chris - Fotolia
Good self-service platforms can improve CX and save companies money. Though the benefits look great on paper, putting self-service into practice is another matter.
Organizations can adopt one or multiple self-service channels to provide customers with various avenues to solve their own problems or answer their own questions. Yet, in order to reap the benefits of self-service, customers need to know these options exist and where to find them. Additionally, these channels should address real customers issues -- not problems that businesses assume customers have.
"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, former chief marketing officer (CMO) at Freshworks, a CRM software provider.
Explore 10 factors driving adoption of self-service platforms and ways to promote self-service channels.
1. Make it visible
Customers should always see the self-service option across customer touchpoints as a safety net.
"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, director of product management at UiPath, a robotic process automation tools provider.
For example, if a user struggles to perform an action, a contextually relevant prompt could pop up and point the user in the direction of possible solutions.
David ThompsonFormer CMO, Freshworks
2. Promote self-service options
Self-service platforms are like any other products or services and require promotion. Customer service leaders should consider teaming up with marketing teams to create awareness campaigns for their self-service channels.
"Awareness campaigns that extoll the benefits of the platform should be leveraged to drive initial engagement and ongoing usage," said Jonathan Collins, strategic advisor at Foretell Reality, a virtual reality platform for professional communication.
3. Fix or eliminate broken features
Customers and employees expect tangible benefits from self-service platforms. These benefits could include saving time for customers and employees, providing anonymity to customers or enabling off-hour access. However, broken or unhelpful features can counteract those benefits and lead to frustration.
"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 -- like mobile, desktop and voice -- they expect consistent and accurate experiences across touchpoints. They also expect personalized content based on where they are in their journey. Self-service channels and content should help provide this seamless experience.
However, they may be skeptical to move toward self-service if they're used to working with a human sales rep, said Dietmar Rietsch, CEO of Pimcore, a CX management software provider. Organizations should always provide multiple channel options so customers can choose the path they're most comfortable using.
5. Get employees on board
To increase employee buy-in for self-service customer service platforms, customer service leaders should highlight how self-service enables more streamlined processes for the organization at large, said Scott Webb, CEO of Avionos, a digital services integration consultancy.
Employees should know how self-service can benefit them. It can help them reduce time spent on mundane administrative tasks so they can focus on higher-value activities. Self-service can also free up employees for more value-added tasks, such as providing the human element to customer service or building stronger relationships with customers.
6. Identify common needs
To understand customer needs, customer service leaders should study the user's journey and common issues or questions that require contact center agents' assistance.
"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.
After customer service teams determine which issues self-service can solve, they should figure out the minimal amount of work a user should do in a self-service platform to accomplish that task.
7. Improve self-service content
Customer service leaders should evaluate tools and their self-service platform's capabilities to help create a consistent knowledge base.
"Self-service content needs to be pointed, direct and easy to read," said Lila Logue, delivery director at Roycon, a Salesforce consultancy.
Knowledge articles and guides should use understandable and simple category names. For example, Salesforce Experience Cloud has topics that customer service teams can map to data categories, which makes it easier to automate the indexing process when new articles publish.
Customer service leaders should also develop a consistent style to make content easier to consume. For example, knowledge articles can contain images, bolding, bullet points and colored text. Content must also fit the audience. If content is simple enough for customers to skim quickly, they are more likely to return to the platform rather than start with support agents.
"No one wants to read huge paragraphs of content when looking for quick answers," Logue said.
8. Ask for content suggestions
Customer service leaders should also make it easy for customers to recommend new content in the self-service portal, said Kim Chan, founder and CEO of DocPro, a legal tech platform that offers document templates for business and personal scenarios.
Chan said her company set up a document request section where customers can ask for new content to improve satisfaction. They hand the most popular requests to the legal team to create new content. This approach helped the company prioritize new content as it grew from 1,000 to 2,500 documents over the last couple of years.
"We also encourage our users to comment on our documents to see how they can be improved, so the quality of our documents is improving at the same time," Chan said.
9. Understand the customer journey
Each stage of the customer journey presents its own challenges that demand their own solutions. If customer service leaders explore how users engage with the platform, their teams can more easily identify problems and think up ways to simplify these steps.
"A detailed understanding of the customer journey is required to guarantee that your self-service solutions reach the relevant touchpoints," said David Bitton, co-founder and CMO at DoorLoop, a property management app.
10. Analyze engagement satisfaction data
"The original sin of most self-service programs is they're built primarily to minimize cost to serve by holding customers at arm's length, and customers feel that," said Alex Weishaupl, managing director with Protiviti Digital, an IT consultancy.
Weishaupl said organizations that want to improve self-service experiences must evolve their customer journey approaches to shape their overall CX in real time. They should also analyze engagement satisfaction data to anticipate needs and determine where and how self-service could improve. This process can also help identify when a human touch could catalyze the best outcome.