Here’s Why Customers Prefer Self-Service Over Customer Support

Just about everyone can relate to a maddening self-service experience. Let’s say you simply cannot figure out how to work something, whether it be your smartphone, a website or a new toy you bought your kid. After searching online for an hour, including poking around the brand’s website, you haven’t gotten even one step closer to solving the problem. You want to find the answer on your own instead of calling customer support, but the answer isn’t anywhere to be found.

Creative.virtual.agent2016.jpgWhile today’s customers prefer self-service, it cannot get in the way of stellar customer service. When self-service fails, customers will – often unhappily – turn to live customer support. Even if that customer support is quick and outstanding, the customer who wanted self-service has still been let down in some way.

Self-service goes beyond allowing customers to do something, such as pay a bill or look at their order status. It also helps customers solve problems and handle their own troubleshooting. The success of self-service depends on how well customers can fix their problem without requiring customer support. In this way, self-service has evolved to also include self-support.

Self-support has an extra self-service layer that customers like: they get to learn while they troubleshoot. Instead of having someone handle the issue for them, they can fix it themselves and also find out what to do should it happen again. In the long run, being taught how to fix a problem is more worthwhile than having someone fix it for you.

Contact centers that understand what customers want create self-service tools that enable them to resolve problems. In order to do this, it’s necessary to know which problems your customers face and to break those problems up into targeted groups. Different audiences may face different problems, so each audience will need its own way of using the self-service base. For example, tech-savvy experts will have an easier time troubleshooting a smartphone problem than a brand new smartphone owner will.

Self-service tools have to be usable for both novices and experts while encouraging both groups to take advantage of what’s available to them. These tools should also be intuitive – customers shouldn’t have to overcome a learning curve just to use the tool. Here are five more tips for designing a useful self-service and self-support tool:

  1. Offer both basic search and advanced search functions so that customers can narrow down results based on filters.
  2. Icons or product images should be used at the beginning of the self-service experience so that customers can easily identify and select the support category they need.
  3. A majority of customers will be looking for the same information (think about the FAQ agents answer on a regular basis). Make it easy to find this information by having a “Top 10 Help Articles” list front-and-center in the self-service support center.
  4. Eliminate dead ends. The customer shouldn’t have to start over from the beginning if they don’t find their answer through self-service. Let them transition from self-service to customer support. Make sure that your system has captured their information so that they don’t have to verbally repeat the problem and the steps they’ve already taken.
  5. Make sure self-service is optimized for all devices.

Self-service certainly has its positive side, but it only retains its merits when it actually works. The standard of customer service still reigns supreme – the preferred mode of accessing that customer service is what’s changed.

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