3 Ways to Help Your Team Create a Better Self-Service Experience

Self-service can seem like a panacea.

There is no doubt people want it. A 2017 report from Microsoft found that 90% of consumers expect companies to offer a self-service option.

Companies clearly benefit, too. A customer using self-service is one less customer contacting a live agent. Agents can be expensive, and saving money is at or near the top of every executive’s wish list when it comes to support.

Deflecting simpler support requests also frees up agents to provide better support to customers who have complicated issues that take more time than simple transactions.

There is one counterintuitive key to achieving the self-service dream: people.

Smart companies recognize their support agents are essential to making self-service work.

Here are three ways your people can help make self-service awesome.

Make live agents easy to access

Many companies make the mistake of driving people to self-service by intentionally making live agents difficult to reach.

You may have experienced the indignity of repeatedly yelling “Human!” into the phone. Or perhaps you had to navigate through a frustrating support website just to find the Contact Us page.

This can cause unnecessary friction.

Customers tend to get upset when they perceive a company makes it too difficult to reach support. That makes agents’ jobs harder since studies show angry customers are more judgmental and less open to ideas. That’s a toxic combination that results in lower customer satisfaction and longer contact resolution times.

A better customer support strategy is to make live agents easily accessible.

This reduces friction by giving customers a clear choice between self-service and connecting with an agent. Many customers will still opt to solve issues on their own if you make self-service clear, intuitive, and simple to use.

You will also reduce the aggravation factor for customers who want to connect with an agent, which means your agents will spend more time solving issues and less time calming down angry people.

Identify preventable contacts

If you can buy your support agents some extra time, you can enlist their help to identify live contacts that could have been handled via self-service.

Many customer service software programs allow you to do this. A low-tech alternative is to have agents manually track the reasons customers contact support and enter the results into a spreadsheet. Agents can also be trained to ask customers if they tried using self-service before reaching out for help.

This information will help you identify the top reasons why customers choose to contact a live agent instead of using self-service. It will also help you improve your self-service offering, which in turn will cause more customers to use it.

Here are three common reasons why customers skip self-service:

  • The customer could not find the appropriate self-service resource.
  • A knowledge base article was poorly written or confusing.
  • The self-service option did not work as intended.

Your agents can help track and fix these issues. For example, many support teams give their agents the ability to flag errors in knowledge base articles or even update them on the fly when missing or incorrect information is discovered. This can pay immediate dividends by preventing additional contacts on the same issue.

Allow your live agents to provide real help

Customer support agents often face pressure to resolve contacts quickly.

They run three live chat sessions simultaneously. They are held to productivity standards for messaging queues. Some contact centers still hold phone support agents accountable for talk time.

That pressure frequently causes agents to rush through contacts and skip opportunities to help customers avoid future issues.

Agents can play a critical role in driving future self-service interactions by taking a moment to educate customers. They can suggest helpful links or even walk a customer through a knowledge-base or self-help portal.

This may add a small amount of extra time to the interaction, but it can eliminate a future interaction entirely.

People are the key

While self-service continues to grow in importance, good agents are the key to making to making it work.

Your support agents act as a safety net when a customer cannot resolve an issue on their own. Agents also receive daily customer feedback that can be used to improve self-service.

By empowering your agents, you will create a better system for customers to help themselves.

Jeff Toister
Jeff Toister

Jeff is a customer service trainer and consultant, and the author of The Service Culture Handbook.

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