We are almost at the point where talking about Contact Centers and the customer experience has become the same old concepts and trends repeated ad nauseam. But, that’s for good reason. The Customer Experience has become an incredibly critical aspect for any business that deals with customers, subscribers or even gathering leads.

In fact, 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 should be second-nature and work with them, not against them.

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

Meeting 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 their 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 options as another tool in your organization’s Customer Support arsenal enables your organization to revolutionize the Customer Experience in a number of 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 Knowledge base
  • Frequently Asked Questions Section
  • Tutorials and Guides (Written, Illustrated, or Video)
  • Automated Chat Bots
  • Online Community Forums

Essentially, any tool that a client or user can access and utilize to solve an issue on their own can be considered a self service option. Instead of requiring customers to jump through hoops to find support, enable them to help themselves to provide a much more satisfying customer experience. 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 self service options.

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. In fact, 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 and implemented self service options. 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.

In fact, Zendesk has published an infographic highlighting the results from a global consumer survey, specifically focusing on self service options. 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 knowledge base 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 with 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 support.

Self Service Can Even Provide Cost Savings

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 are able to 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 specific time. This might even reduce the need for a 24/7 Contact Center.

But my providing the resources front and center, 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 less 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 cost of each interaction by as much as $11 per 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 Isn’t Just Set It and Forget It

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, your self service options 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 overtime.

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 help.

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. Community Forums are particularly effective for when a user has a very specific or obscure issue, one that might not be covered under knowledgebase or FAQs. Moderating forums not only means removing inappropriate or unrelated submissions, but also recognizing common issues and updating databases to include this new information.

The Bottom Line

There is no one direct solution that Contact Centers should be investing all of their time and money into. In fact, the importance of an omnichannel and connected experience has never been higher. That is why it is critical for organizations to expand their support footprint in any way possible. As highlighted within the various customer expectation reports we took a look at, 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 at the same time. In the digital and connected age, 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.