Customer Experience News & Trends

How self-service fails customers – and 4 ways yours can deliver success

Most customers use self-service. But most of the time self-service fails them. Here’s why – and how your customer experience can be better. 

About 70% of customers use self-service to get help for anything – from common questions and delivery updates to making payments and scouring order histories.

Problem is, only about 10% of customers fully resolve their issues through self-service, according to recent research from Gartner. More often, they need to search another channel and/or get in touch with a person via phone, email, messaging or social media.

Customers who have to go through a few channels or end up with a disconnected experience aren’t satisfied.

“Leaders depend on self-service and digital channels to solve customer problems without a clear approach,” the Gartner researchers noted. “56% of service leaders are adding new channels or features within their existing channels, but customers are still calling for live support – adding cost and complexity to service operations.”

What’s worse: The more channels companies add to their self-service menu, the more contacts customers need to make to get their issues resolved or questions answered!

Here are the four biggest pitfalls to self-service, plus expert advice on how to overcome them and make the customer experience seamless and satisfying.

1. Too much content, not enough management

Online, accessible information is the most prevalent form of self-service.

“Companies create a lot of content, and then they’re not able to upkeep the content,” says Isabella Mongalo, Director of Digital Care Strategy at Sitel. “They can’t keep it fresh. Often, no one is assigned to do that job.”

So customers find out-of-date information. Or they can’t find what they need at all because it’s either buried in too much information or doesn’t come in a natural flow.

Fix: “Companies want to try to simplify how their content is set up. Make the information easy to find, properly organized and searchable,” Mongalo says. One way is to create the Content Manager position – the person who creates and edits new content and constantly monitors to keep it fresh with the most relevant information easiest to access. Another way: Adopt artificial intelligence (AI) that monitors conversations, online activity and other types of messaging to identify the most important topics and keep them updated and at the top of searches.

2. Hidden content and channels

Some companies want customers to use self-service so much they make it difficult for customers to find answers quickly. For instance, they might make self-care options – FAQs, video tutorials, etc. – the predominant result in searches. Then they bury the channels customers really want for quicker answers – chat, social, messaging. Or customers might experience inconsistencies, finding answers in one channel today, and after a long search, answers somewhere else tomorrow.

Fix: “Companies want to figure out where customers are looking for answers,” Mongalo says. “Then be there.” Monitor channel activity. Then keep the channels where customers look for answers the most available and up-to-date.

3. Limited flexibility

When customers can’t get their issue fixed in one self-service channel they have to navigate to another channel. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but only if the experience is seamless. Otherwise, customers get frustrated with self-service when one channel fails and they have to figure out where to go next and how to get there.

Fix: “The channels that allow the most flexibility, allowing consumers to get help quickly and effectively have the best chance of meeting customer expectations, reducing effort, driving satisfaction and loyalty,” Mongalo says. Often that’s messaging, which happens in “real life,” according to her. If the issue can’t be resolved there, they can seamlessly move to a website.

4. Managed incorrectly

Many organizations approach self-service as an IT project. Because they’re “projects” and not a “business asset,” they become outdated and unattended once they’re implemented.

Fix: “Manage self-service capabilities like a product, not an IT project,” Gartner says. They’re part of the experience just as much as product customers use or service customers demand. Treat self-service as such.

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