7 Tips for Implementing Customer Self-Service Like a Pro

By: Craig Borowski on June 5, 2017

In 2014, 55 percent of customer service interactions required no support from a human agent. That number has been growing, slowly but surely, and is expected to reach 66 percent by the end of 2017.

(From: _Why You Need to Rethink Your Customer Self-Service Strategy. Available to Gartner subscribers.)_

[Record scratch—] Wait, 10 percent growth in three years? That’s … not a very compelling stat.


This might be you, waiting for self-service to take off …

Fair enough, but don’t click away just yet. The slow growth of self-service’s success rate is not an indication that it lacks promise or that customers don’t want it. (Hint: It doesn’t, and they do.)

Instead, that unimpressive growth rate is an indication of the many obstacles that self-service implementations face and of the speed with which they reach maturity.

In this report, we give seven SMB Pro Tips for implementing a self-service portal and dive into what to do—and what not to do—to jumpstart your initiative.

Pro Tips—and Their Do’s and Don’ts

Your customers have questions about your products and services—and they’re trying to find answers. Most often, they’re searching for them online, and probably from a mobile device.

If there’s one thing that’s stood in the way of more widespread self-service implementations, it’s that many companies respond to the above truths with an uninspired, “Oh, really? Huh. Well, anyway …”

It’s time for more companies to get inspired by the potential of customer self-service. Few things are more inspirational than the smooth, call-reducing launch of a new customer service resource, and the tips below are aimed at helping you accomplish exactly that.

SMB Pro Tip #1: Integrate self-service into support strategy

 DO  ensure self-service channels are part of your overall omnichannel support and engagement strategy. In other words, consider online self-service channels on the same level as phone and email support channels.

 DON’T  take a “set it and forget it” approach to launching a new self-service portal. There are tactics for evaluating new resources before they’re rolled out and there’s plenty of information available to help you choose from among the many self-service formats. But problems with self-service should be addressed with the same urgency as you’d address a problem with a phone line or an email server.

SMB Pro Tip #2: Make self-service mobile-friendly

 DO  prioritize a mobile-friendly approach to self-service. Research has shown that a majority of consumers use mobile devices when searching for and browsing online self-service resources.

 DON’T  make assumptions about which devices your customers are using to search for online self-service. Just because you never see them using smartphones or tablets doesn’t mean they aren’t using those devices to do research when off the clock or on the road.

SMB Pro Tip #3: Look for easy self-service wins

 DO  figure out where the biggest problems and painpoints occur and design new resources to address those first. Often, processes that take a long time to explain over the phone are good—and easy—starting points for new self-service articles and content.

 DON’T  water down your online resources by trying to include an answer for everything. Aim to strike a balance that maximizes both ease-of-use and comprehensiveness.

SMB Pro Tip #4: Maintain bridges to assisted service

 DO  understand how customers transition from self-service to assisted customer service. Ensure they can make the transition smoothly, e.g., without needing to start from square one each time.

 DON’T  design self-service resources as cul-de-sacs. Live chat is a great tool for rescuing customers who’ve indicated (by direct request or indirectly via browsing activity) that they need help from a live agent.

SMB Pro Tip #5: Gain and preserve stakeholder buy-in

 DO  gain and maintain buy-in from company stakeholders—this is one of the challenges to self-service success. Expect skeptics to raise concerns, especially when results are slow to materialize. Prepare to address these concerns before they get raised in a boardroom.

 DON’T  over promise the return of a self-service investment, either in terms of reduced costs or with an unrealistic timeline. It may be better to position it as a customer experience improvement measure instead of as a way to cut service costs.

SMB Pro Tip #6: Establish internal knowledge base

 DO  ensure that the development and improvement of self-service offerings begins with your internal customer service knowledge base. If you don’t have one yet, then it would be a great starting point. If you do, then ensure it’s utilized properly and regularly maintained.

 DON’T  present disjointed, fragmented information. Customers expect consistency and your brand is built upon it. The fastest way to lose trust is to give different answers to the same questions if they happen to get asked on different channels.

SMB Pro Tip #7: Monitor customer self-service data

 DO  follow the data if you get lost. You have the data, right? You should, but if you don’t, then moving operations to a centralized customer service platform is the most effective way to begin collecting it. In addition to data on individual customers (what products they own, what questions they’ve asked), you’ll want to see traffic data for your online resources. Pay attention to time on page, page views and bounce rates to get a feel for what’s working for your customers and what isn’t.

 DON’T  invest in customer self-service until your traditional (i.e., assisted) customer service channels are functioning efficiently and effectively. The best self-service resources are designed to support an effective self-service department, not replace it.

Takeaways and Next Steps

Customer self-service initiatives can be slow to gain traction, both internally and externally. But research suggests they can simultaneously accomplish two important service department goals, goals which were once considered to be in opposition: providing better service and doing so at lower cost.

The best advice we can give for those starting out is to understand how the challenges listed above could impact your own specific case.

Finally, set expectations accurately, avoid making assumptions about customer behavior and follow the data to make regular improvements. If you need a hand with selecting a shortlist of solutions for your business, give our advisors a call at (844) 687-6771 for free software consultation.