Customer Self-Service: What It Is & How to Do It Right

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Clint Fontanella
Clint Fontanella



Even though I am a former customer support rep, when I'm the customer I actually loathe having to work with customer service teams. It's not that I think the reps can't help or that they won't create a positive service experience, rather, it's that I'm a natural problem solver who likes to figure things out on my own. I prefer the challenge of coming up with my own solutions and won't reach out for customer support unless I truly believe I can't solve the problem by myself.


I'm not alone, either. In fact, according to Nuance Enterprise, 67% of customers prefer to use self-service options instead of speaking with a company representative. But if your customers don't want to talk to your customer service reps, how do you provide effective support for their problems?

This is where self-service options come in handy for your business. These resources make it easier for customers, like me, to find solutions to issues in a manner that we prefer. In this post, we'll break down what customer self-service is as well as how you can implement it on your company's website.

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What is self-service?

Self-service simply means that customers must complete an action or task on their own without assistance from a company employee. Unless you live in New Jersey, think about a gas station. Most U.S. gas stations will offer self-service options where you must pump your own gas. Gas stations offer this option because it's relatively easy and simple for people to operate the pumps. The gas station saves money by not hiring extra employees, and the customer is happier because getting gas is a lot quicker.

It's important to note that self-service options aren't isolated to just gas stations. Grocery stores, retail outlets, and even movie theaters now offer self-service options that reduce customer roadblocks and improve brand experience. Customer service has quickly become the next field to be affected by this trend as businesses are now offering customer self-service options that help people resolve product or service issues on their own.

Why You Should Provide Customer Self-Service

Customer self-service is quickly becoming the preferred method for customer service. That's because self-service options provide customers with faster solutions that they can find on their own time. Rather than having to pick up a phone and wait on hold, customers can use your company's resources to look up answers to simple support questions.

On the opposite end, your customer service team benefits from not having to field repetitive or similar cases. This reduces the stress on your incoming request queues and clears up more time for reps to solve complex or unique customer problems. Customers who have bigger problems and more immediate needs can now get the attention they require because your reps don't have to spend time answering simple questions.

Customer self-service is fairly easy to adopt as well as integrate into your customer service offer. If you don't offer any self-service options at the moment, one of the best places that any business can start is with its website. You can use these self-service templates to get started by building out knowledge base articles, training video scripts, and chatbot response maps. 

self service templates

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Best Examples of Website Self-Service

There are plenty of ways to add to customer self-service to your business. If you're stuck trying to come up with ideas, check out the examples below for some self-service options that you can use with your organization's website.

1. Add a knowledge base.

A knowledge base is a section of your website that helps customers solve common product issues and answer simple service questions. It includes organized documentation of your products and services and provides customers with articles that can help them troubleshoot their problems. This way, your team can record detailed troubleshooting steps for common customer roadblocks and share them with every user.

Pro tip: Pair your knowledge base with HubSpot's free Guide Creator to quickly create self-service guides in minutes. The free Chrome extension uses AI to create step-by-step instructions with images as you work. 

One company that has an intuitive knowledge base is Campaign Monitor. Its knowledge base is easy to find and helps customers navigate to the answer that they're looking for. If you take a look at the picture below, you can see that its main page includes a search bar as well as a list of color-coded categories that each link to related support documents. Additionally, Campaign Monitor's knowledge base has an "app status" feature that will connect users to a status page if there's a widespread issue with the software.

 Help-Scout-ServiceSource:Help Scout

2. Create product training for customers.

Your customer service reps benefit immensely from the training they undergo when they're learning about your products and services. They get a detailed explanation about how your products work, the common roadblocks they can expect, and how to best optimize a product for the customer's workflow. This helps them become certified product experts for your company.

But if this works so well for your customer service reps, how come your customers aren't offered the same training? Your company can offer them training on your products and services which will not only improve their customer experience but will also demonstrate a dedication to customer success.

HubSpot does exactly this through their HubSpot Academy courses and certifications programs. These free trainings are offered as video recordings that are posted onto the HubSpot Academy homepage. HubSpot users can watch these videos and complete the tasks associated with them to become more familiar with HubSpot's products and marketing ideology. Once all of the videos and tasks are complete, users can take an online test that, if passed, will reward them with a 2-year certification.

What makes these courses great is the gamification aspect that comes along with taking them. When I worked in HubSpot Support, I spoke with countless customers who were so proud to talk about the certifications they had received as well as the ones they were hoping to earn in the future. Even though the certifications were just badges that were displayed on one page next to their username, users loved receiving these certificates as it symbolized the hard work they put into mastering HubSpot tools.


3. Provide flexible automation features.

Automation is great in customer service because it saves time for both the customer and the rep. Customers can use automation features like chatbots to help them find information fast, without having to pick up the phone or email your team. Reps, on the other hand, can set up workflows that automatically send emails to customers and remind them to follow up on open cases.

When it comes to customer-facing automation, it's important to make sure that these features are flexible and intuitive. Customers should be able to ask questions in different ways and receive consistent answers for every inquiry.

Take Blue Diamond, for example. Blue Diamond offers a chatbot that provides unique responses based on the conversation it has with the customer. It begins with letting the customer select the product they have a question about, then presents a list of potential subtopics that may be related to the customer's needs.

While most chatbots will stop there, Blue Diamond's has the ability to field direct questions as well. For example, if I were to ask, "Is almond milk gluten-free?" the majority of chatbots would provide me with a few potential documents based on the keywords that it finds in my question. Blue Diamond's chatbot, however, doesn't provide you with page links but instead a simple, direct answer to your question, like in the example below (if you were wondering, yes, almond milk is gluten-free).

Blue-Diamond-Self-ServiceSource: Blue Diamond

4. Include escalation options.

Forrester believes that in 2019 customers will start to demonstrate a backlash against chatbot support. This is because 60% of chatbots don't offer escalation options during the chat. Instead, customers have to call into the support line directly if they wish to escalate their issue to a live rep. This can ruin your customers' workflow, especially if they're just looking for a quick clarification on one or two details in the chatbot's response.

One company that includes escalation options is Omega Market. Omega Market uses a messenger tool that fields incoming services requests as chats. If the customer wants to escalate the issue, they can simply request to speak with a live rep at any point during the chat. The rep then asks the customer for their preferred contact method and reaches out directly to continue the conversation in a live environment. While you hope they aren't used often, escalation options are crucial to providing a seamless omni-channel experience for your customers.


Source:Astute Solutions

These examples can be integrated into almost any business's customer service team. If your team is stuck coming up with new ideas, consider adopting a few of these methods to improve customer self-service at your company.

If you're looking for more information about customer self-service, take a look at the infographic below.

For more ways to help your customers reach their goals, read about the most effective customer service strategies.

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