Customers increasingly prefer to solve their own issues and resolve their own questions using self service help centers.Customers increasingly prefer to solve their own issues and resolve their own questions using self service help centers.

A business operates in a customer centric environment. Customer  service is a critical battleground in the tussle for customer acquisition and retention. Given this scenario, a business is under constant pressure to be increasingly agile and responsive. Just as the Internet has reshaped buying behavior, we are now witnessing a fundamental shift in consumer’s expectations of customer support.

That shift is a trend towards self-service support and it’s fast becoming a stampede. In an online world fixated with speed and immediate gratification, customers expect their questions to be answered and issues resolved in minutes—not hours. If your business is looking to drive growth, you can’t afford to ignore customer self-support as an online option.

For many companies, the point of impact between their fast-growing customer base and their usual resource constraints is often customer support. Many are looking at ways of reducing the caseload on their customer support desks while still keeping customers happy.

In many instances, customers are increasingly tech savvy yet have a correspondingly lower patience for customer support. Increasingly, customers prefer to solve their own issues and resolve their own questions using self-help centers.

Self Service Help Centers Defined
Definitions of customer support have evolved over time. The internet and social media have given customers a platform to broadcast their experiences both negative and positive as well as new channels to access ongoing customer support.

Today, we increasingly define customer support as:

“Timely, empathetic help, that keeps the customer’s needs at the forefront of every interaction”

More formally, customer self-service centers are defined as online digital support platforms, which allow customers to use knowledge base software to access information and perform routine tasks themselves without requiring the assistance of a live customer service representative.

Technologies commonly used to support a customer self-service center includes:

  • A self-service portal featuring knowledge base software allowing customers to access information and browse FAQs
  • Interactive voice response: enables customers to interact with an automated telephony system to perform standard, structured tasks
  • Apps: mobile device-friendly software enabling customers to conduct a menu of standardized tasks
  • Kiosks: Enable customers to perform specific tasks by interacting via a physical piece of infrastructure housing a computer, display screen, and communications
  • Self-Checkout: customers can scan, bag and pay for purchases without assistance from live staff

Customer self-service centers typically operate a 24-hour a day seven days a week and 365 days per year.

Self service help centers in customer serviceTop 3 Reasons For Migrating To Self Service Help Centers
According to a recent Forrester Research study, 73 percent of customers now prefer accessing a Self Service Help Center model to telephone or email based support options. Here are three compelling reasons for adopting Self Service Help Centers:

  1. Reduce workload on support agents: Customers are able to self-diagnose answers to simple questions via knowledge base software, freeing up your agents to focus on complex issues, saving you time and effort
  2. Consistent communication: Configuring your knowledge base with pre-written responses augmented by feedback from customer experiences keeps customer solutions consistent.
  3. Improved response times: Customers are able to quickly search a pre-configured knowledge base to discover answers to their most common problems, greatly improving response times.

Customers are demanding. They expect answers now, not tomorrow and they expect your business to attend to them without delay, regardless of their request. The longer it takes your business to respond, the more likely it is that that customer will leave.

5 Tips For Creating Outstanding Self Service Help Centers
Here are five essential tips for keeping your self-service portal vibrant and effective:

  1. Highlight your most popular FAQs: Identify the top reasons customers are contacting your support team and promote answers to FAQs
  2. Use screenshots, video and audio where possible: Show your customers where they need to go, what they need to click and how to update or edit their settings
  3. Keep your content up to date: Implement an update schedule that checks knowledge base articles for currency after every product/service update
  4. Make your FAQs easy to search by using tags and tag pages to save customers wading through hundreds of search results and web pages
  5. Optimize your FAQs for mobile users, enabling your customers to access your FAQs while on the go

Aside from up to date content, you will find your customers appreciate well laid out and attractively formatted content. This also helps customers navigate through your content, so add images and html code where possible.

Self Service Help Centers: The Future of Customer Support
Today’s customers are not just ready for self-service support portals; they actually prefer them as a support model. However, a customer self-service portal is only effective if it is truly easy to use. Your FAQs and their supporting knowledge base software need to be readily accessible, visually appealing and engaging through the use of images and video and up to date.

Your FAQs need to be organized and tagged so your search engine returns the most accurate and relevant results. Finally, your self-service portal content should be optimized for desktop, smartphone and tablet users.

When self-service support is executed effectively, it can dramatically reduce the volume of inbound calls to your call center, or emails your support team receives. Moreover, self-service can enhance the customer experience and that keep customers happy and coming back.

Robin Singh is a Technical Support Executive. He is an expert in knowledge management and various knowledge base tools. Currently, he is a resident knowledge management expert at ProProfs. In his free time, Robin enjoys reading and traveling.