Making the case for self-service customer support (with statistics)

Catherine Heath | December 16, 2019

Businesses are scrambling to invest in customer self-service, and customer expectations are rising. As if you needed convincing that customer self-service was a good idea, sometimes it helps to look at the data. 

It goes without saying that online self-service is an important part of your support strategy, but it should only be executed alongside excellent human-to-human service.

According to one HBR article, customers prefer self-service – unless ît undermines customer support. At the moment, many customers only resort to self-service because the alternative of jumping through hoops to contact a human is just too painful. This is the wrong approach. 

Self-service should be an appealing, viable alternative to human interaction, blending seamlessly with all other methods of communication. A live customer service agent should still be just a click away, for example. It’s like when you go to an airport: there’s a choice between a self-service kiosk and a friendly human behind a desk. Not one or the other. 

There’s a clear connection between your self-service portal and your customer support team, and the customer is in the driving seat. The customer gets to choose.

Self-service is what customers expect from brands

All businesses must strive to meet customer expectations, which are ever-changing and increasing. Unfortunately, there is a widening gap between the levels of customer service businesses deliver, and the standards that customers expect. 

First of all, 12% of Americans rated their biggest frustration with customer service as a lack of speed in resolving issues. Happily, 72% of customers think self-service support is a fast and easy way to resolve support issues. It’s much easier to search inside a knowledge base application than it is to wait on hold for 20 minutes to speak to a person. 

That’s one of the reasons why 67% of customers would rather use a self-service option than speak to a customer service rep, and 70% of customers expect a company’s website to include a self-service application. 

It’s not just because they can’t stand waiting on the line. Many of whom have been brought up relying on Google for information, 71% of customers prefer to solve issues independently. They consider having to contact a human as a sign that they’ve failed to fix a problem themselves. 

Although customers don’t always behave uniformly, on the whole they prefer to use self-service as a way to resolve support issues. 

Self-service impacts customer loyalty; so any self-service implementation must be successful. Customers who attempt to self-serve before resorting to picking up a phone are 10% more likely to be disloyal. The goal is to increase the proportion of successful self-service attempts, with high quality and relevant support content. 

Self-service is part of an overall trend in online behavior

The line between what customers independently demand and what they have been conditioned to expect is blurred. The spread of technology has affected almost every aspect of daily life, and customers are used to going online for all manner of activities. 

That’s why 92% of adults use search engines to find information on the internet, and 63% of millennials begin all customer service interactions online. If businesses lack a professional online presence, they risk coming across as out-of-date and over-the-hill. 

Embraced by businesses and customers alike, automation is gaining ground. By 2020, it’s estimated that 80% of all customer service interactions will be automated and managed by the customer. Human agents will only need to intervene in the most complex, high-level cases. 

On the other hand, it’s reported that more than 50% of customers can’t solve a customer service issue on their own due to a lack of information online. Businesses who fail to communicate online with their customers are at risk of not meeting their obligations. 

What’s more, customers are very impatient. After 10 minutes of searching online, 52% of customers said they give up and call or email the company instead. Luckily, only 12% of American consumers say they are unable to find the information they need in a self-service portal.

Self-service offers cost-saving benefits for businesses

Self-service not only benefits customers, it’s good for businesses too. More than 25% of companies said that self-service reduced cost per contact, and one financial company saved $5.4 million annually due to self-service. 

It’s easy to see why self-service saves money when you look at the figures. A conversation with a live customer support agent costs between $6-12, while an automated customer interaction costs as little as 25 cents. Missing the opportunity to deflect tickets with a self-service solution can cost businesses up to $12 more per interaction.

At one industrial equipment supplier, reviewing their support processes revealed that if only one in 12 customers could learn to self-diagnose their technical issues, the firm could save $10 million in maintenance costs over a period of 18 months. 

Businesses are still missing the mark when it comes to self-service opportunities. Unfortunately, an average of $22 million is spent annually on unnecessary service costs due to channel escalation. This is all as a result of a customer’s inability to self-serve effectively. 

If done right, self-service has the potential to save your company millions of dollars. 

Self-service positively impacts customer support teams

Self-service is good for business, and the people on the ground dealing with your customers every day. Since automating customer issues lowers the number of cases, 45% of companies implementing online self-service reported measurable reductions in phone enquiries. 39% saw a reduction in email traffic overall. 

Consulting a self-service knowledge base is faster than waiting for a customer service rep to get back to you. 75% of customers ranked speedy response times as the most important factor in good customer service, and a self-service knowledge base can help CS teams shorten their average queue time. 

75% of companies said that their First Level Resolution, First Contact Resolution, Cost Per Contact, and Cost Per Incident rates saw improvement as a result of implementing self-service. 80% of companies said speed to answer was reduced, while 65% of companies reported reduced call abandonment rates.

Self-service results in a large number of both customer-focused and business-focused benefits for companies. 

Self-service can help you deliver exceptional customer service

Self-service is not opposed to the traditional goals of customer service. It’s a crucial part of the overall customer service package. Customers don’t view your businesses in terms of channels or departments: they just want to be successful with whatever product or service you’re providing them with. 

96% of customers claimed that customer service was an important factor determining their loyalty to a brand, while 51% of customers said that they left a business because of one single negative experience. For customers, poor service is when you fail to help them or solve a problem, so providing timely knowledge base content is all part of the deal. 

Since 90% of customers expect to find an online portal for customer service, businesses are obliged to provide one.

73% of customers said valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to win their business, and a self-service knowledge base is one of the fastest ways to resolve the majority of customer issues. 

Self-service improves sales

You may have been imagining self-service as only being executed after the sale, but it also has a lot to offer when customers are considering whether to buy from you. 

53% of customers will abandon their online purchases if they can’t find a speedy answer to their question. Cart abandonment is a huge issue for ecommerce companies, and one of the main reasons driving cart abandonment is a lack of adequate information. Linking to relevant online resources can reassure your potential customers they are making the right decision to buy from you.

Happily, 47% of companies reported an increase in sales after implementing self-service. 79% of millennials are more likely to buy from brands who offer a mobile-responsive customer support portal, so make sure whatever solution you choose works well on mobile. 

Final remarks

Self-service is the bare minimum of what customers expect now, but customers will abandon an attempt to self-serve if information isn’t easily available or your portal is hard to use. Also, it should go hand-in-hand with other methods of customer support. Instead of being a pushy waiter, self-service is like the butler in the background who knows exactly how and when to assist, but is seen and not heard. 

It’s not a place to cut costs. Self-service should not only be implemented, but implemented well. It should complement a well-oiled customer support team who know how to delight your customers, with a focus on helping customers – rather than saving money. 

You can take our very own knowledge base software for a spin now. 


About the author
Catherine Heath
Catherine Heath

Catherine is a freelance writer based in Manchester. She writes blogs, social media, copy, and designs owl-based images. She believes in ditching the jargon – just give her plain writing.

You can find out more about Catherine on her personal websites Away With Words and Catherine Heath Studios.


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