What is Self Customer Service?
Customer self service is any system, tool, or processed designed to allow customers the ability to solve their own problems. Examples of customer self service include knowledge based software, automated live chat tools like Ada, and tutorials.
Not only does self customer service leave reduce your customer support costs, it often leaves users happier and more engaged, as they've avoided waiting on call or writing an email to your team.
Why offer self customer service options?
For decades, companies have leaned on the tried-and-true methods of email and phone call to sort out and as industries are being revamped by technology so is the way that companies and users interact with each other. However, as your business grows, these costs scale linearly with the number of users you support.
Thankfully, in the past decade there has been tremendous innovation in the customer self service space, and it's driving meaningful results for businesses:
- Forrester researchers have found that investing in proactive chat solutions such as chatbots produces a 105% ROI vs. a 15% ROI for a reactive chat solution such as agent support.
- Customers are living and purchasing across multiple digital channels such as mobile, web, and social. According to the Knexus group,"15 years ago, the average consumer typically used two touch-points when buying an item, and only 7% regularly used more than four. Today, consumers use an average of almost six touch-points with nearly 50% regularly using more than four".
- Gladly has found that 71% of consumers want a consistent experience across channels, but only 29% receive it.
- Omnichannel self-service solutions allow customers to have a personalized and consistent brand experience when engaging, which, in turn, has been found to increase customer retention and LTV by 89% and 30%, respectively.
What are the benefits of self customer service?
1. Improved Customer Experience
- Unlike support agents, self-service options such as knowledge bases or chatbots are always readily available. While support agents must work on-the-clock on workdays, self-service can handle customers' repetitive requests with ease. In 2018, Gartner reported that nearly 85% of support interactions would no longer need human intervention. As consumers continue to live online, they continue to seek instant gratification, and 24/7 agents are hard to scale.
- Similarly, the time required to receive a response is effectively 0 with a self-service approach. A survey found that 88% of consumers expect a response within 60 minutes from a company. Self-service makes this aspiration achievable by containing the simplest requests such that your agents can respond to the existing queries more quickly.
- Digital genius and Canam research found that 40% of support agents find customer tickets painfully repetitive. By automating and offering clear escalation paths, the support staff can work on more complex problems with users, such as payment or order escalations that would not be ideal over self-customer service.
2. Increased Revenue
- By supporting customers in real-time, companies were able to drive 15% growth in new business revenue at the point of purchasing intent. These self-service solutions lead to a better brand experience with your company.
- Besides increasing new business, companies also have to re-engage and retain users that interact with their brand. According to commbox, customers 'satisfied with their experience' are 3.5x more likely to repurchase and 5x more likely to give referrals than a dissatisfied customer.
- As ticket submissions decrease and solutions are solved using self-service, customer support agents can work on high-value issues such as contributing to the knowledge base, handling churning customers, or payment disputes.
3. Lower Support Costs
- According to c2 enterprise, the cost per client contact to a live agent was approximately $12. The cost of self-service was $0.10. The financial risks associated with purely human support. By building out effective self service tools, companies better support their customers while the large human capital costs present in automationless customer support. Call center attrition rates are twice the average of all other industries combined (30% – 45% compared to the U.S. average of 15%).
- How do they handle low-level queries? Service solutions allow companies the flexibility to meet customers at their pain point by escalating problems if a problem needs human involvement, create a knowledge base for customers and employees, and automate via support workflows. A confused customer might receive prompts and emails guiding them to relevant articles, FAQs, follow-up sequences, etc.
Self Service: the preferred first step of support
A study conducted by Nuance found that 81% of respondents preferred to 'find the answer' themselves, i.e. low-level. This self-service over speaking to a company associate. Similarly, nearly 70% of consumers expect a company site to have self-service applications. Why? Customers are increasingly eager to find information and solve their problems with speed and as little friction as possible. The information has become so readily available that 53% of online adults are likely to abandon online purchases if they can't find the answer to their question in less than 5 minutes. As companies begin to develop their self-service strategy, those who have been seeing.
- A study found that 91% of customers would use a knowledge base if personalized to their needs (Coleman Parkes )
- 94% of customers return to a retailer if issues are resolved promptly (McKinsey).
- 77% of consumers have selected, recommended, or spent more money with a retailer or brand that delivers a personalized experience” (Forrester).
As customers continue to live in a digital-first world and can find answers within seconds and minutes, companies are forced to rethink how they approach interacting with customers around their brand and support tools. By setting up self customer service, companies provide more positive and personalized experiences for customers, bolstering NPS and driving up retention.
Five Ways to Offer Self Service for Customers
There is many ways to offer self-service to your customers, but these five methods are tried and true. In most cases, we recommend to employ all five at your business.
1. Knowledge Base
Example: FAQ's, Searchable Wiki
Your customers are always going to have questions. Plus, odds are, you've already collected the answers to these common questions such that your support team has them on hand.
A knowledge base is a searchable repository of these answers, often condensed and simplified, designed to facilitate customer self service by cutting your agent out of the middle.
The best knowledge bases include simple, concise instructions, explainer videos, and ample amounts of visuals to help assist the user's learning.
One common pitfall of knowledge bases is that they risk becoming out of date. You can mitigate this risk by linking your knowledge base answers directly to your customer support documentation, such that whenever the latter is updated, the former is also updated.
2. Customer Tutorials
Example: Onboarding workflows, or "training" screens in your product.
The more complex your product is, the more likely your users are to get lost, confused, or frustrated.
Customer tutorials are a great way to proactively address the most-common points of confusion for your clients.
Tutorials can either be interactive — with different pieces of the product being highlighted at different steps — or can be given in a one-way fashion through instructional video & text.
Beyond cutting down customer support inquiries, a great tutorial will often bolster engagement with your product for weeks after onboarding, as many users who otherwise would've been frustrated instead come to appreciate your businesses value.
One variation on the tutorial that is common in consumer businesses is to offer a stripped-down version of your product to first time users.
By removing features, you reduce distractions and make it more likely that users will build a habit around your product. As time goes on, you can slowly re-introduce these features so-as to avoid overwhelming your user. When done well, this process is often invisible.
3. Customer Communities
This approach has been leveraged to great effect by many of the largest technology businesses. Facebook, Google, Slack, and many others rely heavily on forums to help address client concerns.
In fact, communities are so powerful that StackOverflow's entire business model is just that — a community for software developer questions and answers.
Forums, or other community spaces, are fantastic as they allow users with similar problems to connect and support one another.
Commonly, you'll see certain members of a community "step up" into guide roles, where they gain additional privileges on the forum in return for their active support of new members.
As your product evolves and your use base shifts, it's often impossible to predict all the different ways users will want to leverage your product. A forum allows for real-time user questions to be shared in a way that benefits every customer you have.
One thing to note here is that while closed communities, like a Slack or Facebook groups are a fantastic way to generate answers, the number of users present will be far-smaller than the number of users who instead turn to Google.
As a result, you'll want to have a system in place for recording the Q/A that happens in this closed community and re-posting it, either to a knowledge base or a FAQ article, such that Google can index this content.
4. Conversational AI Solutions
In the past 5 years, conversational AI has made huge steps in its ability to offer personalized, delightful responses to your customer inquiries.
From questions about account set up to concern around billing, Ada often contains 80% of customer inquiries, such that human support agents have far more time to focus on the complex queries.
These AI chatbots can not only solve customer problems, but increasingly can help turn users into marketing qualified leads, driving business at a fraction of the cost you would expect.
The best Conversational AI offers a dynamic support experience based on users' profiles, previous purchases, or past interactions. By integrating with your CRM, these tools can delight consumers that are increasingly expecting a personalized online experience.
5. In-product solution prompts
Example: Password reset pages
Every business has parts of their website or product that are most-likely to cause trouble for users. Often, these pages involve multi-step processes, or for the user to remember some piece of information.
If you don't already have a sense of your company's problem pages, you should invest some time to find out!
By examining the pages where users most-often end their visit, or looking for the pages where users most-often submit a customer support query, you can identify these tricky parts of your product.
After identifying these pages, it's often valuable to explore adding in-product prompts or redirects that will help address the most common concerns.
For example, if a user submits the wrong password for the 3rd time, automatically bringing them to the password reset page might help them avoid frustration.
Similarly, if your business is an airline and many people are dropping off on the "View Your Flight Information" screen, you might add a tooltip reminding users where they can find their booking number.
If aren't sure which pieces of the page are causing user problems, you can explore two potential solutions:
First, you might look into a heat mapping tool like HotJar or LogRocket to identify which elements are getting clicked or ignore by users.
Second, you might consider deploy conversational AI on this page, as it's broad ability to answer questions may help your users regardless of the specifics of their concern.