When people have questions about products or services, they want answers. So what’s the best way to keep these folks happy? Give them what they want.
Companies that are best at providing these answers have the best chance at turning people into customers.
Realizing this, many companies invest in more support staff and better employee training in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage.
But the truth is, by the time a customer calls or emails you with a question, you’ve probably missed your chance at being the best. Odds are, the customer has already searched online for an answer, and is only contacting you after not finding one.
Why Self-Service Software Matters
As one of our recent surveys revealed, nearly half (47 percent) of consumers “always” search for an answer online before calling a company.
While a call or email is a last resort, it’s one consumers turn to very quickly. This is likely because they have little patience for not finding answers right away.
In our survey, 31 percent of consumers said they think that even five minutes of searching is “frustrating.” An additional 11 percent said it’s “very frustrating” and 10 percent said it’s “extremely frustrating.”
Frustration Level, Over Time, When Answers Aren’t Found Searching Online
Service department employees may also grow frustrated when they can’t find the answers they need. They don’t enjoy making customers wait on hold as they search for the right answer in their customer service platform.
Effective internal and external (or “self-service”) knowledge management resources are the keys to fixing these frustrations.
Knowledge management applications are used to ensure that information about your company’s products and services is available to the right people at the right time. These applications manage all the information used in the company’s internal and self-service articles, FAQs, guides and even virtual agents.
Self-service software is offered in a few different ways:
- Separately, as best-of-breed programs
- Integrated within customer service, IT support and help desk platforms
- As part of full-fledged customer relationship management (CRM) software suites
Here, we look at example products within each category.
Best-of-Breed Self-Service and Knowledge Management Applications
Sometimes, a lack of good knowledge management is the only thing keeping your service department from making people happy more often. In these cases, many businesses consider investing in stand-alone knowledge management systems to compliment existing software.
While stand-alone systems can’t offer all the advanced features other solutions offer, they do have the advantage of being easier to deploy, and are generally less expensive.
Many knowledge base platforms offer reporting and analytics tools. These show users which self-service resources (e.g., articles) are used most often, and which have led to the greatest customer satisfaction. Companies can use this information to decide which resources need improvement, and to identify which topics customers have the most questions about.
Some knowledge management and Web self-service tools help users integrate knowledge articles directly into their company’s website. These tools can be very useful when companies need (or expect) to make frequent updates to the information presented to website visitors.
Knowledge Management Integrated With Service Desk and Customer Support Software
Often, companies want to have knowledge management capabilities built into the software they use to manage their service and support operations. This helps close the gap between the agents who have the answers and the customers who need them.
With these integrated software suites, agents search for and update resources from the same screen they use to assist customers. This saves time and effort for staff, while streamlining the experience for customers.
Customer service software with knowledge base support can keep track of solutions to customers’ most common problems. The system keeps all knowledge resources well organized in the database, ensuring the most-used solutions are easy to find—for both employees and customers alike.
Canned responses often draw from a company’s existing self-service resources. When knowledge management applications are integrated with the support platform, agents can get the right knowledge resource to the right customer more easily, efficiently and happily. This can also bring knowledge resources to the attention of customers who may be unfamiliar with them.
Knowledge Management Integrated With CRM Software
The most thorough way of integrating self-service and knowledge management tools into your company’s software ecosystem is simple: Choose a solution that includes them out of the box. For many companies, CRM software is the most important tool for business operations. Some CRM suites come with very advanced knowledge management and self-service capabilities.
More advanced knowledge management features can be necessary if a company has intricate internal workflows.
When knowledge management tools are integrated into CRM platforms, they can automatically provide relevant support information when and where it’s needed. (See, for example, the “Propose” stage above.) They can also assist in creating new resources by collecting relevant data and discussions—even when those discussions happen outside a customer service or support context.
Online self-service resources—and the knowledge management applications used to maintain them—are an important first step towards providing the best answers, helping service staff do their jobs better and keeping customers happy.
To learn more about how these tools can improve your service department’s performance, please see our related blog post, 5 Cost-Saving Benefits of a Customer Self-Service Knowledge Base.