understand human psychology is to understand the tools humans use. That’s because our tools—whether physical or digital—become extensions of ourselves, extending our will into the world and effecting change. As the German philosopher Martin Heidegger observed, when our tools work well, we hardly notice them; they seamlessly enable us to carry out our tasks and accomplish our goals. However, when our tools work poorly or break down, they leap into view, becoming our new focus-of-attention and yanking our attention from our original goal. The tool becomes “needy” and requires us to find a workaround, to replace or alter it, or to give up our goal all together.

We always blame ourselves

Even if a problem is the tool’s fault and not our own, we feel frustrated and blame ourselves. We’ve all seen a frustrated computer user say things like, “I can’t figure this out,” or “Why can’t I get it to work?” or “I wish someone could teach me how to do this.” Humans are problem-solvers and we naturally blame ourselves even when our tools fail. We quickly come to feel as if our tools are extensions of ourselves while we use them. This psychology puts a great deal of pressure on tool designers to create technologies that are as easy to use as possible. The upside is that when tools are made well and are easy to use, people feel extended, empowered, delighted. Isn’t that how we want our customers to feel?

Key takeaway: The tools we use, whether physical or digital, become extensions of ourselves. When they break down, we focus on the tools themselves instead of our goals and often blame ourselves. In contrast, when our tools work well, we feel extended, empowered, and delighted.

The psychology of self-sufficiency


Given that our tools become us, at least while we’re using them, every experience we have with our tools has the potential to affect how we feel about ourselves. When we achieve our goals and have no problems with our tools, we feel competent, capable, intelligent, and self-sufficient. But when we fail to achieve our goals, we feel let down, uncertain, confused, and frustrated. Even if we recognize that we should blame our tools and not ourselves, subconsciously we know we failed to achieve something we cared about.

In this light, the choice of whether to use an assisted-service solution, like live chat or email, or a self-service solution, like AnswerDash, on your company’s website is a big deal. Website self-service has the potential to make your customers feel empowered, capable, confident, and able to move forward under their own steam. What’s more, much has been written about the millennial generation and their allergies to assisted-service. People of this generation grew up always online, feel very capable there, and expect their tools to enable them to accomplish their tasks swiftly and without trouble. They don’t want to send an email and wait for a response, or explain their problem to someone over live chat, or pick up the phone (god forbid!) to call customer support. Self-service is the way to go for the millennial generation, but not just for them. All users feel self-sufficient when they can solve their own problems quickly and easily and continue moving toward their goal.

Key takeaway: Website self-service has numerous psychological benefits. When users, especially millennials, can find answers under their own steam, they feel empowered, competent, capable, intelligent, and self-sufficient.

The psychology of AnswerDash

AnswerDash is a contextual website self-service solution that brings psychological self-sufficiency to users and business benefits to companies. Recognizing that a lot, but not all, questions can be answered via self-service, AnswerDash also enables seamless handoffs to live chat, email, or telephone support in cases where users need it. Our live chat data shows that over 85% of end-users find helpful answers with AnswerDash self-service, leaving them happier and more empowered. The other 15% can escalate to assisted-service, which AnswerDash makes easy. Unlike other forms of assisted-service, however, any answers received become part of the self-service knowledge that AnswerDash collects, benefitting future users. The business benefits of AnswerDash have been measured repeatedly, but we’re just beginning to see how big the psychological benefits really are in creating and keeping happy customers.

Key takeaway: AnswerDash empowers your customers to get instant self-service answers while on your website, saving you money and making your customers feel happier and empowered in the process.