Oct 14, 2019 11:59:00 AM
This certainly isn't news anymore, but customer behaviour and expectations have changed dramatically in the last few years.
There’s a whole plethora of support options and channels, all suited for different situations and purposes. Just as your customers hop between channels when consuming your content and buying from you, they also hop between channels when looking for customer support.
Self-service has become the new go-to stop before whipping out the old contact form or service phone number. In fact, according to Nuance Enterprise, 67% of consumers actually prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative. They only contact customer service, when self-service doesn’t yield results.
This seems straight-forward, right? Your customers start with self-service, and if the question is too complex to handle in your FAQ, they will just call you.
The study explains further, how consumers find self-service channels on websites and mobile apps often hard to use, ultimately forcing them to contact the call center.
In this date and age, when our entire lives seem to revolve around digital products – these numbers seem staggering.
But it doesn’t have to be so - let’s review how you can ensure your self-service channel is a success.
This one’s actually a big gun dressed as a freebie. It seems simple enough: you’ve done your market research, you know your customers better than anyone, right? Not so fast. Before making a plan, you need to understand when and why your customers reach out to your customer service.
Many companies actually find out that they have an incomplete picture of their customers’ support needs and in worst cases, insufficient contact tracking to gather that intel.
Understanding your customers’ needs is the prerequisite for any successful customer service project - self-service or otherwise.
Setting clear goals is crucial, but it cannot be done without completing the first step. Only if you understand why your customers contact your support department to begin with, you can set concrete goals for your self-service channel.
Setting clear, tangible goals helps measure the success of your self-service channels and aligns them with your company’s KPIs and OKRs. In the end, the whole point of the self-service channel is that you can reach the larger goals of your company and service department.
Make sure you are using the appropriate channel for your needs. Broadly speaking, there are two types: channels that provide a static experience and channels that provide an active experience.
A typical static experience comes from FAQ-pages, which works well if you need large quantities of text to provide a satisfying answer. The biggest advantage of an FAQ-type page or knowledge base is the low cost of implementation. The disadvantage of FAQ-pages is the fundamental structure and navigation style. Often, customers have to browse a variety categories, sub-categories and articles, before finding what they need. This is time consuming at best, frustrating and disengaging at worst. FAQ-pages, or “wikis”, also have a tendency to guide customers into informational “cul-de-sacs”, where the next steps towards a solution are not made clear. Tracking the performance of the content in the static channel is also traditionally not an easy task.
Chatbots would be classified as providing an active experience. A chatbot starts an interaction with your customer and can also provide a more personalised experience, f.ex. by fetching the order status or tracking information from your database.
Besides being able to present a precise solution in mere seconds, the other advantages include a seamless handover to a human agent, which is required in more complex cases. By this time your service representative already knows the scope of the customer’s questions via chat history, which leads to a quicker resolution time.
There's a lot of market confusion about what kind of chatbots are there are and what they can do - to find out what type of a chatbot matches your support needs, check out our handbook, “Beginner’s guide to customer service chatbots”.
No matter the type of self-service channel you have, make it easy to use.
After choosing and setting up your self-service channel, you want people to use it. Broadcast it, set it center stage; the more people resolve their issues through the channel, the bigger impact it will have.
Make your self-service channel the gateway to your other customer service channels and have your customers first interact with the FAQ-page or chatbot. If the issue is not resolved, direct the customer to fill in the contact form. A chatbot can even do an automated hand over to a real agent, along with the chat transcript.
Self-service should be the top of your service funnel: your customers have the opportunity to solve the issue on their own, while only the requests that cannot be resolved in the self-service channel are put forward in the funnel.
Choose your wording so it is understandable for your customers and avoid internal jargon. Have someone who's not an employee proof-read the content. If your customers can’t navigate your self-service channel, you’re back to square one.
Iterate, iterate, iterate. A self-service channel is an ongoing project. You need to keep tracking the performance and make sure it’s kept up-to-date with relevant content.
Key to running a successful self-service channel, is matching the channel with your customers’ expectations. Doing so, you will create a valuable experience to your customers, which ultimately benefits your service team, and your business. Use these guidelines above to find the right self-service channel for your organisation - or to improve the channel you already have. Good luck!
Sara is a brand & content strategist at Solvemate. She’s really into chatbots, and improving customer experience. When she’s not writing about customer service automation, she’s an Italo-disco singer and a devoted housekeeping nerd. Hailing originally from snowy Finland, the Berlin winters leave her cold (pardon the pun).