How to improve self-service options for customers

15th Feb 2017

By making self service options available, companies can take some of the workload off of customer service teams, save money, and improve the customer experience. However, if customers don’t feel as if self service options are adding value, they simply won’t use them. The following tips can help you to improve your self service options.

Don’t Make Assumptions About The Customer Journey

When many companies implement self service options, they do so based upon assumptions they have made about the customer journey. This is because people who design systems and processes often lack the perspective to see that people using those systems and processes may  not behave predictably.

As a result, companies can miss opportunities to add self service options where they might really be helpful, or they place them where they simply aren’t needed at all. By creating customer journey maps using customer feedback, analytics, and social research companies can improve their self service options as well as their other customer service policies and procedures.

Update Your Knowledge Base

One of the best ways to make self service work for your customers is to provide them with accurate, up to date information that is useful to them. Unfortunately, when companies upgrade products and services or make changes to their apps and websites this step gets missed.

Consider making it a policy that when changes are made to policies, interfaces, products, etc. that the current knowledgebase items are reviewed and updated.

Make Sure They Feel Confident About Self Service

To begin with, it’s important to recognize that customers are going to avoid self service options if they don’t feel good about using them. Part of this means providing assurance that their information is safe and secure.

Be clear and transparent about the steps you take to protect their personal and financial information. Write easy to read policies on privacy and use of personal information. Display trust badges that indicate that your website is safe to use. Implement a secure system that allows them to set and reset passwords online, and protects their accounts from unauthorized access.

Give Customers an Incentive to Use Self Service

It could be that your self service offerings are great, but your customers just need a bit of a nudge to buy in. One way to accomplish this is to offer a small incentive for using self service. For example, customers who use self service more than three times in a month are entered into a drawing for free merchandise. Another possibility would be to reduce a monthly service fee for customers who don’t use live customer service options during that month. This option is frequently used by banks to reward customers for using online banking and ATMs rather than customer service staff or tellers.

Avoid Customer Service Jargon

Remember that customers are not CSRs. They’re certainly not help desk staffers. Avoid using customer service jargon both when introducing self service options to them and when they are using those options. For example, the average person might not understand what a ‘ticket’ is. So, use conversational, real world terms instead. Don’t provide a link to the information in your ‘knowledge base’. Instead, give customers the option to ‘search for information about their problem’.

Keep it Streamlined And Intuitive

Make the customer’s experience as easy as possible. Apply good design practices to create self service interfaces that are intuitive as possible. Don’t make customers go through unnecessary steps to find information or make changes. Customers aren’t going to help themselves if it becomes clear that they can meet their own needs more easily by calling customer support.

Let Customers Help Each Other

Sometimes, the most effective solutions to customers’ problems come from the experiences of other customers. Consider providing a moderated community forum where people can report problems, search for solutions, and discuss the little tips tricks an workarounds that customers often find. Customers who are particularly knowledgeable can be identified as power users in order to identify them as trusted resources for less experienced customers. Solutions to problems that are particularly helpful can be identified as being officially endorsed by the company.

Train Customer Service Staff to Steer Customers Towards Self Service Options

Provide staff with the means and the authority to direct customers to use self service. For example, provide them with a script to help customers create a self service account in order to make changes or find information. This will help get the word out to people who may not be aware that self service is an option..

Remember that many customers would actually prefer to use automated customer service or other self help options when they are available. However, they are only going to use these options if they are easy to use, up to date, and provide the information that they need.

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