You offer self-service because that’s what companies do these days. But is it what customers really want?
The good news: Customers prefer self-service for many of their questions and issues. The not-so-good news: They don’t necessarily think of the company they do business with as the best place to get help.
When customers need help, 82% are most likely to do a Google search for what they want, a Coveo study recently found. Meanwhile, 55% are most likely to try the company’s self-service options, the study found.
It’s not enough
So, yes, customers want self-service. But what’s offered to them right now isn’t enough in many situations.
Why? Customers biggest complaint is that self-service isn’t always effortless. They understand they have to take some steps to ask their questions or present their issues. But then they expect that getting answers and solutions will be as easy as getting a meal delivered to their table at a restaurant after ordering.
So your goal shouldn’t just be to offer customers self-service options — such as account portals, knowledge bases, videos and click-through transactions. It needs to be to provide customers with self-service that requires even less effort.
Here are Coveo’s best practices to launch effortless self-service or improve existing structures:
1. Get the vision right
Before launching or changing a self-service system, you want a clear vision of what you hope customers will experience. Is it faster service? Is it easier? Is it thorough? Is it a stepping stone? Is it all of that?
The best way to establish the right vision is to gauge where you meet and miss customer expectations now. You might discover that what you think you should change or improve is not something your customers expect. Survey customers on what they want and what they actually use. Test your systems from a customer perspective. Monitor usage to find out where customers go for answers and where they eventually find them.
Base your vision on what customers will use and what you can realistically support.
2. Make it easy (or easier) for customers, not just you
Self-service, by design, is easy … for companies. It allows you to eliminate people and processes. But that doesn’t suddenly make it easy for customers.
Considering most people turn to Google as their first line of self-service contact, you want to make it easy for Google to give them that information, Coveo experts say. Grant Google access to information about your company, products and services. If your knowledge base that customers need access to is behind a firewall, they will not find what they need in their searches.
Once you give customers access to all of the information that can help them self-serve — blogs, website, FAQs, YouTube videos, file shares, customer communities — you want to keep those sources as consistent as possible. It will take effort to regularly scour them all for inconsistencies, and for that reason, you might need to limit the number of self-serve options you provide.
3. Manage the knowledge and be consistent
The best self-service is managed from several angles. You’ll want a person or people who collect content from product and service developers, salespeople, customers, front-line service pros and anyone else who has intimate knowledge of your products, issues and what customers need.
A different person or people may handle the content creation, making it relevant, findable, up-to-date and usable. You’ll also want people to manage old content, deciding what’s relevant and what can be archived regularly.
It’s a never-ending cycle of gathering, creating, updating and filtering information customers can use; then keeping it consistently reliable across all self-service channels.
4. Stay connected
As the number of self-service inquiries rise, employees will have less contact with customers. As a result, valuable information on pressing issues could be lost in the disconnect. That’s why it’s important to collect and analyze the information that comes through the self-service channels.
Many vendors provide technology that captures and analyzes customers’ search activity and how effective the information was that they found. It can help identify the most relevant answers and show where updates may need to be made.
Companies need to know what customers do in their self-serve experiences so they can improve and evolve the in-person experiences.
5. Constantly improve
The best companies use the information they gather through their self-service technology, plus situations that are escalated to a live person, to find content gaps, usage patterns and relevant information.
Then they use that information to form and provide more content, get rid of content that doesn’t serve customers’ needs, eliminate dead-end information searches and uncover what information works well on desktop browsers, but not mobile devices.