Ten Key Learnings in the Shift to Self Service
It’s fair to say that in 2020, the pandemic caused a highly volatile business landscape, and customer service had to get agile very quickly in order to keep pace. At that time, Gartner reported that more than 40% of customer service and support leaders experienced an increase in service contact volumes compared with the analyst’s original pre-2020 projections. In fact, 39% indicated that this increase took place on live or assisted channel contact volumes. In everyday language, it means that more people were making frequent calls to customer service teams.
The Gartner report recommended that customer service and support leaders consider new strategies to mitigate the consequences of increased live contact volumes. The good news is that the same report also showed an increase in customer’s willingness to self-serve. This was a welcome transformation in the end-to-end resolution experience, as well as a new opportunity to relieve customer service employee burnout.
Three years on, and self-service has moved at lightning speed. Like many other businesses, we’ve grown from having a basic support site to hosting a comprehensive, end-to-end customer community knowledge base, with detailed e-learning documentation that is searchable across the entire community. In this article, I’ll share some of our key learnings that have helped us enhance our growing self-service digital support channels.
Ten Key Learnings in the Shift to Provide Comprehensive Self Service
Start With a Dedicated Effort to Truly Understand Your Customer. Technology, no matter how advanced, must be guided by a deep understanding of your customers. While a highly digitally enabled and self-service-oriented approach can form the backbone of your support system, creating a comprehensive self-service channel begins with a thorough grasp of your customers' identities, pain points, and aspirations within their roles.
Practice Continuous Content Improvement. It’s critical to regularly update and expand your knowledge base and e-learning documentation. As your products or services evolve, ensure that the information provided remains accurate and relevant. Solicit feedback from customers to identify gaps in content and areas that need improvement.
Invest in Ongoing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). When you invest in SEO for your knowledge base, it cannot be a one-off exercise. The implementation of relevant keywords, tags, and metadata must be a dynamic and ongoing endeavour which continuously improves the discoverability of your resources. A well-optimised search function will help customers quickly find the information they need for the long-term, and not just when a new knowledge base is launched.
Create Feedback Loops. Gathering insights through surveys, feedback loops, user testing, and analysing customer behaviours can help you create a self-service ecosystem that genuinely resonates with your audience. This approach not only enhances customer satisfaction, but also contributes to higher adoption rates and long-term loyalty.
Make Sure You Have Mobile-Friendly Design. Many of your customers will prefer accessing self-service support on their smartphones or tablets, so responsive design is crucial.
Stay on Top of Community Management Practices. Community management has matured as a concept, and many businesses now offer forums where customers can speak to other customers about how to get the most out of cloud-based functionality. This element of shared experiences and transparency is very much in keeping with the ease of communication that users should see as they start using more cloud services.
Practice Data Analysis and Measure the Content Gap. It’s one thing to make your content easily available, but it’s also critical to make sure it’s hitting the mark. Vendors need to go beyond providing customers with support and actually begin to analyse that support and how it is being used. Measuring the ‘content gap’ is a useful exercise. The content gap is the percentage of searches that don’t return the desired content. A 15 per cent content gap, for example, would be considered high (5 per cent or less is where vendors should be aiming). Ultimately, vendors want to get to the point where they are quite accurately predicting what end users will search for, but to get to this point, it takes careful analysis.
What Does Live Chat Best Practice Look Like? Live chat is a powerful tool that sits between self-service and assisted channels. There are several best practices that businesses should observe. Here are just a few. First, speed is critical, but taking an extra moment or two to check a response is well worth the time. If you have your customer’s name, use it. Their name is a great rapport builder, so drop it in when appropriate. Talk your customer through the site, providing links where appropriate. When you reach a resolution, check to make sure they are happy before they leave. If the chat requires further follow up, let customers know what will happen, and when.
Make The Most of Multimedia Content. Keep your community engaged by diversifying your content formats through the use of videos, infographics, and step-by-step visual guides. Different customers have varying learning preferences, and multimedia content can cater to a broader audience.
Give Your Customers a Voice. Encourage customers to share their own solutions and experiences. User-generated content can provide unique perspectives and solutions that might not be covered in ‘official’ documentation.
While technology will always play a pivotal role in self-service customer support, a true understanding of your customers is what will ultimately determine the success of your self-service initiatives. By putting your customers at the heart of everything you do, you’ll be well-positioned to create a digital experience that truly meets their needs, inspires your own people and becomes stronger and even more helpful as your self-service user base grows.
Head of Customer Success at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK, Elaine has dedicated her career to improving customer service and experience in the enterprise. Prior to joining Wolters Kluwer, Elaine was Director of Professional Services at Experian Data Quality UK.