What to Expect When Implementing Customer Self-Service

By: on June 6, 2017

Customer service has always been about balancing give and take.

Paying too much to provide service to your customers can certainly give them good service, but it will also take away from your company’s bottom line.

Give too much back to that bottom line (by reducing hours or number of agents or channel availability) and customers will take their business elsewhere.

In this context, customer self-service is a true game changer.

It can reduce costs while also improving the customer’s experience, leading them to stick around longer and spend more. We’ve looked before at the pros and cons of different self-service channels and uncovered some clever metrics that can be used to improve them.

What “customer self-service” sounds like to most businesses

Sound too good to be true? Well, one of the largest challenges companies face is simply knowing when, where and to what degree their self-service implementations are “working”—and that’s more challenging than it sounds.

In this article, we outline some common implementation failures and how they can be avoided by careful management of expectations.

Customer Self-Service Expectations vs. Realities

So, you’ve heard all the hype surrounding customer self-service and ready to throw plenty of resources behind implementing self-service for your business.

Many businesses think that after launching or revamping their self-service project, it’s time to sit back and reap the rewards. If this is your first rodeo—or you’re at it again for another try—you may be in for a gut check.

Here’s what some companies have done, what they expected to happen and the harsh realities they soon faced:


Action: Expectation: Reality:
Put an FAQ page on the company website. Fewer people would call to ask the same frequently asked questions. Daily call volume continued increasing at the same rate.
Added online options for customers to reset passwords, reprint invoices and other commonly requested service tasks. Service center KPIs and metrics would improve. Service center KPIs and metrics worsened.
Updated a failing self-service resource with new graphics and information. Their users would at long last begin using the online self-service resources. Users continued to ignore it.


In each of these examples, the self-service implementation didn’t perform as expected, at least in the near term. In some instances, the results were the exact opposite of what was expected. With this failure to meet expectations in mind, should customer self-service initiatives should be scrapped? No!

No one should expect, but the truth is, your company’s first self-service implementations could easily knock you on your butt. It’s no surprise then that so many companies abandon their self-service plans after one or two “failed” initiatives. This is a big mistake—perseverance is key.

Mistaken Assumptions, Explained

It’s important to note that these were not mistaken strategies. Instead, each is an example of a good strategy for which the company had mistaken expectations. Each expectation above contains a mistaken assumption that we’ll explain.

Expectation #1: That an FAQ page would cause fewer people to call to ask the same frequently asked questions.

Mistaken assumption: That customers would know to look for a FAQ page and be able to find it.

Explanation: If customers don’t know you have a FAQ page, they won’t know to search for it. If they aren’t searching for it, they won’t find it. Even if they are searching for it, that’s no guarantee that the search engines will guide them to it.

Expectation #2: That an online customer portal would cause service center KPIs and metrics to improve.

Mistaken assumption: Giving customers tools to complete some tasks themselves would ease burden on service center.

Explanation: When customers can resolve the easy service tasks themselves, then the service center ends up fielding a higher ratio of more difficult requests. This distorts the accuracy of any KPI-over-time comparisons.

Expectation #3: That refreshed resources would lead to their users finally beginning to use the online self-service resources.

Mistaken assumption: That customers will try self-service again after having failed previously.

Explanation: Unless they have no alternative (i.e., phone support, one of your competitors), customers who were unable to resolve previous issues with self-service are unlikely to try again without prompting.

When new initiatives don’t go as expected, those responsible for them may feel pressure to make some quick adjustments or even abandon ship. A much better strategy is to take a step back and re-examine those initial expectations.

Questions to Ask When Your Self-Service Isn’t Living Up To Expectations

If you’ve tried implementing self-service in the past and it failed to live up to expectations, then the explanation for why that happened could very likely be found in one of your answers to the questions below. And while these questions are intended to help troubleshoot failing self-service initiatives, they should also be used proactively, before the services are designed and rolled out.

Can we expect that customers will find our self-service resources all on their own?
Are our self-service resources easy enough to use?
Did we design our self-service for all of our customers?
Do our self-service offerings add value for customers, even if it’s just saving some time on the phone?
Did we choose the right self-service format?
Did we implement it at the right point in their customer journey?
Are we measuring usage correctly?
Are we measuring success correctly?

If you answered “No” to any of the above questions, then you should follow up with “Why not?”

While working through those explanations, you’re sure to find areas for improvement. If you’re still at a loss and need some guidance as you wade into the world of customer self-service, give us a call at (888) 234-5187 for a free consultation regarding your software needs.

You may also like:

How a Customer Self-Service Portal Improves Customer Experience

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Force Customers to Use Self-Service

5 Cost-Saving Benefits of a Customer Self-Service Knowledge Base

Compare Customer Service Software