People are motivated to solve their own problems. The Art of War, Tao Te Ching, What Color is Your Parachute, The Secret—self-help-book trends have swept the globe for millennia capitalizing on our continuous quest to better our lives and fix our woes – ourselves.

And this self-help motivation isn’t restricted to late-night-bowl-of-ice-cream-in-bed, life-betterment reading. Enterprise software giant (and Lucidworks customer) Red Hat, for example, ran A/B tests on their support portal’s homepage. They offered some customers a self-help channel to solve problems themselves – and others were prompted to engage with a support agent. Traffic increased when the self-service option was put front and center. This confirmed customers preferred to fix issues on their own when possible instead of being routed directly to a support agent.

What Is Customer Self-Service?

As a quick primer, customer self-service refers to the combination of tools and resources that allow customers to independently solve their own problems without the need to engage with customer service agents. This can take the form of FAQs, chatbots, how-to tutorials, and other materials that help customers find answers to their questions.

The ideal combination of these self-service channels depends on what a brand can realistically support, as well as how their customers prefer to engage with the brand. We’ll take a dive into how customer self-service supports both customer, agent, and business at large, as well as tips for implementing.

How Customers Benefit from Superior Self-Service

Self-service empowers customers. Rather than idling on hold for the next available phone representative or sitting in a queue waiting for an agent to enter the chat, customers want to troubleshoot issues on their own, fix what’s broken, and get on with their lives.
What makes an investment in self-directed customer service overwhelmingly alluring is that it doesn’t just satisfy customers’ predispositions. Using self-service as the entry-point for providing support shows respect for your customers’ time by providing quick and easy solutions that help customers use your products.

How a Business Benefits from Superior Customer Self-Service

According to analyst firm Gartner, interacting with an agent just once during a support case costs a company 80 to 100 times more than a customer who finds solutions directly in a knowledge base. Service leaders surveyed also said that 20% to 40% of customer-agent support interactions could easily have been solved in self-service channels. All of this amounts to an unnecessary and excessive waste of a company’s capital.

By providing straightforward access to problem-solving information via web-based self-service channels rather than routing all requests to high-touch (and high-cost) customer support agents, the customer’s prefered methods of delivery are fulfilled and the business saves money.

How Support Agents Benefit from Customer Self-Service

An upfront investment in systematic customer self-help avenues can remove a bulk of the redundant support tickets (those easily answered with information in the knowledge base) from an agent’s workload. This allows your high-value support agents to focus on outlier cases that require their expertise and intellect, rather than menial tasks that are repetitive and easily automated, offering them a more fulfilling employee experience.

When unexpected events, like say, a global pandemic, cause rapid, unanticipated changes in consumer behavior and upticks in support requests, customer self-service channels can more easily scale to varying demand. With web-based self-service channels handling a sizable portion of support requests, agents won’t be spread as thin when demands increase.

Self-help channels don’t require the same time-intensive reconfiguring and reallocating of employee time to support spikes in demand the way a strict agent-based approach does. When customer self-service channels are prioritized, customer service doesn’t suffer during times of higher demand – maintaining a high standard in customer experience.

Consistency Is Key to Providing a Positive Experience When Customers Use Service on Their Own

Consistency of messaging no matter the channel a customer uses for outreach is vital to the customer service experience. To a consumer, a company she does business with is a single entity. The relationship she has with any number or manner of company representatives—whether they’re live people or virtual—is, in her eyes, considered one cumulative relationship. By providing the same message across customer service channels, the consistent, one-to-one relationship a customer expects to have with the business is validated.

Machine learning (ML) is an invaluable tool for ensuring that the same story is being told to your customer no matter their support access point. Morgan Stanley, for example, pulls all of its support content from one central repository and relies on ML to customize content to the channel of delivery. Customers, financial advisors, and the service agents themselves all access the same data over their channel of choice: FAQ, chatbot, or knowledge base search.

When a customer connects to a service agent at Morgan Stanley, those live agents rely on the same, centralized content provided directly to the customers by the customer self-service channels. This assures messaging to the customer from the organization is the same whether provided by digital or live support and means costly subject matter experts need to write content just once.

Offer Live Agent Access

Providing elective access to a live support agent is also good practice for quality customer experience. Customers who come, seemingly, to the end of your knowledge base and still don’t have a resolution to their problem need to know where to go next. Offering outreach to an agent shows the customer you want to help them get the most out of your product.

Compounding Benefits of Support Agents and Web Based Self-Service

Agents and self-service solutions can provide compounding benefits to each other by sharing analytics. If an agent uses an article to solve a customer’s issue, he can tag that article as the place where the solution was identified. When a similar issue arises, be it for a customer getting help from another support agent or on a customer self-help channel, the article that solved the previous issue can be surfaced, making resolution fast and efficient.

Similarly, customer behavior signals, such as click-through-rate, time on page, votes, and comments, captured on web based self-service channels indicate where solutions have been found. A customer who queries a knowledge base, clicks on the third result, then gives the article a thumbs up is offering a signal that that article contained the solution to the problem identified in the query. If a service agent, or another self-serve customer, queries the knowledge base with a similar problem, previous customer signal data can be used to suggest the most helpful articles for resolution.

By capturing and feeding behavior signals from both self-service customers and support agents into search systems, everyone querying the knowledge base is provided with more relevant search results and, ultimately, quicker resolution to their problems.

Tips for Outstanding Customer Self-Service

Let’s dig into how to provide best-in-class customer self-service.

  • Don’t invest all of your money into frontend marketing and then abandon customers in a support desert. Loyal customers are made when products are useful—even indispensable—to the task at hand. Promoting customer self-service is key to making your product indispensable in your customer’s mind. Proactively educate your customers about your products’ capabilities and how to use what they bought from you. Help them get the most out of the money they spent to make the purchase from your shelves.
  • Make support personal. A huge library of customer self-help documentation is great until your customer goes searching for the needle they need in that haystack. You have your customers’ purchasing data so give them a metal detector to find the required needle. Connect purchasing data to your knowledge base in order to offer a personalized support experience that predicts a customer’s likely problem based on their purchases and offers the best solutions. (Provide your agents access to a dashboard with personalized customer data as well so they’re empowered to treat customers as people they know and can do their jobs quickly and efficiently.)
  • More channels for customer self-service is not necessarily better. While offering chat, text, phone, and website customer self-help options will meet more customers where they are, if you can’t provide a consistent, high-quality experience across all channels, offer fewer channels. Funneling customers through fewer, but better and more consistent customer self-service routes will ultimately provide a superior customer experience.
  • Use a chatbot powered by AI to improve customer self-help and increase call center deflection rates. Connecting a semantic-vector-search-powered chatbot to your knowledge base, FAQs, documentation, and previously closed support case data allows it to understand the intent of a customer’s problem and provide them with the most relevant answer from all of this cumulative information without the customer having to wait in a queue.

With that said, an AI-powered machine should not run completely unchecked. Your support agents and subject matter experts can oversee and refine results the web based self-service suggests by taking a birds-eye-view of search data.

Get Started Remodeling Customer Self-Service at Your Organization

Lucidworks has a history of working with organizations across industry verticals to advance customer self-help experiences and improve the lives of support agents. With a quiver of AI-powered products ready to help your customers delight in your products, a connected experience powered by Lucidworks can benefit your customers and your organization.

If you’re looking for a loyal customer with your company’s name on the tip of his tongue, customer self-service is the key to the kingdom. Close the loop on your customer lifecycle so it becomes a flywheel: buy, use, repeat.

Brand champions and customer advocates will market and sell products for you, customer prospects won’t have to take your marketing team’s “word for it.” Empower your customers with self-service to market to your prospects, increase your profits, and improve your employees’ experience. Reach out for a demo of what we can do for you.

About Sommer Antrim

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