By Josh Peacock In Best Practices | April 2023
Why self-service support is good for both you and your customers
What is self-service support
Self-service support is one of your most important customer support channels. It allows you to provide your customers with a set of online support tools and resources to help them proactively resolve their own issues without requiring any interaction with your customer support team. Today’s customers are savvy, self-reliant and more than comfortable finding answers to their questions online. Your self-service support enables them to research and troubleshoot these questions on their own which, ultimately, leads to happier customers.
Why is self-service support important
The emphasis on providing customers with support solutions that allow them to self-serve has been growing for a number of years. In the past, companies would often view self-service support purely from a cost reduction perspective and as a way of streamlining internal support operations. However, that perspective has changed dramatically with customers increasingly using self-service as the first point of contact with your support organization and, oftentimes, your company.
Simply offering self-service support channels is not enough. Providing your customers with high-quality self-service support tools and resources is a crucial part of your overall customer experience. And the reason for this is simple: it’s what they want.
A Harvard Business Review study has shown that customers overwhelmingly prefer self-service support options with 81% of customers, across all industries, indicating they attempt to resolve issues themselves before reaching out to your customer support team.
Self-service support is great for your customers
Now that we know self-service support is what our customers prefer, it’s important we understand the reasons they prefer self-service support.
It reduces customer wait times
Support wait times are a strong indicator of how your customers perceive the quality of support and customer satisfaction, with respondents to a Hiver survey ranking speed as their top criteria when evaluating whether a customer support experience is considered good. One of the key reasons providing high-quality self-service support is crucial for your customer experience is because it shortens the resolution times for your customers.
As your business, and customer base, grows so too will the strain placed on your customer support infrastructure. If every one of your customer support interactions were required to be carried out by your human support team, your customer support team would quickly become overrun and, as a result, your customers may have to wait to get their issues resolved by a human support agent.
By offering self-service support options, those tools and resources will be instantly available for your customers to use 24/7. They will no longer need to contact your customer support team and wait for a response to their question. Additionally, with more of your customers serving themselves and resolving their own issues, the amount of inbound support tickets will be reduced. As a result, those customers who do require an interaction with your customer support team will have reduced wait times and your support team will have more time to invest into elevated experiences for those customers.
It lowers customer effort
Self-service support is an important way to reduce effort in your customer experience. Consider how much more friction is involved in a customer's experience if they have to search for details on how to contact your customer support team, a channel which is not their preferred channel, wait to provide an agent with details of their issue and then have the agent successfully diagnose and resolve the issue. Providing your customers with support that allows them to self-serve, with them already knowing the issue they are facing, will allow them resolve issues in a more timely manner and provide them with a more effortless experience. Particularly when it is their preferred method of customer support.
Self-service support is great for your business
As outlined above, providing your customers with high-quality self-service support is a crucial element of your customer experience and is great for your customers. However, self-service support also has other benefits for your business.
It reduces cost
Self-service support is one of the most important ways companies reduce inbound support ticket volume by deflecting those tickets to your self-service support options. Providing your customers with the tools and resources to resolve their own issues allows you to serve an unlimited number of customers at once. It allows you to scale your customer support infrastructure as your company grows, without needing to scale your costs in parallel. If you are able to successfully reduce the volume of inbound support tickets then you will require less support agents available to cover these tickets, and you free your agents up to focus on other high-value tasks and to provide elevated experiences for your customers.
It helps increase customer loyalty
Allowing your customers to self-serve reduces friction and provides your customers with a more effortless experience as outlined above. Customer effort, and your customer effort score, is a key indicator of customer loyalty with a Gartner study reporting that customer effort predicts customer loyalty 40% more accurately than customer satisfaction. So providing self-service support to your customers is one of the most important drivers of improving customer loyalty and, ultimately, improving customer retention.
It helps improve employee happiness and job satisfaction
Deflecting tickets to your self-service support options and reducing inbound support ticket volume not only frees your support agents up to focus on other tasks that need their attention, it also frees your agents from repetitive tickets. In not dealing with repetitive tickets, your agents are able to devote their time to other tasks that often feel more meaningful and allows them to focus on more challenging issues. This will lead to a more balanced workload for your agents, improved team morale and will lead to increased job satisfaction.
What are the different types of self-service support
The most common self-service support options companies offer their customers include the help center, FAQ pages, community forums and, more recently, AI-powered chat and messaging designed to provide immediate responses to common questions.
Providing your customers with a high-quality Help Center, one that is up-to-date and easy for your customers to navigate when searching for the answers they need, is one of the most crucial elements of self-service support.
As the importance of self-service support has increased, and companies have focused on providing additional tools and resources to support themselves, the core component of self-service support has remained consistent. Your help center remains the cornerstone of self-service support with a study conducted by Forrester indicating it is the preferred self-service channel for customers. But simply offering your customers a help center is not enough. To ensure you are providing your customers with a high-quality self-service experience, one that ultimately allows them to resolve their own issues, it is imperative that your help center and your help documentation is easily accessible, up-to-date and easily digestible.
FAQ pages, blog posts and other similar resources are extremely valuable self-service solutions when your customers need quick answers to simple and common questions. They can dramatically reduce the number of inbound tickets to your team and remove unnecessary, repetitive questions from their workload. One benefit, and differentiator, a FAQ page has over your help center is that it presents the answers to common questions in a single place making it easier for customers to find answers without having to search your help documentation.
Community forums are another great avenue for your customers to self-serve by allowing your community members to communicate with each other on common problems, ask each other questions and search through prior threads to see how their issue has been solved in the past. They enable peer-to-peer self-service support, which not only provides more timely responses for your customers, but also helps reduce inbound support ticket volume for your customer support team.
AI-powered chatbots are increasingly becoming an entrenched part of your self-service support offering. They are a quick and easy way for your customers to get the information they need and save your customers from having to search through your help documentation for answers. Chatbots interpret the questions your customers ask by using keywords and AI-powered search, and are a powerful tool for common questions. However, complicated issues may require more help so it is recommended you include an option for your customers to connect directly with your customer support team when using chatbots.
Tips to improve your self-service support
Make your help documentation easily accessible and highlight key customer issues
It is important that you identify the key issues your customers face and make sure your help documentation related to these issues is easily accessible. It should always appear in your help center search, be available on the help homepage and easy to navigate.
Ensuring your help documentation is easily accessible is a crucial part of building a robust self-service support experience. If your customers are unable to find your help documentation they will be unable to use the content to help answer their questions. No matter how well constructed your help documentation is.
Having sophisticated and efficient search functionality in your help center can be the difference between your customers finding the answers they need easily, or those answers being hidden among hundreds of help articles. It can be the difference between your customers having an effortless experience and serving themselves, or an experience which is high-effort and increases the risk of churn.
Make sure your help documentation is up-to-date and easily digestible
Another crucial step in providing an enhanced self-service experience for your customers is to include product screenshots, and other product visuals, in your help documentation. The product visuals you include in your help documentation are the most immediate way your customer is able to identify the issue the help documentation is trying to help them solve. If your product screenshots are fully up-to-date, and the product visuals in your help documentation match what your customers see on their screens, it will build your customers trust and they will easily be able to see they are in the right place to solve their problem.
However, if the product screenshots in your help documentation are outdated and different from what your customers are seeing in the product, it will immediately erode their trust. If your customers are not certain they are in the right place to solve their problem, there is an increased risk your customers will bounce from your help documentation and not self-serve even though the answer is right there in front of them. Or even worse, there is an increased likelihood your customers could churn due to a high-effort support experience.
Additionally, product screenshots not only immediately communicate to your customers what the help documentation is about, they make the content more digestible and engaging. Your help documentation only has a few seconds to make an impression on your customers, and including product screenshots makes a big difference. They allow you to break your content into more understandable steps, and allow your customers to digest your help documentation in a more simplified way. Product screenshots help increase engagement levels with your help documentation and increase the likelihood your customers will find the answer they need.
Self-service support is a crucial component of your overall customer experience and success as a business. However, it is important to ensure you have a blend of self-service support options as well as allowing your customers the option to contact your customer support team if they prefer. By offering both self-service support options and human customer support, you empower your customers to get the answers they need in the way that best suits them.