Customers Want to Help Themselves: Here’s How to Make it Easier For Them

As customers have got more tech-savvy and less patient, a new aspect of customer service has emerged: self-service.

As many as 81% of customers (source: Harvard Business Review) actively try to answer their own questions before consulting a representative. In addition to supporting effective agent interactions, you now also need to make it as easy as possible for customers to problem-solve alone. But you need to do so without making them feel like they can’t talk to you directly if they prefer.

Based on a live conversation between our own Joe Jorczak, Yext’s Head of Industry, Customer Service & Support, and Joel Sandi, Director of Self-Service at sales engagement platform Outreach, here are a few key takeaways on how to develop a customer service experience that’s the right balance of helpful, efficient, and welcoming.

Listen to your customers

Your customers are already telling you what they want, if you know where to look. Every interaction with customer service is a prime opportunity to identify and address issues and gaps in customer experience.

There are three main sources of customer service data that can help you judge how your customers are feeling:

1. Search function

The search function on your website is likely one of the first places self-service customers will try. And because search terms are written in customers’ own words, they provide highly relevant insights into the keywords and phrases your search function needs to recognize in order to identify and address various concerns.

2. Ticket data

Your customer couldn’t find the information they needed by themselves. Their next step will probably be sending you the details about their problem in a contact form, email, or through an AI-powered chatbot. All of these methods present more opportunities to find out what customers want—as long as you can organize and analyse the data.

3. Agents’ feedback

Customers with queries might skip the email and call your customer service line the moment their own searches turn up empty. Or they might see talking to a human as a last resort. Either way, your agents are the ones who are fielding calls every day. They know better than anyone which topics come up most often and which issues get customers most irate. Treat your agents’ feedback and notes as the valuable resources they are.

Design intuitive UI

Since most customers’ first response to a problem is to look for a solution on their own, making that fact-finding mission as easy as possible improves their overall experience.

Using the data you’ve gathered from your customer service channels, look at which commonly occurring problems and questions could be addressed through self-service options.

For example, if people are looking for product information that already exists but has been buried in your site map, make it easier to find. If people are struggling to navigate your demo-booking process, add a button or a chatbot that does this in a few steps.

That said, you don’t want to make it hard for customers to contact agents when they need to. Too much focus on self-service, at the expense of agent assistance, can make customers feel like they’re being given the cold shoulder.

Companies in the process of updating their UI also need to retrain existing customers on how to use the new version of the website. Imagine going to your local grocery store to do your weekly shop, only to find they’ve moved everything around. Your customers feel that same frustration of nothing being where they expected it to be.

To help, make sure your UI is designed to lead customers through the new user journey with as little friction as possible—and prep your support agents to explain it to confused customers.

Understand your self-service score

In order to have a holistic impression of your customers’ experience, you need to know how and when they’re using your website. Track where customers are clicking, fluctuations in traffic, and how long they’re staying on the site and each page.

All this information can indicate how well you’re set up to help customers help themselves. For a rudimentary customer service score, compare how many people are on the site against the number of tickets opened at the same time. The lower the score, the more people were able to find what they needed without assistance.

To get more specific, compare what customers are typing in search and as they browse against the topics that are coming up in customer service tickets. This can help you put together a picture of what customers want to find, where they’re coming up empty-handed, and the kinds of content needed to fill those knowledge gaps.

Of course, self-service is just the preliminary step in customer service. You also need to assess how many of those people who reached out for help found what they were looking for, and how long it took. Efficiency and accuracy matter in all styles of customer service outreach, including self-service and agent interactions.

Work across functions

Every function should be represented in content creation—including customer service. When they have access to news and details about the product, they can serve customers more effectively. And as the people hear direct feedback about the product, service and company, they have valuable information other functions need.

One way to ensure this collaboration is to create a cross-functional content committee. Members from all areas of the business meeting to contribute ideas and knowledge for new content, and to collect existing pieces they can share with their respective teams.

When you include customer service in cross-functional activities, you not only benefit from their knowledge, you remind them that they are an essential business asset.

Conclusion

Helping customers readily access the information they need starts with finding out what they want to know, in their own words. It’s only when you can see the gaps that you can start to fill them, with new content and smart UI.

There will always be some customers who prefer to go directly to an agent. And there will always be some queries that no FAQ page, video or blog post could hope to cover, which require human intervention. That’s fine: The point of these ideas is not to push self-service over any other kind of customer service interaction. The point is to acknowledge that more customers are looking for answers independently and to give them the resources to do so, while also supporting agent-led conversations.

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