September 15, 2019

It's Not You, It's Bots: Why Some Customers Prefer Self-Service Support Over Human Support Agents

Article

Given the choice, some of your customers would rather interact with a machine than speak to a member of your support team.

If you’re a support agent or team manager, don’t take it personally; it’s just business. In fact, a shift to self-service customer support could end up saving you plenty of money, time, and resources.

How much can you save by providing self-service support resources? Potentially millions.

According to the Harvard Business Review, one company found that providing customers with resources to better self-diagnose could save millions of dollars in maintenance costs. More specifically, by enabling just one in twelve customers to self-diagnose technical problems more effectively, the firm would save $10 million in the span of fewer than 18 months.

What is self-service customer support?

A self-service solution allows customers to fix their own problems and solve their own small-scale issues.

This might include resources that provide detailed information so that fewer customers need to get in touch with support agents – which means you can deliver high-quality support with shorter wait times and faster solutions.

Self-service customer support isn’t just about minimizing customer-agent interaction. It’s about empowering your customers by giving them constant access to the information needed to resolve routine support issues.

Why do so many customers prefer self-service support?

It’s not necessarily that customers don’t like speaking to human agents, but self-service support is often viewed as the faster, easier option. In fact, according to a survey by Nuance Enterprise, 75% of consumers feel self-service is a convenient way to address their support issues.

Why do so many customers prefer self-service solutions?

Modern consumers are resourceful and like to find solutions on their own whenever possible. Not only does this reduce support costs for businesses, but getting customers actively involved in the resolution process can also foster a sense of engagement with and commitment to your product or service.

Plus, self-service resources allow customers to find answers without wasting time on hold, waiting for an email response, or detailing their issue to multiple support agents. That is, as long as the issue is simple enough to be handled by self-service support.

What type of self-service resources should you offer?

When you hear the phrase ‘self-service,’ you might think about self-checkouts that customers can use to make purchases without employee interaction. Support takes self-service to another level, by giving customers independence to help themselves long after their initial purchase.

The most popular types of self-service customer support include FAQs, knowledge bases, and interactive voice recognition.

1. FAQs

Create a list of frequently asked questions and provide the answers on your website. This gives customers the power to help themselves, while making more efficient use of company resources. Make sure they’re easy to find, easy to understand, and broken down into specific categories and topics.

2. Centralized knowledge base

Develop a database that contains information on the most common support issues your customers call about most often. This type of knowledge database is generally more in-depth than a simple FAQ page – which makes it ideal for helping customers with technical issues, products, and services.

3. Chatbots

Instead of (or in addition to) allowing your customers to search for information in an online knowledge, chatbots can provide conversational answers through a web or mobile chat interface. Customers can ask questions in natural language and chatbots can give them the answer directly or link them to a longer knowledge base article.

4. Interactive voice recognition (IVR)

Businesses use IVR technology to let customers find answers or perform simple tasks by speaking to an automated voice system. An IVR system ensures each customer can complete their task (such as checking current wait times for in-store support or renewing a subscription) as soon as they call, without waiting on hold.

How to help customers get the most from your self-support resources

In the coming years, a growing number of consumers will expect businesses to provide self-service support options.

According to Gartner, by 2020, 85% of all customer engagement with enterprise companies will take place without human interaction. The sooner your business gets on board with self-service support, the sooner you’ll be able to meet shifting consumer expectations.

If you’re going to offer self-service support in any form, make sure to do it right. Here’s what you can keep in mind to ensure your agents and customers are both comfortable with adopting a self-service support strategy.

1. Focus on customer needs

Listen to your customers to find out exactly what they’re struggling with and what aspects of your product are most confusing. This will allow you to build your self-service strategy based on what your customers actually need, not just what you think they want.

A study by Coleman Parkes for Amdocs found that 91% of survey respondents would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs. So, the better you tailor your self-service options to your customers’ needs, the more likely they are to use it – and the more you’ll save on support costs.

How to help customers get the most from your self-support resources

2. Make it accessible

You want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to find and start using your self-service support solutions. So, ensure the resources are easy to find on your website, navigate, and use.

Your resources should be mobile-friendly and accessible on any platform, so your customers can look up their solution whether they’re at home, at work, or on the go.

3. Spread the word

Even if you create the most comprehensive, useful resource possible, none of your customers will benefit from it unless they know it exists.

So, on top of making it easy to find on your website, there are a number of ways you can promote your knowledge base or FAQ page. For instance, whenever an agent (or AI-powered chatbot) responds to an email or chat request, they should include a link to the relevant self-service resource for future reference.

4. Stick to a simple, clean interface

Another way to encourage more customers to use your self-service solutions is to simplify the user experience.

If a customer can’t find what they want or can’t navigate your knowledge base, who are they going to call for help? That’s right, your support team – which negates the whole purpose of offering self-service support in the first place.

Steer clear of clunky, text-heavy documentation that customers might struggle to navigate. Instead, design a self-service resource to include visual aids like screenshots and video tutorials that make it easier for customers to digest the information.

If your knowledge base is particularly detailed, you should also set up some sort of search hierarchy to allow customers to navigate self-help documents easily. Something as simple as a basic search bar can make it much more convenient for customers to find answers to their specific questions.

faq page best practices

5. Keep looking for ways to improve

Now that you know how to create self-support resources that your customers will actually want to use, you need to make a point of keeping your resources in line with evolving customer needs.

This goes beyond updating FAQ content to accommodate for new products and bug fixes; it also requires encouraging customer feedback to ensure your database and resources remain helpful and relevant.

It's not always the right choice: what to do when self-service support doesn’t work

Self-service support isn’t always the best way to solve a customer’s problem. If the issue is too complicated, unique, or difficult for the customer to understand, your support team needs to step in and help them reach a resolution.

So, go ahead and add some self-service elements to your support strategy, but remember to balance it out with a human touch. Make sure your customers have the option to interact with a human agent if their issue isn’t appropriate for self-service.

Ideally, you should provide omnichannel customer support that includes self-service resources as well as AI-powered chatbots and human agents that work together to provide the highest possible level of customer support.

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