Providing quality customer service is about teamwork. It takes teamwork to answer questions, solve problems and give the right explanations to the right people at the right time. Some companies may view customers as the opposing team—especially when their calls and service requests start piling up.
But the reality is that customers want the same things you do: They want their questions answered quickly, and they’d rather find their own answers than wait on the phone.
Online self-service resources are tools that help customers answer questions by themselves. “Frequently asked questions” (FAQ) pages and how-to articles are two popular examples; virtual agents and troubleshooting guides are others.
The information in these resources often comes from the body of knowledge a company uses internally. When put online and offered to customers, the resources are referred to collectively as a “self-service knowledge base.”
Using a self-service knowledge base increases teamwork and cooperation between companies and their customers. It helps customers find answers to their questions in the place most of them look first: the Internet. By empowering customers to solve their own problems, your company will save money.
Here, we explore five ways a customer service platform that offers a self-service knowledge base can help your company cut support costs.
#1: Saves Staff Time by Answering Easy Questions
It’s hard to imagine this now, but back in the early days, the Internet was kind of useless—from a customer service point of view, anyway. Even the simplest tasks and questions still required customers to call the business. But today, most basic customer service needs can be taken care of online, without human assistance. That is, as long as you’ve made the information easily accessible.
In a recent survey we conducted, 47 percent of consumers say they always search online first for an answer to a customer service question, while an additional 23 percent usually search online first. This should be a wake-up call for business leaders who neglect to provide self-service information, thinking their customers aren’t searching the Internet.
If this is your approach, there’s a roughly 70 percent chance you’re either always or usually mistaken!
Consumer Likelihood to Search Online Before Calling Company to Answer Question
Since customers are out there looking, make sure the answers to common “easy” questions are easy to find through your self-service knowledge base. This will not only save your support staff valuable time, it will make your customers happier, too.
“Easy” questions are those customers can address themselves, without significant technical assistance (e.g., changing a password or creating an account).
To learn which of these questions are most frequently asked:
- Use the reporting and analytics tools provided by your knowledge base management, help/service desk or customer support software.
- If you don’t have any of the above platforms, consider purchasing one. Our team of advisors can help with this decision. Make sure the software you choose can categorize and track customer inquiries.
- Talk to support staff, team leaders and managers to learn which questions customers ask most often.
- Consult social media channels, online forums (see below) and support emails for questions or problems customers may have.
#2: Creates More Informed Customers & Communities
Today, there are thousands of online communities in which people discuss shared hobbies, interests and products. In product-based forums, members help each other understand how to use a product or fix it when it breaks. These forums can function as crowd-sourced customer support—and don’t cost the company that makes the product a dime.
Search to see if your company’s products or services are discussed in any online or in-person communities. If they are, design your self-service resources with these communities in mind. Pay close attention to which questions are most frequently raised, and ensure your online self-service resources address them specifically and using similar language.
Another strategy is to look for community discussions that involve more than a simple “how-to” explanation (for example, discussing why the problem arose in the first place instead of simply how to fix it). These discussions often indicate which topics are of most interest to users, or which problems are most difficult to solve.
Companies can then create self-service resources that support and foster these deeper discussions. This helps create more informed forum members who can spread the word to others—lessening the chance that any member will need to use the company’s more expensive support channels.
#3: Reduces Repetition and Lowers Staff Attrition
For call centers in particular, highly repetitive conversations are one of the leading causes of service and support staff attrition. Slowing attrition saves training costs, improves morale and prevents downtime when employees leave.
Sometimes, companies put a self-service knowledge base online, filled with all the answers—and yet the same easy questions keep coming in via phone and email. If support staff face overly repetitive questions, and the answers are already available online, something clearly isn’t right.
Often, companies discover they haven’t phrased their online resources optimally. Self-service knowledge bases must be written as clearly as possible and in customers’ own vocabulary. If they get filled with too much language from the marketing or R&D department, they’ll get used less often. And the same calls will continue to pour in.
Companies should look to metrics such as level zero solvable (LZS) to understand where improvements are needed. Such metrics help companies appraise their self-service knowledge base resources from the customer’s point of view, using the language customers use themselves.
Improving online resources in this way ensures the most common questions get answered without another phone call—lessening repetition for staff.
#4: Improves Search Engine Visibility
Putting the answers to customers’ questions online is only the beginning: You need to put them online and make them easy for customers to find. Making them easy to find can be more difficult than it sounds, especially when you’re up against a ticking clock.
Our survey showed that consumers want to find their answer quickly: After just 10 minutes of searching online, 52 percent will give up and call or email with their question instead. That’s a very small window—and it means your answers must be among the first customers see when they search online.
In many cases, some search engine optimization (SEO) is needed. SEO can help ensure your company’s information is easy for customers to find when they look for answers on Google and other search engines.
shows companies how to improve SEO
But targeted SEO campaigns can be time-consuming and expensive. For the best return on investment, they need to be considered and implemented strategically.
Often, the best approach is to use a customer service platform with built-in SEO tools, such as Freshdesk (above), which can help users optimize individual articles, answers and other self-service resources.
Other self-service platforms, such as LiveHelpNow, include analytics functions. Though unable to directly help boost SEO, these tools can show which pages need SEO improvements. Both types of software can help users improve customer usage rates of self-service resources, improve search engine visibility and save costs by helping customers help themselves.
#5: Boosts Workplace Training and Job Satisfaction
When a company successfully implements an online self-service knowledge base, many fringe benefits follow. One such benefit is that service staff can become more skilled more quickly.
When companies put an effective self-service knowledge base in place and customers start answering easy questions themselves, support staff then field a larger proportion of more challenging questions. More challenging questions present better opportunities for staff to grow their skills. (Make sure any necessary training is in place to help staff with this.)
Staff with greater skills are better able to resolve more complex issues, and resolve more of them on the first call or email. As first-contact resolution (FCR) rates increase, so does employee satisfaction.
In fact, some studies have shown that for every percentage point increase in FCR, employee satisfaction increases between 1 and 5 percent! Again, more satisfied staff leads to higher retention, saving you from costly attrition.
Given all of these cost-cutting benefits, it’s no surprise more companies are looking to implement online self-service resources. However, many struggle to find cost-effective software solutions that are also a good fit for the business.
If you struggle with software selection or just want some assistance narrowing down your options, reach out to our Software Advisors at 888-234-5187 for a free, no-obligation consultation.
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