"Self-service is not just theory of how to get things done, but anticipating customer needs, adapting quickly, and proactively offering self-service solutions," said David Thompson, chief marketing officer at Freshworks, a CRM software provider.
Here are six tips for making self-service platforms work to your benefit.
1. Make it visible
The self-service option should always be visible to customers as a safety net across all customer touchpoints.
"The customer could be gently nudged or prompted to seek help from an automated assistant or directed to look up information in the knowledge base -- but it shouldn't be annoying or excessively attention-seeking," said Vivek Lakshman, vice president of products for Chatlets.ai.
When it is detected that a user is struggling to perform an action, it is a good practice to have a contextually relevant prompt pop up, pointing the user in the direction of possible solutions.
2. Promote self-service options
Self-service platforms are like any other products or services and need to be promoted.
"Awareness campaigns that extoll the benefits of the platform should be leveraged to drive initial engagement and ongoing usage," said Jonathan Collins, digital program director at Mindtree, an IT consulting service.
3. Fix or eliminate broken features
Customers and employees expect tangible benefits from using self-service platforms. These could include saving time, providing anonymity or enabling off-hour access.
"If a feature does not support a material benefit to the end user, that feature should be improved until it does or eliminated altogether," Collins said.
4. Emphasize consistency across channels
As customers make purchases on more and more channels -- i.e., mobile, desktop, voice -- they expect consistent and accurate experiences across each touchpoint. They also demand personalized content based on where they are in their journey.
However, they may be skeptical to move toward self-service if they're used to getting this experience with a human sales rep, said Dietmar Rietsch, CEO of Pimcore, a customer experience management software provider.
5. Get employees on board
Increasing employee buy-in for self-service customer service platforms involves highlighting how self-service enables more streamlined processes for the organization at large, said Scott Webb, president of Avionos, a digital services integration consultancy.
This can include benefits to employees such as reducing time spent on mundane administrative tasks and giving employees more time to focus on higher-value activities. This can also help free up employees for more value-added tasks, such as providing the human element to customer service and some high-touch situations or building stronger relationships with customers.
6. Identify common needs
Study the user's journey and common needs that require assistance that impact the contact center.
"If these inquiries take significant agent time and are often resolved by the same process or by the same answer set, then this journey can be automated through a self-service platform," said David Buchanan, CEO at X2Engine, a CRM software provider.
Next, figure out the minimal amount of work that the user needs to do in a self-service platform to accomplish that task.