The value of customer self-service support

Catherine Heath | July 27, 2021

Today’s customers are very self-sufficient. They are used to searching for answers to their problems for themselves and don’t necessarily want to connect with a human for support. It may be hard to believe that outstanding support can happen without human agents, but the truth is that many customers prefer to help themselves. 

The facts speak for themselves: 40% of customers prefer self-service over human contact. You are doing customers a disservice if you don’t offer them a way to help themselves. 

Businesses are finding ways to provide customers with the self-help they need to be successful on their own. Rather than preventing customers from talking to your support team, companies are giving customers the option to undertake self-service support. 

While there should always be the option to talk to one of your support representatives, self-service is rapidly becoming a cornerstone of delivering outstanding customer support. 

What is customer self-service?

Customer self-service simply refers to any action a customer can take with regards to your business that doesn’t require the intervention of a company representative. 

A good example of self-service is self-service grocery store checkouts. Customers do their own shopping and then scan their own products using an automated checkout, with no help from a grocery store employee. Customers can complete their shopping experience without the aid of a human and grocery stores are able to serve more customers without hiring more employees. 

In terms of online customer support, self-service refers to the tools that companies provide to enable customers to serve themselves. An online knowledge base, customer forum, and chatbots are all examples of self-service. 

Why you should provide customer self-service

Customer self-service is a key part of your customer support experience. Without it, customers are reduced to waiting on hold or waiting for an email back from your support team. If you had a customer self-service option, many customers could just look up the answer to their question and then get on with their day. 

This improves the customer experience because customers are empowered to solve their own problems. They will appreciate that you took the time to create helpful content which can be accessed any time, anywhere. The speed and convenience of self-service support is a powerful value driver for your business. 

With self-service support you will be able to increase sales, since customers can find answers to their questions. Many customers are likely to abandon a transaction rather than facing the uncertainty of reaching out to your support team, so a knowledge base filled with useful content is a great way to attract more customers. 

Self-service support costs far less than a one-on-one interaction with your support staff. You can help more customers in the same time it would take for an agent to handle a single interaction. According to HBR, a support interaction costs $7 for a B2C company and $13 for a B2B company, while a self-service interaction costs just pennies. This represents a significant saving for your business. 

You will also improve staff morale by reducing the number of repetitive queries that your agents have to deal with. Many of these queries can be solved with self-service, freeing up your agents to spend more time on meaningful tasks, and helping those customers with more complex issues. 

 When customers prefer to use self-service

It’s a fact that customers won’t prefer to use self-service every single time, but there are a few scenarios where customers would rather solve problems on their own. 

Your business is unlikely to be able to provide 24/7 support, so when customers require help out of hours they will turn to self-service assistance. Customers can get the assistance they need from self-service resources and your company won’t have to hire extra agents to provide round the clock support. 

Sometimes your business will have long wait times and customers don’t want to sit around on hold listening to the dreaded hold music. Waiting for a long time is frustrating and a waste of customers’ time, so in these situations they are likely to turn to self-service support to solve their problem. 

Finally, when customers have very simple questions they are likely to prefer self-service to interacting with a human agent. Knowledge bases, chatbots, FAQs and blogs are all likely to be able to help a customer who can find answers to their questions without waiting around. As mentioned earlier, support reps are then free to help the more complex queries without getting bogged down in mind-numbing and repetitive questions. 

When customers prefer human intervention

Implementing customer self-service doesn’t mean you should stop investing in live customer support. There will always be those times that customers prefer to speak to a human and self-service support isn’t going to cut the mustard. 

When a customer has a complex issue, such as having problems logging into their account, the problem is likely to need escalating to the engineering team. Reading a knowledge base article isn’t going to solve the problem because there is a software issue behind the scenes. You will need a human to troubleshoot the issue and then find creative solutions to the problem, which is not possible with self-service. 

When an issue is extremely urgent, customers are likely to fire off an email to support or pick up the phone to speak to a human. These customers are looking for someone to soothe their anxieties and help them resolve a problem that is high-stakes, such as a database wiping out all of their data. In these cases, only human intervention will do. 

Sometimes, customers don’t have access to the right technology to be able to use your self-service options. Many people don’t have a computer at home, and phone support is the only way that they will be able to get help to resolve their issue. 

Types of self-service

Now we’re convinced of the value of self-service and understand when self-service options are appropriate, let’s look in some more detail at the type of self-service you can offer your customers. 

1. Self-service knowledge base

Knowledge bases are online repositories that contain helpful content for your customers in the form of user guides, troubleshooting guides, onboarding materials, and tutorials. Customers can turn to your knowledge base for quick and easy answers to their questions and use the content to get more out of your products and services. 

Content should be easy to find through your knowledge base’s search tool and indexable by search engines. Customers searching for information should be able to access relevant articles and you should surface those frequently asked questions on the homepage of your knowledge base. 

2. Chatbot

Chatbots are a great way to deal with basic customer requests and can respond to customers based on programming rules. They are always available for your customers to talk to and can gather information to help solve simple queries. 

Chatbots should be able to quickly connect customers with a live agent if more help is needed, and provide background information so agents can understand the problem the customer is having without having to ask them to repeat themselves. 

3. Community forum

You can provide an online forum for customers to share information with one another and resolve problems with the help of the community. Questions are asked and answered publicly and that information is always available in the future for customers to find. 

Your online community forum enables customers to solve both basic and more complex queries at their own convenience. Customers will enjoy feeling part of the community and gain a sense of accomplishment from helping others. 

Your community won’t flourish completely on its own. Your customer support team will still need to step in at times to answer questions and direct discussions. 

Final remarks

Combining customer self-service and live support is the best way forward when it comes to helping your customers. Giving them the freedom to choose the channel they prefer results in happier customers who stick around for the long-term. 

Self-service benefits both customers and agents, providing quick answers and freeing up your support team to focus on those customers who really need it. 

KnowledgeOwl offers knowledge base software that is perfect for your self-service strategy. Take us for a free spin today. 

About the author
Catherine Heath
Catherine Heath

Catherine is the Community Builder for KnowledgeOwl. She is also a freelance writer based in Manchester. She writes blogs, social media, copy, and designs owl-based images. 

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

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