Self-service support seems too good to be true.
First, it saves you money (by helping customers to help themselves).
Second, customers actually want to access support in this way.
It’s not even hard to do.
Most of the time you can set up knowledge bases and chatbots in a matter of days or weeks.
And, with the right tools, it’s easy to offer phone-based self-service support too.
Quick recap: what is self-service?
Self-service is when customers use resources you’ve created to solve their own issues.
The result is fewer calls for you. Hooray!
In practice it could be anything from searching a knowledge base for answers to speaking with a conversational IVR to update an order.
What are contact centers using for self-service right now?
Accessing the big benefits of self-service means figuring out what is within your reach.
Here are a few channels you should consider.
#1 A knowledge base
A knowledge base can be central to your self-service. It’s an easily searchable library of solutions that solve common customer problems.
Creating your knowledge base takes time. You’ll need to create in-depth documentation about how to use your product.
It also takes a hefty amount of management to stay relevant.
But once it’s up and running, it’s a valuable resource.
There are a lot of things you can do to make your knowledge base more useful.
- Index the pages on Google. This means when people turn to the search engine for help (which they invariably do) they’ll find your website.
- Make it widely available. Put links to your knowledge base in all the places where people look for support. Consider linking to it in your chat widgets, your contact page, and even within your product.
- Share documents. Use the documents in other forms of support. When a customer has an issue, send them a knowledge base link instead of having agents go through the problem point-by-point.
And knowledge bases aren’t only useful for customers.
Your staff can use them as an internal resource to help solve customer queries they don’t have an instant answer to.
#2 Conversational AI
Using an IVR powered by conversational AI is the best way to offer self-service support on the phone.
It works just like the technology behind Siri and Google Assistant:
- Your customer states their problem.
- The IVR deciphers the speech and provides a relevant answer.
Of course, these tools can’t solve every customer issue (yet…)
But really successful deployments focus on a set of use cases where automation can make all the difference.
Take the insurance industry for example; users in that space have automated more than half the work involved in processing an initial claim, savings mountains of time and money.
Chatbots are a great way to deflect support tickets.
I’m sure you’ve used one; you need help, so you open the chat widget and speak to the bot.
Actual support agents only get involved later, and usually only in escalated situations.
You can make your chatbot more effective by including suggestions for contextually relevant queries.
For example, the chatbot on your product page could direct customers towards pricing or sizing information.
While chatbots in a SaaS platform could include questions about the features on the page the user requests help from.
Yes, SMS is still a useful self-service tool, both in its own right and as a way to enable other forms of self-service.
You can use SMS to respond to simple customer questions like order updates. Just direct customers to relevant numbers on your website.
Otherwise, you can use SMS as part of a proactive self-service strategy.
To do this successfully, you need to identify common problems in the customer journey.
Then, send customers text messages at relevant times with problem fixes.
Here are some examples:
- When a SaaS customer upgrades their service plan, the company automatically sends a text with information about the new features they can access.
- When a customer contacts your call center during closing hours, an automated message tells them when you are available and points to other self-help resources.
- An ecommerce store has an issue that will see deliveries arrive later than expected. It sends out a message alerting customers to the problem and providing an updated schedule.
Self-service has many benefits: Here are 5 big ones
It reduces customer service costs
Self-service is a cheap way to help customers.
A Gartner report puts the cost of agent-handled tickets at $8.01, compared with just $0.10 with a web or app-based tool.
That’s $7.91 in your pocket for each self-service interaction.
And savings like that will tend to add up pretty quickly…
It provides a better customer experience
The cost savings are nice. But the fact that customers love self-service support is the biggest reason to offer it.
Take the following as an example. Zendesk found that 69% of customers want to resolve as many issues as possible on their own, while 63% always begin their search for help online.
People just aren’t reaching for the phone like they used to*.
If you don’t offer self-service, you’re potentially going to annoy a huge number of customers.
*And when they do, it’s often because something has gone badly wrong… so they don’t want to wait on hold!
It’s a rapid way to provide help
Why do customers like resolving issues on their own? Do they hate talking on the phone?
But it’s generally thought that the speed of resolution is the main incentive.
Customers get instant answers with self-service:
- There’s no waiting on hold.
- No waiting for email replies.
- And no waiting for help-desk opening hours to begin.
You just need to ensure your self-service resources are easy to find and use.
It helps you to scale your support
Self-service helps startups (and scaleups) offer quality customer service to a fast-growing customer base. All without increasing the size of your team.
Instead of spending all your time expanding your service capacity, you can focus your resources on other parts of your business.
It lowers agent workload
You get to save money and your customers get the type of support they want. But what’s in it for your agents?
Well, they get a significantly reduced workload.
When customers help themselves, they don’t burden your support team with tickets. This means agents can spend more time providing great service on the tickets that do come in.
The nature of self-service means that common (read: tedious) issues are the ones that customers tend to fix on their own.
Your team avoids these and instead focuses on more complex, interesting problems.
Self-service complements agent-led service
The point of this article isn’t to convince you to shut down your support teams. Most customers still expect to be able to contact businesses by phone.
But, self-service can complement your agent-led channels. It’s another way to offer help and one that customers actively seek out.
And the best experiences are ones that see self-service integrated with agent-led support. Customers turn to your self-help channels first, and then to your agent-led channels when needed.