Skip to content

Self-service customer support: All power to the customers

If customers can find answers to their issues independently, they will – and they’ll be very happy about being able to do it. While it's not necessarily a groundbreaking process, self-service customer support remains a reliable and effective way to provide satisfaction – so long as it’s executed the right way.

According to NICE’s 2022 Digital-First Customer Experience Report, 53% of businesses believe their customers are very satisfied with the self-service resources they offer, but only 15% of consumers agree with that assessment.¹ At the same time, the report found that 81% of consumers actually expect more self-service options.

As you can see, there's a significant gap between what businesses assume customers think or want, and those customers’ actual needs. 

However, companies that are mindful of these needs and willing to put in the work to meet escalating demands are taking action. Our Customer Service Trends Report 2023 found that 77% of support leaders intend to boost investments in self-service support for enhanced efficiency over the next year.²

In this article, we’ll cover the benefits of self-service support and how best to implement it. You'll also learn best practices and find real-world examples showcasing how companies utilizing self-service are able to attain remarkable outcomes.

What is self-service customer support?

Self-service support is a process that enables customers to solve problems on their own, without having to rely on support teams. By providing the necessary tools and resources – including knowledge bases, FAQs, and chatbots – companies empower customers and ease the workload for their support representatives.

What is the objective of self-service support?

The objective of self-service support is to equip customers with the necessary tools and resources to solve problems independently, reducing reliance on support teams and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Why should you implement self-service support?

Round-the-clock availability

One major advantage self-service support provides is the 24/7 accessibility it offers. Customers can seek help anytime, day or night, including on the weekends. This unmatched availability offers convenience and ease-of-use for users – serving as constant reassurance that support is always a mere click away.

Efficient and effortless issue resolution

Self-service options pave the way for swift and seamless issue resolution. Customers can quickly locate answers to their questions and resolve issues without enduring hold times or engaging in lengthy conversations with support reps. 

Empowering autonomy

Self-service customer support empowers individuals to take charge of their own problem-solving journey. It grants them a sense of independence and autonomy, enabling them to proactively find solutions without relying on the availability of others.

Improved customer satisfaction

According to Statista, 88% of customers surveyed stated that they expect brands to have a self-service support portal.³ This sets a baseline for customer satisfaction. Nevertheless, there's still a significant opportunity to exceed these expectations and increase customer satisfaction even further by providing self-service resources.

Frictionless experience

The array of benefits offered by self-service customer support helps to make for a smoother, less frustrating, and more generally satisfying journey. Effortless access to what customers need fosters a positive overall experience, a crucial factor in encouraging them to return to your product.

Increased efficiency and productivity 

According to McKinsey’s The State of Customer Care in 2022, 65% of customer care leaders credited enhanced self-service for reducing call volumes.⁴ Decreasing the influx of repetitive queries to inboxes allows your team to channel their expertise into addressing more complex issues and critical matters.


As your customer base increases, the need for efficient, scalable support grows, too. Implementing self-service options makes it possible for you to assist hundreds or even thousands of users simultaneously without overwhelming your team or forcing you to expand your personnel.

When do customers prefer self-service support?

When they need a quick answer to a simple question

Customers often turn to self-service support when they need a speedy resolution to a straightforward inquiry. Whether it's finding basic information or troubleshooting common issues, self-service options deliver the convenience of instant, actionable answers.

When they experience long wait times for customer support teams

When faced with lengthy wait times for assistance from live support teams, customers appreciate the efficiency of self-service support. Self-service options allow them to bypass time-consuming queues and find solutions independently, reducing the potential for frustration and dissatisfaction. 

When they require assistance outside of regular business hours

Nights, weekends, and holidays sometimes bring unexpected issues. Having support resources available 24/7 gives customers the peace of mind that they don't need to wait until business hours to get help. 

When they encounter repeated issues

Customers don't want to call service departments multiple times to try to reach resolution on the same issue. By providing comprehensive self-service support, they can resolve similar issues on their own, reducing dependency on support teams.

When they want a smooth onboarding process

When first starting out with a product or service, customers appreciate a seamless onboarding experience. Self-service resources, such as tutorials, user guides, and interactive demos, guide consumers through the initial setup, allowing them to hit the ground running without interruptions or delays.

Examples of self-service customer support

Now that you have a clear understanding of the situations in which self-service customer support excels, let's explore a few concrete examples of how to effectively put this customer support asset into action.

Help center articles

The cornerstone of self-service support is a help center or knowledge base. These resources essentially serve as repositories of information that cover various aspects of your products or services and address common troubleshooting issues.

Typically, companies have two types of knowledge bases: internal and external.

An internal knowledge base aims to disseminate pertinent information among employees. It can cover a range of topics, such as HR policies, IT support, corporate guidelines, and more. 

For example, an internal knowledge base can serve as a self-service IT support hub, enabling employees to independently find solutions and troubleshoot common problems like password resets or software installations.

On the other hand, an external knowledge base is designed to assist customers and users of your product. It provides guidance on product usage, industry trends, and other useful information for the target audience.

An external knowledge base can incorporate a range of diverse resources, including:

  • Manuals with detailed instructions on how to maximize the benefits of a product or service.

  • Video demonstrations and product tours that offer visual insights into the product’s features and functionalities.

  • Industry-specific glossaries to help customers familiarize themselves with relevant concepts and terminology.

  • Troubleshooting guides with step-by-step instructions to help individuals effectively resolve common issues.

Read our step-by-step guide about building a knowledge base to create a better experience for your customers.


There are two types of automated chatbots that can help your self-service customer support efforts: rule-based chatbots and AI chatbots.

Rule-based chatbots operate based on predefined scripts for communication. They follow a mapped-out structure that covers various conversational paths and determines appropriate responses based on the customer's input. This approach helps narrow down the user’s goals and intentions.

By setting specific replies for different queries, you enable the rule-based chatbot to provide relevant information by presenting useful articles or help guides from your knowledge base.

Support leaders looking for innovative solutions can also leverage the collaborative power of help centers and AI chatbots.

While the knowledge base effectively functions as a huge storehouse for a wide variety of valuable support information, the AI chatbot works as a kind of expert on that storehouse, processing queries and automatically matching them with relevant content.

This chatbot distinguishes itself through its ability to deliver conversational interactions, seek clarification when necessary, and seamlessly escalate queries to human support representatives when the knowledge base content falls short.

FAQ pages

While knowledge bases contain extensive information, an FAQ page can be a valuable complementary resource, offering a list of frequently asked questions along with their corresponding answers.

FAQ pages are an integral part of your overall customer support ecosystem. One recommended strategy is to use your FAQ page to provide concise answers to common questions, while also including links to more comprehensive articles for those seeking in-depth information.

By constructing your FAQs to maximize concision and readability – while also linking to lengthier content – you satisfy different customer preferences. Some favor a compact, easy-to-read response, while others are looking for something more thorough and meticulous. This approach keeps FAQs lean while simultaneously showcasing the full scope of your learning resources.

💡 Here are some pro tips for your FAQ pages:

  • Write short, clear answers that are easy to read.

  • Organize questions logically into sections for ease of browsing.

  • Link related content for more thorough explanations.

  • Highlight popular questions at the top.

Community forum

One of the resources that’s less frequently remarked-upon among self-service customer support options is the community forum. They provide a place for users to come together, ask questions, and help each other – while still being able to receive answers directly from your support representatives.

Within a company-hosted forum, customers can search past discussions to find answers by themselves, or start new conversations to get input from others who have experienced similar issues – check out Intercom Community here to see what’s possible.

A community forum benefits both customers and companies by having constructive, informative discussions in a monitored space. Customers are essentially gaining access to a second knowledge base: one that’s crowdsourced and able to provide objective, experiential feedback. 

For businesses, meanwhile, these forums offer a useful way to listen to customers. They may provide a valuable glimpse into priorities, pain points, and how products are being utilized on the ground. Companies that actively engage in forums obtain additional knowledge and insights into how to better meet users' needs.

While you should still prioritize addressing individual customer requests directly through other self-service support options, a community forum can act as a tremendous supplemental resource.

💡 Here are pro some tips for your community forum:

  • Define rules and set clear guidelines.

  • Moderate appropriately and monitor discussions.

  • Build engagement by encouraging the participation of new customers.

  • Analyze discussions to recognize and examine recurring topics/pain points and handle them proactively.

In-context assistance

Thoughtfully integrating guidance into your product experience can be highly effective for self-service customer support.

Although we often refer to this as proactive support, options like in-product checklists, tooltips, and messages placed strategically throughout the customer journey can smoothly steer people toward understanding features on their own.

For instance, providing tooltips during onboarding can walk new users through the product in a careful, step-by-step fashion. This guided exploration fosters familiarity with the full potential of the product, boosting engagement and adoption. 

With in-context assistance, customers quickly learn to solve issues independently as support is brought directly to the point of need.

Not only is this style of contextual help exceptionally relevant, but it also streamlines the troubleshooting process. Users facing an obstacle can get help and explore solutions right from within the product itself. By positioning support so closely to the product and the user experience, you empower self-sufficiency and ensure people always have the guidance they need at the exact time they need it.

Product training for customers

You already know how essential it is for your customer support teams to receive comprehensive program training on your products and services. These training sessions give them in-depth knowledge about product functionality, help them anticipate common challenges, and teach them how to optimize the product for each customer's unique workflow. 

This type of comprehensive programming, in other words, transforms your support staff into certified product experts, capable of delivering exceptional support. Given these well-established benefits, here's a thought: if this training works wonders for your support reps, why not extend the same opportunity to your customers?

At Intercom, we provide training through our Academy that allows you to do just that. Our video-based programs help customers learn about Intercom’s products at their own pace.

This approach opens the door for customers to help themselves when issues do arise. With the right training, individuals develop the skills to resolve many of their obstacles without assistance. This sets your customers up for long-term success while also enhancing their overall experience with your brand.

Self-service customer support best practices

Select the right tools to empower customers

The self-service customer support solutions we’ve presented thus far – help centers, chatbots, FAQs, and in-context assistance – all work together to provide excellent customer support. Rather than choosing one, a holistic approach leverages their individual strengths.

Knowledge bases and chatbots are synergistic, with bots directing users to relevant articles. In-context support delivers proactive, just-in-time guidance. Video training gives an in-depth understanding of complex features.

Together, these tools allow you to meet customers at their level of need – whether it's a quick answer or more guided troubleshooting.

Cater to diverse learning styles

Customers have diverse learning preferences, and not everyone learns effectively through text-based documentation alone. To accommodate different styles within self-service customer support, it's essential to create resources in various formats.

For visual learners, integrating product screenshots throughout your how-to guides can greatly enhance comprehension. These visuals provide a representation of the steps and actions users need to take, making it easier for visual learners to grasp the process being communicated to them.

To offer more detailed content, consider converting knowledge base articles into video tutorials. This format facilitates customers’ engagement with the material by transforming it into something more dynamic and interactive, serving those who prefer audio-visual learning experiences.

Make answers easy to find and understand

For self-service customer support to succeed, resources must be straightforward and intuitive to navigate. If users can't readily find what they need, frustration only increases. 

When helping customers find solutions, it's crucial to prioritize your most valuable articles. These articles should be prominently featured to guide initial searches effectively. By doing so, you make sure that customers are directed to the most relevant and helpful resources right from the start.

These guidelines can also apply to self-service IT support, enabling your employees to troubleshoot internal problems effortlessly.

You can also organize articles in a logical workflow in which one piece of content builds upon another. By arranging them sequentially, you can create a smooth progression of information for readers. For example, prioritize installation instructions before diving into configuration details for related how-to guides.

To guarantee maximum convenience, consider integrating articles access directly into your messenger. By prompting users to search for relevant articles and displaying a suggested list, you can provide personalized experiences to different customers.

Keeping your resources up-to-date

The value of self-serve resources is only as good as the accuracy of the content. While establishing a help center is a critical step in creating outstanding customer service infrastructure, it’s equally important to keep the content relevant over time. Outdated answers that are no longer helpful or applicable will leave customers frustrated with your resources. 

Stay ahead of the curve by tapping into the insights gathered by your support teams when they encounter new customer issues. This information can be used to enhance your self-service solutions.

Further, it’s important for companies to continue creating resources for new product features and confirming that existing content stays up to date with these changes.

With Intercom, you can even use our powerful knowledge base automation with AI capabilities to generate new articles for emerging issues and questions.

Ensure seamless escalation

While self-service eliminates many routine support inquiries, some customers will still prefer speaking to a representative. And regardless of how comprehensive your knowledge base is, there will always be issues too complex for automated resolution to solve on its own. 

When self-service reaches its limits, you should guide users seamlessly to the next level of support.

One effective approach is to employ an AI chatbot that can recognize when a query exceeds its capabilities. When these situations arise, the chatbot can then efficiently connect the customer with a human support team, providing reps with all the necessary context to help them swiftly handle and resolve the issue.

Find out more about the role of ticket escalation in boosting customer service efficiency.

Measure self-service support performance

Making sure your self-service customer support resources are actually helping is just as important as creating them. In order to do that, set up metrics and check in on them periodically.

In terms of knowledge bases, you can check reports to determine what’s trending, what articles to write next, and, perhaps most importantly, which articles are in need of improvement.

By tracking and measuring the performance of your resources, you also get insights into the keywords that generate better results, identify popular keywords with no relevant articles, and learn more about which articles spark the most conversations and negative reactions.

In fact, Intercom provides a convenient article feedback feature. After customers finish reading an article, they can express their satisfaction by reacting with a happy, neutral, or disappointed face. If customers provide negative feedback, they get an automatic response from your team asking how they can help.

How companies are using self-service support with Intercom

Inter provides self-service customer support at scale

Inter is an app that offers a complete set of financial services. Behind the scenes, their dedicated team relies on Intercom's customer service platform to establish a seamless connection with users, providing support at scale with self-service options and an interoperable tech stack.

“Innovation is central to everything that we do. We wanted an innovative support solution that could scale with us as we continue to expand our service offering.” – Lais Belico, Solutions & Client Experience Analyst at Inter.

Inter is dedicated to delivering remarkable digital experiences to customers as a fully-digital business. To achieve this, the company harnesses the power of Intercom's self-serve support options – including Articles – to drive its help center. 

In addition, Inter makes use of multiple integrations like automations and chatbots to cater to the preferences of customers who seek digital support.

Our customers are used to digital platforms, so they like to have self-serve support as an option. We know that they like to try and resolve issues themselves, which is why we leverage bots and automation.
Lais Belico

Solutions & Client Experience Analyst at Inter

Simply resolves common queries through self-serve support

Simply offers a suite of apps that make it easy to start, learn, and develop creative skills at home. 

By implementing Intercom, Simply achieved automated resolution of common inquiries, resulting in time savings for the team and instant answers for customers, which led to increased satisfaction. This improvement translated into a noteworthy 6.3% surge in the Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) score, a key performance indicator for Simply’s team.

Throughout the support streamlining process, Simply diligently monitored their CSAT score to maintain high satisfaction and consistently deliver “wow” experiences. By leveraging Intercom's chatbots and automation capabilities, Simply successfully resolved 20–30% of frequently asked questions through self-service support.

Wolt manages over a million conversations weekly

The European tech company Wolt is a leading food delivery service focused on optimizing logistics in real time. 

The company utilizes Intercom's visual builder to streamline automation and enhance support efficiency. With powerful features that automate repetitive tasks, their support representatives regain valuable time that they can then spend addressing more intricate or pressing inquiries.

We use Custom Objects and Custom Actions to integrate our own product data with Intercom’s bots so we can guide anyone seeking support through self-serve flows and empower them to resolve some of their own issues.
Pelle Blarke

International Strategy and Operations Manager at Wolt

Further, Pelle also explains that this approach allows Simply’s customers to enjoy the best of both worlds: efficient human support and the empowering capabilities of self-service support. It's a winning combination that ensures clients receive first-class assistance while also having the option to find answers autonomously.

Be the next to deliver the finest self-service support experience for your customers with Intercom, and begin reaping the results. Start a free trial today or ask for a demo.


1. Nice, 2022 Digital-First Customer Experience Report. The report was designed to compare the perspectives of businesses and consumers regarding self-service and digital channels, drawing on responses from 1320 respondents in the United States and the United Kingdom.

2. Intercom, Customer Service Trends Report 2023. We commissioned an independent market research firm to survey a random sample of 1,775 global customer service leaders and decision-makers. The study’s margin of error is +/- 2.3% at the 95% level of significance.