We are almost at the point where talking about call centers and the customer experience has become the same old concepts and trends repeated ad nauseam. But, that’s for good reason. Customer experience has become an incredibly critical aspect for any business that deals with customers, subscribers or even gathering leads.  To see just how critical it is, check out these customer service statistics.

Customers and clients are very much-so willing to drop a solution or product simply because the support and experience they received is poor. So how can your organization reach these high expectations set out by the customers and clients? It can almost feel chasing a moving target as expectations frequently change. Simply put, customers do not want to have to wait or jump through hoops to get the support they need. Customers feel that if they are already paying for a solution or service, support teams should work with them, not against them.

This is exactly where the benefits of self-service customer support options come in. Instead of forcing the customers to come to you, simply meet them where they already are.


How to Match Customer Experience With Customer Expectations


When a customer or user is relying on your organization’s product or service, your organization and solution will directly be judged not only by the effectiveness of the solution, but the effectiveness of the support for the product, as well. The customer experience has become one of the most critical aspects by which clients and users will measure vendors and providers.

In fact, in Salesforce’s Second Edition State of The Connected Customer report — highlighting insights from over 6,700 customers and business buyers — the CRM and technology giant has uncovered some very interesting metrics. Right off the bat, the report explains that “eighty percent of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.”

So, not only are customers judging their experience and expectations by the support they receive, Salesforce reported that 56% of customers are also more likely to seek out and do business with the most technologically innovative companies. 67% percent of customers even said that their standard for good experiences are higher than they have ever been.

Even more importantly:

  • 57% of customers have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience
  • 67% of customers say they’ll pay more for a great experience
  • 76% of customers expect companies to understand customers’ needs and expectations

It is one thing to throw around statistics like these to illustrate an issue, but it is another thing to work towards solving the problem. Salesforce’s report focuses directly on technological innovations in support, including omnichannel and AI functions. But, there is quite an important piece of the puzzle they are missing: Customer self-service.


What Is Customer Self-Service?


One of the latest trending topics for Contact Centers, providing customers with self-service portals as another tool in your organization’s Customer Support arsenal enables your organization to revolutionize the Customer Experience in several ways. But, before we can dive into the pros and cons, it’s important to define self-service.

Simply put, self-service options provide your customers and clients with the necessary resources and tools to solve issues on their own. Some of the most common and popular options include:

  • An Online Knowledgebase
  • Frequently Asked Questions Section
  • Tutorials and Guides (Written, Illustrated, or Video)
  • Automated Chat Bots, auto attendants, or IVR
  • Online Community Forums

Essentially, any solution that a client or user can access and utilize to solve an issue on their own can be considered a self-service tool. Instead of requiring customers to jump through hoops to find support, enable them to help themselves to provide customer satisfaction. Users want to feel like their issues are being heard, and by establishing a database of known problems, customers will not feel like they are left out to dry on their own. But, let’s dig even deeper into the motivations behind the self-service experience.


Why Do Customers Want Self-Service?


Now we could drone on and on about proper agent training, or how to maximize the number of interactions an agent serves in a day. But that isn’t only what customers and clients are looking for. Some users would much rather receive answers and solutions on their own, without needing to waste time contacting an agent or waiting on hold.

While it is true that the majority of customers would like a human interaction, that does not diminish the importance and usefulness of a well-designed self-service strategy. Contact Centers, if they are not already, should be investing time and money into developing comprehensive, yet easily accessible, self-service options for clients and customers.

Zendesk has published an infographic highlighting the results from a global consumer survey, specifically focusing on self-service platforms. Based on this report:

  • 75% of survey respondents said self-service is a convenient way to address customer service issues
  • 67% of respondents said they preferred self-service over speaking to a company representative
  • 91% of respondents said they would use an online knowledgebase if it were available and tailored to their needs

At the end of the day, customers are looking for answers with the least amount of friction. By empowering users with the tools and resources to solve issues on their own, customers will feel more in control of their solutions or products. Now, that doesn’t mean agents are useless, but self-service options are an amazing way to revolutionize the Customer Experience of your organization’s self-service support.


Self-Service Saves Money


Now, of course, right off the bat one could argue the largest benefit of providing self-service options is the improvement it brings to the Customer Experience. When users can find the information they need easily, and on their own, they are more willing to feel as if the provider or vendor is invested in their success. If a service vendor makes it difficult to find answers, or contact an agent, users will feel unwanted. The always-on, 24/7 nature, of self-service, also enables users to receive support around the clock when they need help — not on your company’s schedule for response times This might even reduce the need for a 24/7 Contact Center.

But by providing the resource, it illustrates that your organization is willing to help, and go the extra mile to empower users, not just collect their capital and forget about them. However, moving beyond the customer experience, self-service can even provide your organization with cost savings. By requiring fewer agents, or rather focusing agents on more complex topics, your Contact Center will not need to spend as much capital on agent investment.

Now, training requirements might go up, but if your Contact Center can drop a substantial number of agents there can be a substantial cost saving. In fact, according to a study done by Forrester Research and Oracle, customer support self-service options can reduce the support costs of each interaction by as much as $11 per phone call. Now, this might be a bit dated, but it is not a very far logical jump to presume that these cost savings have only increased. After all, technology and access to technology, as only continued to evolve over the years.


Self-Service Systems Require Management


An easy mistake to make is to assume that your self-service options can be a set it and forget it affair. The exact opposite is true. Not much will ruin the customer’s experience more than a drastically outdated support service.


1. Products Change Over Time

As your organization’s solutions or services evolve and grow over time, the self-service options on your company’s website need to keep up. Every time your product or solution receives an update, your self-service databases need to be updated to reflect these changes. Problems will also be discovered over time, and not everything will be apparent the second the solution is launched. By failing to update the database, the information will grow stale and useless over time.


2. Databases Should Be Optimized

But, not only should you be looking to update the information, a dedicated self-service team should stay on top of reorganizing and optimizing the databases. Frequently Asked Questions can and will change over time as both customer understanding and expectations grow along with your product’s evolution. Again, outdated information is no help to anyone and will simply frustrate customers who are looking for the simplest self-help tool.


3. Community Forums Should Be Moderated

Community Forums are an incredibly effective way to boost customer engagement by enabling users to come together to discuss and solve issues whether on your website, on social media, or through product comments. Community Forums are particularly effective when a user has a very specific or obscure issue, one that might not be covered under your knowledgebase or FAQ section of your site. Moderating forums not only means removing inappropriate or unrelated submissions, but also recognizing common issues and updating databases to include this new information.


Why You Need A Self-Service Portal Today


The importance of an omnichannel and connected experience has never been higher. As highlighted in the above customer expectation reports, users not only want support but they want it without friction.

Self-service options provide customers with the resources to solve issues on their own while enabling your organization to save money. When the customer experience is such a critical aspect of the success of your product or service, customers should be empowered with information and resources to solve issues on their own and receive support exactly when they need it.