When customers have a question, they don’t always want or need to contact a customer service representative. They often prefer to help themselves. In fact, according to a recent Emplifi report, 75% of consumers today find it important to have access to a fully self-service customer care option so they can find answers themselves.
This is a desire your brand can address by providing easy digital self-service options through its website, social media, or other channels.
There are a variety of self-service tools and approaches available, from self-service portals to AI-powered chatbots. As more and more customers come to expect self-service options, they’re becoming a necessity in the customer service toolbox – and, if done well, can differentiate your brand with a high-quality customer experience (CX).
So, what do brands need to know about customer self-service in 2022? Keep reading to learn more.
What is customer self-service?
Customer self-service is a DIY option, enabling customers to find answers to their own questions and access useful information about a brand’s products and services to resolve their own challenges without having to interact with a customer service representative.
Customers may turn to self-service at multiple points along their customer journey. For example:
Pre-purchase to research products, learn about features, and compare options before making a purchase decision.
Post-purchase to answer questions about a product they’ve bought, troubleshoot issues, or return an item they don’t want.
Self-service doesn’t eliminate the role of customer support agents altogether. Some issues will always require a higher level of service that only agents can provide. However, an effective self-service strategy can reduce the number of situations that require an agent and empower customers to solve many problems on their own.
3 key benefits of customer self-service
Customer experience statistics continually show the importance of providing seamless, successful experiences across the customer journey. With the majority of consumers today finding it important to have a fully self-serve customer service option available to them, here are other key benefits of having strong self-service options available to customers.
1. Speed and convenience
24/7 customer service availability and quick responses to messages are the top experiences that make consumers feel positively toward brands, according to a recent Emplifi report. The quicker and more effortless a self-service experience is, the more satisfied customers will be.
2. Builds loyalty
By offering self-service options, brands can empower customers and provide the speedy, convenient experiences they want. Self-service enables customers to find help around the clock, whenever and wherever they need it. Such experiences not only make customers more satisfied with their purchases, but also build customer loyalty by showing that you value their time and understand their needs.
3. Reduces routine customer queries
Customer self-service can improve your bottom line in various ways. By offering a self-service channel, the volume of routine queries going to customer service teams is reduced, freeing up service representatives to focus on solving more difficult challenges for customers. As a result, the overall cost of providing high-quality service is reduced, even as your customer base grows. In addition, self-service can increase net sales revenue by reducing the rate of product returns and refunds.
In short, customer self-service can result in significant savings, revenue gains, and increased customer loyalty and retention. It’s a vital part of any plan to turn customer support and care into a competitive advantage for your business.
Common customer self-service channels
You can provide self-service through virtually any online channel that supports interactions between you and your customers. Whether through the use of knowledge bases or automated via the use AI-powered chatbots, here is where brands can deliver easy digital customer self-service experiences:
Brand and product websites
Your website is the first place many customers will search for answers to their questions. Websites can provide various resources and routes to self-service. These can include a self-service portal, a knowledge base, or automated live chat.
A branded mobile app can provide access to customer-oriented resources and options similar to those on your website. This is especially useful for providing convenient self-service to on-the-go customers.
More and more, people use social media to seek help with their product questions or issues, before and after purchase. Brands can make such interactions easier by integrating self-service chatbots into their social platforms.
For users who prefer to communicate by text message, self-service chatbots can be integrated with SMS systems and instant messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger.
How can you provide self-service to your customers?
Customer self-service can take different forms, using a wide range of tools and platforms. Here are some of the most important approaches to consider.
Customer self-service portals
A self-service portal or help center is an online hub catering to customer self-service needs, accessible via a website or mobile app. Such a portal provides a central location where customers can go to find helpful resources, perform tasks for themselves, and submit support tickets for issues they can’t solve on their own.
A knowledge base is a collection of free online resources such as how-to articles, FAQs, user guides, video tutorials, and technical documentation. Some of this content will provide quick answers to customer questions, while some offers more in-depth guidance and training.
A community forum provides an online space where customers can post their questions or challenges and offer advice to each other. Users can also search the forum’s history to find previous posts or discussions relevant to their needs.
Automated live chat
Using live chat, chatbots and virtual assistants can respond to customer questions and help solve problems in real time. An advanced AI-powered chatbot can understand conversations in context, answer a wide variety of queries, and escalate especially difficult issues to a live agent. Such conversational tools can bring an even higher level of speed and convenience to the self-service experience.
Customer self-service software
Various software products can help you deploy everything from customer service portals to knowledge bases and chatbots. A customer service experience platform, in particular, can provide powerful tools to raise the level of self-service you provide.
For example, Emplifi Service Cloud improves self-service through AI chatbots, digital self-serve options, and a knowledge management system that integrates a wide range of online resources. Its suite of advanced tools also enables agents to provide faster, higher-quality support through AI and automation.
5 best practices for customer self-service
How can you ensure a great self-service experience? Let’s look at some of the practices that can lead you to success. For more tips and practical advice, check out our article with 7 examples of customer self-service.
Personalized experiences make self-service faster, more effective, and more satisfying for your customers. For example, you could deliver content and chatbot interactions tailored to the profiles of customers logged in to your portal. You can also personalize the experiences of website visitors based on browsing behavior and location.
High-quality experiences across channels
Customers may seek support not only through your website, but also via your app, social media platforms, SMS, or third-party messaging services. By offering consistent, seamless self-service on all of these channels, you can reach customers where they are and improve the quality of their experiences.
Up-to-date knowledge bases
Inaccurate or incomplete information can quickly frustrate customers. Make sure to keep the content in your knowledge base up to date with new product releases and other changes—and keep adding fresh content as you learn more about the questions your customers tend to have.
When customers interact with a chatbot, more guided interactions can make their choices easier and help them find answers sooner. For example, a bot could narrow down the topic and advance the conversation more quickly by letting the customer select from a menu of options.
Intelligent escalation to human agents
Even the best chatbots struggle to resolve some customer questions. Your self-service chatbot needs to recognize such issues and escalate them to a customer service agent as quickly as possible. Agents, in turn, need background information that helps them understand the context and provide seamless service to customers.
How to let self-service customers know you value them
Follow the best practices we’ve outlined in this article to make the customer experiences as effortless as possible and to show your customers how much you value them. Anticipate their questions and demonstrate you understand their problems. Prove you value their time by reducing any barriers standing in their way and by providing multiple paths for them to find the tools and resources they need.
You can further demonstrate your care for customers after self-service interactions by asking for their feedback. A post-support questionnaire or survey not only shows customers that you value their opinions, but can also provide valuable insights to help you improve the self-service experience.
Self-service may mean helping customers solve problems on their own—but it doesn’t mean leaving them to fend for themselves. Assistance from a live service agent should always be a short chat, call, or email away. And while building out your self-service options, find ways to use technology to make your customer service teams more effective as well.
As part of our Service Cloud, Emplifi offers powerful, AI-driven digital self-service solutions to help customers quickly and easily get the answers they need. Book a demo today to speak with an Emplifi expert and learn more.