Making Self-Service Work for your Customers

A photo of shopping baskets at a Sephora recently went viral. Grab a red basket and it means “I would like to be assisted“, and a black basket indicates “I would like to shop on my own“. Indicators of the new customer self-service reality.

Sephora Self Shop BasketsStand outside of an Amazon Go Store and you will hear some version of “So that’s it? I just walk out?” over and over again. The technology lets people shop without a bottleneck at the checkout.

Whether simple like Sephora, or the result of years of technology development, ideas like this create buzz because people love a well-designed self-service option. And beyond retail, digital self-service has a similar goal: let customers help themselves, on their schedule, the way they want. 

Self-service channels are no longer an option for brands. 88% of consumers expect a company to offer an online self-service support portal, and 66% try self-service first before engaging with an agent. This is not a future trend; it is today’s reality.

So how can you make your self-service options actually work for customers who need answers?

Focus on the customer, not the cost savings

Yes, you can save money through self-service. However, as you build out your self-service strategy, ask yourself first what would most help your customer.

Map the customer journey. How are customers finding you? What are they reading on your website, social pages, or emails? What roadblocks do they face? When you understand how a customer is interacting with your brand, it will be easier to determine the right channels for self-service.

Work with your service teams to determine the most common customer issues. You don’t have to provide troubleshooting for every possible issue. Starting with the most frequent cases will give customers quick service while freeing up customer service agents to focus on more complex problems.

Give options and a seamless experience

Amazon Go ShoppingSince customers like to engage in different ways, it is best to have several options available. Websites, mobile apps, voice response systems, and online chat are the most popular digital self-service channels, but the options you choose should fit your customer. And don’t forget to utilize video! 

It is important that whatever way a customer chooses to engage, they should feel like they are dealing with one organization. You should be retaining information each customer provides so they don’t have to start from scratch when they reach out. 

Make it easy to reach out when self-service isn’t enough

It frustrates customers when they have tried to answer their questions on their own only to find themselves at a dead end. After all, they tried to help you by using self-service, only to be let down. Your self-service won’t be perfect, but it is critical that you make it easy for customers to contact someone for help when the information they need isn’t available.

If you are sending an automated email, make it simple to respond. If you are using a chatbot, give your customer an option to connect with an agent if their issue was not resolved. In your FAQ section, include an option that says “Did you get your question answered? If not, click here to get in touch with one of your agents”. Don’t make your customers hunt for extra help. 

Customer self-service is a continuous process. You can’t set up channels and then forget about it. At PTP we’ve helped public and private organizations of all sizes develop self-service options to improve customer experience and build loyalty. 

Mark Pendolino

Authored By Mark Pendolino

Mark Pendolino is the Director of Marketing at PTP, overseeing the creation of customer experience content focused on helping organizations discover best practices for evolving the customer journey. Prior to PTP, Mark managed teams for companies such as Microsoft, Smartsheet, Fujitsu, and Parsons Brinckerhoff. Mark holds a master’s in Communication in Digital Media from the University of Washington, and a bachelor’s in Technical Communications from Metropolitan State University of Denver. In his downtime, Mark likes to thrash a bit on the drumkit and pretend he’s a rock star.

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