What is customer self-service?

A customer self-service offering is key to empowering customers with information while also reducing the burden on customer service professionals.

Customer self-service takes a variety of forms, including but not limited to: help centers or knowledge bases, customer portals, FAQ or glossary pages, mobile apps, AI-powered chat and messaging services, or customer communities. What each of these mechanisms have in common is that they help customers find the answers they’re looking for without the involvement of a customer support representative – thus reducing the burden on customer service or customer support teams. Plus, they build trust by demonstrating the breadth of a brand’s knowledge to its customers and prospects.

More and more, brands are relying on customer self-service methods to cut costs, increase the efficiency of their live agents, and improve the overall customer experience.

What is a customer self-service portal?

A customer self-service portal is a branded website where customers can access useful information and complete actions that help them resolve any issues they’re facing with your product or service. A customer self-service should enable readers to address common needs quickly by linking to valuable resources.

These resources can include:

  • An FAQ page that contains answers to customers’ most frequently asked queries. A good practice for FAQ pages is to answer the question in a concise way, but then link to longer resources in a knowledge base.
  • Knowledge base or help center content that covers as much ground as possible around how to best use your products or services, and how to troubleshoot common issues. A knowledge base should be equipped with smart filtering capabilities so that the information is easy to find.
  • A community forum where customers come together to share their experiences, ask questions, and document solutions to common problems. A robust community forum will also have customer ambassadors roles that recognize individuals who have invested a lot of time into helping others and promoting new ways of using the brand’s products.
  • AI-powered chat and messaging services that can answer simple queries and surface useful articles or help guides from your knowledge base. This is a great way for brands to ensure that they provide always-on support, without further burdening their agents. Plus, agents are freed up to spend more time on the conversations that require a human touch.

What are the benefits of a customer self-service strategy?

A multi-pronged customer self-service strategy can benefit both customers and support teams. Here’s how:

  • It provides convenience, flexibility, and always-on support to customers. More often than not, today’s customers prefer doing their own research and problem solving to speaking to a customer support representative. They also prioritize being able to resolve issues quickly as a key customer satisfaction metric. As such, having robust self-service options can help a brand better serve their customers and enhance their trust in the brand.
  • Customer self-service offerings make customer service teams more efficient and effective. As customers spend more time solving their own problems, agents are freed up to be fully present in the support conversations they do have. This means their resolution time is likely shorter and they are more likely to arrive at a satisfactory resolution. Plus, having a comprehensive knowledge base and/or help center can make it easier to train new customer service agents during their onboarding.
  • It can help a company lower costs. Investing in building a robust customer self-service portal can save a lot of time and money in the long run, and help with customer retention, making it a healthy choice for the bottom line.

What are the best practices for a customer self-service strategy?

For brands looking to set up a customer self-service strategy, it’s worth employing a series of best practices that can both optimize customer satisfaction and future-proof any efforts in this space.

First, teams should include multiple self-service channels that meet different customer needs. This can help account for different learning styles and accessibility needs, ensuring that anyone that comes to the site can easily find a solution.

Another best practice that’s becoming increasingly important is automation. Technology is getting smarter every day, particularly when it comes to finding solutions to common problems, and leveraging machine learning and automated workflows can be an effective way to help customers solve issues quickly.

Taking an integrated, omnichannel approach to customer self-service, one that gathers data and connects to a customer relationship management platform, can make it much easier for an agent to pick up where the customer left off. Whether they’ve viewed a particular article or engaged with the automated chat service, it should be clear to an agent what knowledge this customer already has. This approach can help teams offer consistent experiences, no matter how the customer reaches out, thus nurturing loyalty and trust.

Alongside a customer self-service offering, there should be key performance indicators and performance metrics that help evaluate the success of each channel. This should also include actively reaching out to customers for feedback or using polls at the end of each exchange so they can indicate if they were able to solve their issue. This way, teams can determine where to continue investing as they further build out their customer self-service tools.

For customers that are new to a technical product, in-app product tours can be another way to easily help customers help themselves. Adopting these guided experiences – ones that customers can easily opt out of if they wish – is a proactive way to support users and drive adoption.

With all the associated benefits for customers and companies alike, having a customer self-service strategy is becoming a must for businesses of all sizes.

Intercom Support