Customer Self-Service Complete Guide

The world has stepped into the digital era, and we are following the rules created by digital transformation. In fact, all changes in the digitalization of communication immediately influence customer service as it is an industry where everything is about communication. When people discovered the social media boom, almost all brands created their social media accounts. When messengers have become one of the main communication channels, almost all brands and industries noticed it and do their best to become accessible in messengers - both as advertisers and service providers. But what to do if we say that people are bored of communicating with brands?

Yes, it’s our new reality - over 60% of customers are not going to contact customer service reps in case of simple trouble. Why is it so? Well, people consider customer service communication, especially via phone calls, effortful and uncomfortable - because of poorly designed IVRs, call transfers, call queues, and so on. But another great fact that is shown in this study is that customers prefer self-service tools to solve their common issues, or even complex customer issues in some cases. And here many questions appear - what is self service meaning? How does customer self service work? How to provide self servicing tools and which tools are more effective on all stages of customer journeys? 

Long story short, all self servicing channels are effective, especially if we talk about younger target audiences. They help to build customer loyalty, show customer care, increase customer satisfaction levels, and finally, they ease the work of customer service representatives. But let’s be more precise and discover which self servicing tools exist, how can you implement them, and what tips should you take into consideration before setting up a support self service customer portal - no matter what channels have you picked up for it. 

What is customer self service?

If in short, customer self service is the way of providing service when no assistance and participation of an employee is needed. In other words, when customers want to get a product or service, they complete all actions on their own without any human interaction from your side. Customer self service isn’t about customer service only, it is widely spread in all industries. For example, when you come to the supermarket, you can complete payment on your own with the help of the self-payment terminal. Or, another example, post offices offer such a service as post terminals where you can pick up your shipping by using a mobile app only - no post employees are involved. 

Now, when we are done with the self-service definition, it’s time to understand what is self customer service and how it works. To avoid wasting your time, let’s say that the main goal of self customer service is to let customers solve their issues without involving agents via call or chat. Until no member of the customer service team is taking part in issue resolution, it is your self service tools working, and they’re working in the right way if the issue is resolved. 

Why does self customer service number of fans grow? 

If we rephrase this question, it would sound like “Why should you provide self-service options?”. There are a few arguments that can convince anyone of the importance and effectiveness of self-service.

First of all, it is adored and loved by most customers. Even if it had had 20% of supporters, you would have had to provide it - and the reality is it has over 60% of supporters, and no comments are needed here. 

Secondly, it can strongly optimize your operational costs and customer support costs. As you could guess, self-service doesn’t need any additional employees to be provided - you invest in it one time and it works, it helps customers handle their problems, and it lets you avoid hiring additional workers as you are scaling up your business. 

Finally, it boosts customer satisfaction. Moreover, it becomes not a preference of customers, it becomes their requirement to you - and they don’t care about any buts. As you can see from the stats we have mentioned above, people don’t want to call you - they want to process their issues via self-service tools before interacting with a human agent. 

Main examples of self-service channels

There are plenty of self-service tools that can be implemented in your contact center. They sometimes have dissimilar natures, but all of them have the same purpose - to make customer's life easier, solve their problems, and make them get positive customer experience. 

Well, let’s start introducing the self-service tools. 

IVR(Interactive Voice Response) system

Often hated, underrated, and just avoided support self service tool that is also one of the oldest ones. IVRs serve customer service for years, and for us, they have become something that is considered outdated, annoying, and ineffective. Is the IVR system dead? Not at all.

What is the reason for hating IVR solutions? Take a sec and think - is the idea and concept of the IVR system as bad as it is sometimes considered? Is it frustrating customers?  The answer is clear - it isn’t. IVR solution is the greatest self-service solution that can reduce call volumes in your call center, and there is no confusion in our words - yes, we have said that people don’t like to call the call centers, but they still do it - self-service isn’t omnipotent, and customer support reps are still needed for most complex issues. 

IVRs are hated because many businesses design them poorly because of their obsessive idea about saving money everywhere where it is possible - no matter the effects. Thus, we get IVRs with four of nine menu sections about advertising products, and the other five menu sections have no relation to real customers’ problems, and that is the root trouble - people hate when you waste their time. 

Poorly designed IVRs are nothing but time consumers, and in most cases, callers try to do only one thing when they face such IVR systems - they try to find the call-to-agent button, and the funniest thing about this is that almost always this button is hidden to make people pass through a few sections. We might assume that this is done to make people listen to ads and boost the conversion rate, but this sounds trashy. 

Anyhow, a greatly designed IVR is the best way to avoid massive call volumes in peak hours, and you need just a few advanced features to make a simple IVR a great IVR solution - these advanced features include a voice recognition system, the option to bypass IVR from the first secs of a conversation, and accessible option to call the customer support agent from the beginning of a conversation. 

Chatbots

Another strongest self-service feature that is loved by most customers is a customer service chatbot. Why is it so popular? First of all, chatbots offer too fast an average response time to be overcome by any human company representative - and it is one of the most crucial customer service qualities.  Just imagine, is there any chance for an agent to perform one second response time for every chat request? Surely not, while for a chatbot it’s like shooting fish in a barrel thanks to artificial intelligence technologies. 

Additionally, chatbots are easily accessible in all popular social media apps that are used all over the world and are the most popular apps at all. Messenger supports chatbots, and Telegram, WhatsApp, and other messaging apps also support chatbots, so when we are talking about chatbots it does not relate to website chatbots only. Moreover, chatbots can be considered as self customer service chat because they work as a chat - and this is another thing that makes people love them in a deep of their minds. 

Another great option that is offered by chatbots is the fact that customers can at any moment switch to a conversation with a real call center agent, by using a single command. Chatbot can’t resolve the issue? Press “talk to an agent” and get it resolved by a real professional!

Knowledge base

The knowledge base isn’t as modern and interactive or fun to interact with as chatbots or greatly designed IVR, but it has one great advantage - it contains much more information than any chatbot or IVR could ever contain. As you could guess, the IVR system is limited by the main disadvantage of dual-tone multifrequency - it can operate only ten buttons at a time because no cell phone has more. If we talk about voice recognition systems, it just links calls to an agent in most cases, and rarely can they provide pre-recorded messages about the customer request. A chatbot is also limited because of its interface - it can’t be too informative or operate too many options because it will make the chatbot difficult to use and inefficient. 

On the other hand, the knowledge base doesn’t have any of these problems. It can contain information about everything that relates to your company - product characteristics, recommendations for self-servicing products, pieces of advice to upgrade products, and so on, and so on. For some high-tech products, like software, household appliances, or cars knowledge bases are irreplaceable - these products are just too complicated to be serviced, maintained, or repaired without special knowledge - and some customers are people who seek such knowledge. 

The main tip to keep in mind about knowledge bases is an easy-to-use search tool inside it because if the search bar is poorly working, customers won’t be able to find what they need. There are many search engines on the market, but you have to use search engines that can really provide a positive experience for customers and require minimum payments to be all set. Moreover, you have to gather knowledge base articles about similar topics into groups and link relevant articles with each other. Another vital factor is that the knowledge base should be regularly updated as your products, services, and other information update - there is nothing worse than outdated information that would be considered evidence of your carelessness. 

Offer training and onboarding materials

What can be better than a YouTube video if you need a guide or something like that? Nothing, and you also know that because when you want to discover something, you would rather watch a video than read a book. It doesn’t relate to all people in the world, but it relates to most of us. If you want customers to not call you with questions like “How to set it up?”, “Why does this green indicator shine?” and so on, just produce a few training videos about your products - how to use them properly and how to avoid problems. 

What is the difference between such videos and knowledge-base materials? Well, most of the content in your knowledge base will be text, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t integrate such videos into it. What’s even more, you can boost your social media with such videos - ask yourself(but answer honestly), how often do you see a brand that posts something different from “Hi, guys! Wish you a great day” and add a default photo of cats, flowers, etc. Rarely? Now you know how to change it.

We should also mention such self-service tools, such as a customer self-service portal (yes, it can be created as an online community on the website, or as a forum), mobile apps, FAQs, and so on. All of them are well known to you and there is no need to spend time describing them, but you have to keep in mind that each one of these self-service portals is useful and can be enjoyable and effective for your customers. By the way, you can collect customers' thoughts about what they want as a self-service portal, just let them say what they really want and there will be no need to reinvent the wheel. 

Five tips to improve the self-service performance 

The main model of any self-service portal is very easy and it can be described as three steps. 

You have to let customers find the answer to their query, understand this answer, and be able to complete an action to resolve the problem - nothing complicated. But anyhow, there are some tips to take into account before setting up a self-service portal, and we are going to describe them here and now. 

Findability

Customers should know that you are providing customer self-service options, shouldn’t they? People can’t use the tools they aren’t acknowledged of, and this is the main problem why some great ideas for implementing some new customer service tools sometimes fail. 

Remind customers that you are providing self-service, and let them understand that another word for customer service is self-service now. What do we mean by it? Well, now chatbots and AI-integrated tools can serve customer service, as well as human customer service agents, do. Show messages and buttons about an option to switch to a self-service tool during each customer interaction, like in a live chat, on your website, or in social media, and remind of it in SMS campaigns and in messengers. Believe it or not, if people see some self-service tools, they will use them. 

Proactivity

What do we mean by proactive self-service? By the way, it means that people don’t have to ask for help, assistance has to come before people even try to find a supporting self-service tool. Have you ever seen how on some Facebook pages the window of Messenger chatbot appears automatically, without your request? It is an example of proactivity, but not in its best conditions. 

Proactivity shouldn’t transform into annoyance, as it can cause more harm than good. A great example of proactive self-service support would look like this: a customer enters the website, switches between a few pages, and focuses his attention on the product's landing page. At the moment when you understand that customer is focused on the product, the chatbot has to appear with options to get quick answers to the most popular questions. How to understand which questions are more popular, and which are less? Use the above-mentioned IVR system or social media for customer surveys to collect customer feedback and analyze the data taken from the call center, like what common requests are answered most often. 

Accessibility

We all know that any contact channel, no matter whether is it self-service or not, has its own accessibility pros and cons. For instance, call centers are rarely accessible during non-business hours if not only you have a second outsourced call center somewhere on another side of the Earth. With self-service channels, it is easier to provide 24/7 service, as self-service is automated and does not require any employees to be running. 

Thus, you have to provide at least two self-service channels that will be accessible all around the clock, such as a chatbot plus a knowledge base. Keep in mind that not all self-service channels are 24/7 accessible, for example, forums or communities can’t work 24/7 because they rely on customers’ activity. 

Simplicity

In short, don’t be too complicated with your self-service. It means that your chatbot doesn’t have to include 20 options on the welcoming menu, because it is stressful and uncomfortable to interact with such an interface. Customers want to get their self-service fast and effortlessly, so providing them with too much information is a bad idea from any point of view. 

The same thing is about the knowledge bases of FAQs. Your knowledge base interface should be easy to understand and navigate, and that’s why we have mentioned grouping related articles to let customers navigate easier. FAQs should also be laconic and never be designed like one FAQ question = one article. 

Transparency

Be ready to get feedback, whether it is negative or positive feedback. The only way to improve your self-service experience and your self-service tools is to ask customers whether they like it or not. Provide customer surveys after each self-service interaction in each self-service channel.  Advertise your self-service as a full-fledged alternative to your traditional customer service channels to increase customer engagement in using self-service channels.

Try to start from two self-service channels, such as a chatbot and FAQs, or a knowledge management system, for example. This will let you a field for a maneuver to fix some imperfections(and they will exist, you can’t avoid them) or just to improve customer experience and customer satisfaction. 

Conclusion

Self-service is an extremely important and efficient way of providing a positive customer service experience. Studies have shown that customers say that, and you have to implement self-service. The Digital era has come, and we can’t use approaches from the past and hope that they will work - they won’t. Service as a value has to be oriented on customer wishes and customer expectations, and they wish and expect more self-service tools.  But the main tip about self-service is that you have to keep all your communication channels, both self-service and traditional ones, in one place to manage them effectively. What is the tool that gathers all contact channels, provides stats from each channel, and keeps track of all customer interactions? This tool is a cloud-based contact center solution, and if we talk about self-service implementation, you need such a tool. Do you know what is the greatest thing about it? We have such a tool for you - and it can do much more than just provide you with self-service tools.

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