Customer Self Service

Part
01
of five
Part
01

Customer Self-Service Usage

Among US customers, about 60%, mostly Millennials, use customer self-service functionalities. On the other hand, about 86% of companies use self-service tools for customer service tasks. Below are details on customer usage, as well as company usage and benefits of customer self-service in the United States.

Customer Usage in the United States

  • Around 60% of US consumers use customer self-service either on a website or in a mobile app and 75% consider it a convenient way to meet their need for support.
  • In a survey conducted by Ebiquity and American Express to 1,000 US consumers, it was found that Millennials, among other generations, are 2x more likely to use self-service for their inquiries.
  • Among the different and most common types of customer self-service tools (e.g. knowledge base, FAQs, online discussion forums), the customer service knowledge base is mostly preferred, according to Forrester.
  • From a study conducted by Dimension Data, it was found that among self-service channels, more customers opt to use the company's website at 73% compared to those who choose interactive voice response (IVR) with 57%, social media (31%), SMS (27%), and live chat (20%).
  • According to Forrester, about 72% of customers prefer customer self-service compared to a phone call or sending an email.
  • By the end of 2020, Gartner predicts that 85% of customer relationships with companies are no longer done with human interaction but through self-service.

Company Usage and Benefits

  • 70% of customers expect a company website will include a self-service application. Because of this figure, customer self-service is not just a "nice to have" component for companies, but it has become a necessity in providing an effective customer experience.
  • In a McKinsey survey conducted on 1,000 B2B executives, 86% preferred using self-service tools when tackling basic tasks.
  • A study conducted by Oracle and Forrester Research discovered that customer self-service can reduce cost per call by up to $11 per call, resulting in a significant amount of savings.
  • According to Accenture research, companies could save between $1-3 million per year by adding a self-service functionality to their service offerings.
  • 93% of companies note that self-service analytics give them faster and better insights on what their customers' needs are.
  • 83% of those using self-service saw increased visibility into the company's business data.
  • Companies who use high-quality customer self-service support channels saw improvements in these key performance indicators (KPIs):
    • 54% of firms who implemented it for the first time saw web traffic increases.
    • Nearly 50% reported an increase in sales and a decrease in phone-based customer service inquiries.
    • 37% saw a reduction in email-based inquiries.
    • It lowers the companies' overall customer service and marketing spend.
    • The number of satisfied customers increased and as a result, these customers are 3.5x more likely to repurchase and 5x more likely to give referrals.
Part
02
of five
Part
02

Customer Self Service Sentiments

Americans see customer self-service as a rapid method of problem-solving with great convenience. However, some people view customer self-service options as difficult to use and too basic for complex issues.

Customer Self Service is a Speedy Method

  • People want their issues to be solved quickly instead of having to go through the sometimes arduous process of calling a representative. As a result, more people are seen utilizing these methods.
  • 60% of US customers are said to prefer some form of automated, self-service option, for simpler tasks.
  • Customers want their questions answered, and problems solved quickly. Due to this, customer self-service options are growing in popularity, with 86% of respondents having a preference for self-service.
  • These self-service options are considered very convenient and allow customers to fix problems themselves without having to physically go into a location, or spending hours waiting to speak to an actual human.

Self-Service Portals are not Easy to Use

  • Though self-service options are growing in popularity amongst consumers, many have the opinion that these portals are tedious and difficult to use.
  • The popularity of customer self-service options will vary based on demographics. 64% of Baby Boomers are seen to prefer directly speaking with a representative than using any of the self-service options, as opposed to 12% of Millennials.
  • Consumers have complained about self-service portals not being user-friendly with either too much information or too little.
  • With too much information, consumers are forced to sit and filter through unnecessary information just to get to the question they want to be answered. On the opposite end, some self-service options don’t include enough information for the inquiries of the consumer, causing them to have to call in for a representative.
  • 12% of Americans say that self-service portals do not provide the information that they need.
  • Over half of the respondents attribute not being able to solve issues on their own to a lack of information on the self-service portals.
  • According to Statista, 44% of Americans claimed not enough information was offered through self-service, while 13% claimed information was disorganized with no ability to search.

Self-Service Options Cannot be Used for Complex Problems

  • It is a common occurrence for customer issues to surpass the abilities of self-service. When this happens, customers usually want an immediate fix, demanding a fast and efficient way to speak to a representative, to address the issue.
  • A combination of both self-service options, as well as access to live agents will give consumers a complete solution package to their issues.
  • 40% of customers are said to contact agents when they are dealing with complicated interactions such as payment disputes.
  • According to Statista, 31% of Americans stated that their issue was too complex to be solved by self-service options.


Research Strategy

We began our research by looking for American consumers' views about customer self-service. To do this, we reviewed consumer-based blogs, business websites, and consumer statistical websites to provide us with concrete evidence of the made observations.
Consumer blog sites including Nextiva, Silver Cloud, and Super Office were examined along with business websites such as Working Solutions, Harvard Business, and American Express as an attempt to get the true feelings of the American consumers surrounding customer self-service. From this strategy, we were able to gather general opinions of Americans, surrounding the immediate issue.
Consumer statistics websites such as Consumer Thermometer, Statista, and Microsoft provided us with the statistical data to support the found American sentiments about customer self-service.

Part
03
of five
Part
03

Case Studies: Mobile Customer Self Service

A1 Telekom Austria Group, T-Mobile Netherlands, and Infoland are 3 case studies of companies with successful customer self-service support solutions designed for mobile. These are outlined below.

A1 Telekom Austria Group

  • A1 Telekom Austria Group is a major communications company that serves over 24 million customers in Central and Eastern Europe.
  • The company worked with Undabot to develop a mobile customer support self-service app for its vast client base.
  • With the help of 3 multilingual teams from Austria, Belarus and Serbia, Undabot shaped the solution design and architecture of the app.
  • The app's top 10 features include ability to top up a prepaid account, buy new add-ons and packages, buy service activation, and access an overview of data consumption as well as tariff status.
  • Top app features also include ability to switch accounts, use a widget, enable push notifications, access customer support help materials, and enable biometric authentication.
  • The mobile widget was particularly popular and used by over 11,500 customers.
  • This allows customers to see important information without opening the mobile self-service support app.
  • A1 Telekom Austria Group's self-service customer support app was launched for Android and iOS in August 2019.
  • Just 6 months after the launch, the app counts over 170,000 active users.
  • Undabot reports that 26,000 of these are daily active users.
  • The company also reports that the app's features continue to increase as it is rolled out to new markets.

T-Mobile Netherlands

Infoland

  • Infoland is a vendor of software solutions serving 350,000 customers across 500 corporate organizations every day.
  • To provide better support, the company worked with inSided to develop a customer self-service support solution.
  • The solution featured a community platform meant to replace the support desk as a central support destination for users.
  • The platform contains knowledge base articles as well as community-written articles to answer common questions.
  • Infoland also provided in-product support on 3,000 pages of its product suite with pre-selected most relevant topics.
  • The customer support self-service community platform is integrated with the company's service desk to address complex user issues.
  • The mobile app shows a real-time count of community topics, responses and members.
  • It also provides users the ability to ask questions and help others through sharing answers and articles.
  • The app offers a FAQ section and online training courses to resolve common issues.
  • Users can start a new topic on the community platform using the mobile app.
  • inSided reports that nearly 50% of Infoland's users signed up to join the platform.
  • Community members created 130 new topics in addition to the 116 topics started by the company's support team.
  • Infoland users now answer 40% of all new questions and issues on the community platform.
  • Infoland's community manager Hiewwaiy Kwok said, "Our customers can get excellent self-service with the help of their peers. This enables our support team to focus on the more complex requests and create new valuable content."
Part
04
of five
Part
04

Best Practices: Customer Self Service Design

The best practices for landing/home page design and information architecture for customer self-service platforms include clarity, simplicity, and ease of use; having a specific and updated section for knowledge; and using self-service data analytics. Below are details about these practices, why and how they are considered as best, and examples of companies implementing these practices.

Clarity, Simplicity, and Ease of Use

  • To provide a great self-service knowledge management experience, it is one of the best practices to incorporate searches and findings with the degree of relevance.
  • Whether the customer is searching or just browsing the self-service page, it is important that topics are clearly labeled, easy to navigate, and easy to understand.
  • For search fields, search filters can be narrowed down into a more manageable level, e.g. filter by type or category.
  • The user interface should be simple and easy to use, or else the customer will not use it and just leave the page.
  • It is considered one of the best practices because, despite the demand for self-service, 55% of customers find self-service portals difficult to use. Making self-service offerings easier to use will bring better opportunities and is more likely to create happier customers and result in more customer engagement.
  • Wigmore School and EQL Solutions are examples of companies that use a customer service portal solution that provides drag-and-drop workflow facility and requires no coding, enables them to alter, update, and add information easily and quickly. Without too many technicalities, its user interface is also easier for the customers to navigate their self-service page.

Have a Specific and Updated Section for Knowledge

  • A specific customer-centric destination for customers with inquiries helps give an easy way of getting what they need through their customer journey.
  • Some examples could be an FAQ section on websites, self-service account creation, help center blog forums, and interactive voice technology.
  • Regardless of what they want to achieve — change, ask, request, or learn about something — it is easier if one single page can provide it for customers to take action.
  • It was found that one of the most important attributes of the customer experience is fast response time and it is preferred by 75% of customers.
  • Similar contents should be merged, outdated instructions should be removed, and information/answers should be ranked based on the ones having the most popular response to increase FAQ reads.
  • Periodic reviews of all knowledge base content, either for FAQs or even on videos and images, is important in keeping the customers up-to-date and to know what and where improvement is needed.
  • Step-by-step instructions can also be incorporated through visuals like screenshots and even videos that they can playback as necessary. Having these visuals can help in guiding customers on how they will access or click on other parts of the company website or platform, for example, when doing how-to inquiries.
  • This one-stop customer-centric section is one of the best practices as it can help increase efficiency, decrease customer wait time, and improve customer satisfaction.
  • AvMed, formerly Aviation Medicine, optimized its customers' login experience by consolidating three legacy properties into one customer-centric homepage. This change increased their digital engagement, increased site traffic, and decreased the company's customer support costs.

Use Self-Service Data Analytics

  • As about 63% of customers state they are not happy with search fields in self-service portals, it is not because of the search field itself but with the search result, and here is where data analytics become important.
  • One of the great ways to handle search results is by using tags and tag pages. As an example, if one of the most common concerns is resetting a password, the tag "password reset" or simply "password" can be used to make it easier for customers to find the correct answer to their query right away.
  • By monitoring searches through data analytics, it can identify "content gaps" so that new content can be created for keywords that are always asked but do not have a match.
  • It is also helpful to dive into self-service analytics by tracking important key metrics that determine which information is most important for customers to know and how it should be shared.
  • Top key search terms and key questions related to customers' pain points should be identified in order to know which problems arise most often.
  • Using self-service analytics is one of the best practices as it helps companies deliver in-context analytics to identify how they can accommodate the customers more effectively. It also gives stronger user adoption and customer satisfaction.
  • Flairsoft, an IT firm, is an example of a company that uses data analytics in their self-service functionality. This capability helped the company in providing real-time answers to their clients, resulting in more effective negotiations.

Research Strategy:

To identify best practices for landing/home page design and information architecture for customer self-service platforms, we searched for expert opinions and case studies focused on how certain practices implemented in self-service portals help the company, as well as the customers. After examining the information collected, we identified the above-mentioned best practices in terms of consistency or which ones are mostly advised by experts. We also based the inclusion on some statistical values that explained why and how these methods, when used in self-service portals, can help companies gain customer engagement and provide customer satisfaction.
Part
05
of five
Part
05

Customer Self Service: Support Contact

Best practices for effectively incorporating escalation abilities while encouraging self-service include: personalizing and optimizing self-help options while making them attractive and easy to use; allowing guided and free-form conversations in knowledge base search bars and chatbot conversations, and using NLP to improve interactions; providing multiple opportunities to access a higher level of support via the same channels used originally, as well as providing an array of options for increased support; and monitoring and continually improving all points of the support process. Each of these was selected based on the recommendations of multiple experts.

Personalize / Optimize Self-Help Options & Make Them Attractive

  • Personalizing the self-help options, the chatbot interactions, and the live support is vital since modern consumers have come to expect this of company websites, especially those with whom they already have a relationship (previous customers).
  • Pages of disorganized hyperlinks” and tons of “information to sort through” are examples of how to turn customers off from using (or appreciating) self-help options. Instead, make them attractive and inviting, as well as easy for customers to use (and find the answers they’re looking for).
  • Since most consumers are used to the ease of using search engines, setting up the help center like a search engine (or at least with search engine capabilities, like natural-language questioning) is key. Several best practices for setting up the self-help options are: [a] “optimize the results for frequent customer searches,” [b] tune the knowledge base to mirror the specific words used most often by customers, and [c] monitor search inquiries regularly and adjust to optimize customer experience (this last one is discussed more in-depth below).
  • Atlassian recommends keeping the self-help support options “simple at every step,” to entice customers to use it most often, as well as to keep them “satisfied with the end result.” Additionally, offering additional potential self-help options (like knowledge base articles, for example) at each point in their questioning may answer their questions, helping deter them from escalating their support needs further.
  • The FordPass app is a good example of a highly-personalized self-service app. Once the user logs in, the app “tailors information based on their vehicle.” The app then gives vehicle-specific information for all questions asked.
  • Ask.com is website doing it right. Their self-service options are “convenient and inviting,” with the FAQs and their answers, as well as the most-popular help topics “front and center.” They also offer “the name and friendly face of whos helping to provide the answers” at the company, which personalizes the company itself, as well as making all support attractive to the customer.

Allow Guided & Free-Form Support Chatbot Conversations ; Use NLP

  • Simply providing a search bar in the help center for users is not enough, nor is providing a chatbot that simply gives canned answers. Too often, chatbots will stop after the pre-programmed options have run out, frustrating customers and necessitating a call to the help line. Customers want to be able to ask their own questions in their own ways, not just be led by the hand toward the-only-available-answers that may not answer their specific questions. Allowing customers to use natural language to ask questions, as well as offering “the option to quickly select guided options based on common issues or questions” is important; this is especially true for mobile device users.
  • Using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to interpret, analyze, and properly respond to customer support queries is a recommendation of most experts. NLP can be used to properly route support tickets to the right agents, it can help with understanding and analyze customer feedback, and it can provide business data for improvement analysis (like customer satisfaction and user sentiments, for example). It can also be utilized in knowledge base search bars to provide users the opportunity to ask questions in their own words.
  • Blue Diamond’s chatbot is a good example of this, offering “initial options based on its top products, [and] helping customers drill down to quickly find an answer” to any question they ask.
  • Uber uses NLP “between drivers and passengers to improve their communication,” and it’s proven to reduce the number of issues for both. MasterCard is another example; they use Facebook Messenger to service their help customers. The NLP in the system “analyzes the conversation as a whole versus only the verbatim input from a customer,” offering a better overall experience and a quicker solution to most customers’ help needs.

Provide Multiple Live Support Options At All Points of the Support Path

  • Research from Forrester predicts that customer backlash against chatbots will be in large part because the “deployments will fail to offer escalation options.” Astute Solutions notes the importance of making sure the live-support option can be selected within the same channel in which the original help conversation (often with a chatbot) happened; this should always be the preferred method, especially since asking customers to call or fill out a form will unnecessarily deter many users from taking that step.
  • Offering customers a variety of methods, like “text chat, voice call, or video call,” will provide each individual with the type of help they most prefer. If a customer or agent might need to demonstrate a product or feature, then video call options are highly recommended.
  • Omega Market is one company that offers customers the opportunity to escalate to live support at any time during the interactions with their site; additionally, they “are proactively offered the opportunity to connect with a live agent at a critical time during online checkout.” At the beginning of the live engagement, the agent is provided with the chatbot transcript, the case is auto-created and pre-populated in the system, and “suggested next steps and contextual information [are] added to the sidebar of the case workflow,” which allows the agent to start off knowing exactly what the customer needs and is attempting to do.

Monitor & Continually Improve Help Support Options

  • All points of the support path should be continually monitored and updated based on various performance metrics. This includes the initial support pages (like FAQs or knowledge bases), as well as chatbot interactions and live support interactions. Companies should measure their support channel performance in multiple ways, starting with measuring the effectiveness of the self-help support center; some of the most popular metrics for this are described next.
  • First, keeping tabs on page visit counts will identify any pages not being used (or not being used enough), and will identify the most popular pages being used. Second, measuring “return visits to the support page” with particular timeframes will identify the effectiveness of that page (and the subsequent pages). TeamSupport notes that, “if the issue is solved on the first visit, the customer won’t need to return to that page.”
  • Companies should also measure “the number of page views and time spent on … support pages,” as well as the different pages within the knowledge base; these should be measured at intervals and over time. Notably, these figures will only provide insights on how much the pages are used, and will not provide information as to their effectiveness.
  • Additionally, the chatbot and live support flows should be monitored and adjusted based on performance metrics. Once the original set-up of the chatbot and support flows have been established, it’s vital that these are auto-updated whenever changes take place, so that agents are always working with the most-current information possible. Additionally, a continuous monitoring process of this set-up and these systems is necessary to ensure customer satisfaction stays high.
  • Monitoring the questions that come in (through each step of the process), and updating the help information to match customer needs is key. Also, adjusting the system to address identified issues at less-than-effective points, like places where the most customers drop off or the points where the most customers turn from self-help to live help, is vital to ensuring the highest-performing system.
  • One way to monitor-and-improve is through the collection of the text data from chatbots and running the unstructured data through analysis “to spot trends in consumer preferences and opportunities for marketing campaigns or product development changes.” Another way to seek improvements is to directly ask customers. Provide them with a feedback tool or an after-help survey (on both chatbots visits and live support calls) to help determine which points in the process are most helpful (and which are not), and allow them the opportunity to express their opinions of what would make the support system more beneficial.
  • For live support tickets, if the software allows for it, “implement ticket deflection and keep an eye on the metrics,” which can provide insights into “how many times a ticket was started and not completed thanks to a recommended article.”
  • Blue Diamond’s website is a prime example of a company that monitors their support options and adjust as necessary. Their chatbot was found to answer customer questions “with a 90% accuracy rate,” though their administrators continued to monitor incoming questions, and continue to update and add new or more-helpful information to their system. They do this to keep that accuracy rate as high as possible (and improve beyond the high of 90%).
Sources
Sources

From Part 03
Quotes
  • "The Telekom Austria Group which offers communication solutions, payment and entertainment services as well as integrated business solutions, generated sales of EUR 4.47 billion in fiscal year 2018. Almost 19,000 A1 employees and state-of-the-art broadband infrastructure enable digital lifestyle and allow customers, companies and devices to network anywhere, anytime."
  • "After the initial kick-offs, we sketched the solution design and the architecture of the app, started with the UI/UX design and continued with programing, testing and optimization. The collaboration with A1 was challenging and extensive with some unexpected developments on the go, but we can proudly say that we have overcome all obstacles and successfully launched the first version of the Android and iOS application on the Belarus market in August 2019."
  • "In January 2020, only 6 months after the launch, we can say that the app is actively used by over 170.000 and 26.000 of the users are actively using the app on a daily basis."
  • "From more than 100 features that we have implemented, we selected the top 10 features in A1 Self-service Customer Care App: Top up prepaid account Purchasing new packages and add-ons Purchased service activation Overview of the current tariff status and data consumption List of bills"
  • "Account switcher Widget Push notifications Customer support help articles Authentication with biometrics"
  • "Under the hood What makes our solution so different from the others? "
Quotes
  • "T-Mobile NL, with 4.3 million customers, is the largest telecom operator in the Netherlands. As far back as 2009, the company recognized that customer support expectations were shifting and began to invest in online support platforms."
  • "The initiative had two objectives: improve the customer experience while also reducing T-Mobile NL s support costs. As part of this customer-centric digital approach, T-Mobile NL implemented its first customer community with the help of inSided."
  • "The cloud-based inSided platform delivers an enterprise-grade solution to build, integrate and manage branded customer communities across digital touch points and devices. On community pages, customers engage with each other and your company, get an overview of all relevant information and can browse new or popular topics related to your brand and products."
  • "The experts are also T-Mobile ambassadors: One of the experts has attracted 100 new customers. Without the community - a platform that allows these super users to interact, get corporate updates, and help other customers - T-Mobile NL would miss out on this low-cost, high-value brand advocacy."
Quotes
  • "With more than 250,000 members and 4 million annual visits, T-Mobile NL's community is now the largest telecom forum in the Netherlands, and one of the largest in Europe."
  • "Today, T-Mobile NL customers use the community to ask questions, provide advice, and discuss the company s service. The content they create serves as a user-generated knowledge base that is always up-to-date."
  • "Around 400,000 users visit the community each month and receive support from other customers or T-Mobile NL experts. With thousands of questions answered, the community has contributed to a 60 percent reduction of calls to T-Mobile NL's call center, saving the company millions of euros."
Quotes
  • "Customer Success initiatives 1. Build a user community to drive engagement - they launched their customer community at their annual user event and invited all users to participate and exchange knowledge and ideas."
  • "2. Make their community platform the central destination for support - in the past, support was provided primarily through the support desk and a knowledge base. Infoland is now making their knowledge articles available on inSided’s community, creating a single support destination that combines company created knowledge base articles and community created articles, making it so much easier for their users to find the answer to their questions."
  • "3. Implement in-product support on all 3000 pages of its product suite - thanks to the inSided platform’s in-product support, Infoland users get support right in their software—where the most relevant topics are helpfully pre-selected for each page. The in-product support functionality is replacing all current help functionality and therefore creating one single repository for all users."
  • "4. Make inSided’s community platform accessible to their service desk agents - in-product support is also integrated with Infoland’s service desk system, Zendesk. This allows support agents to see if there are any related questions or answers in the community when they are resolving complex user issues."
  • "Increased engagement with their users. Almost 50% of Infoland’s users have signed up to join the customer community. These users now answer 40% of all new questions that other users ask. "
  • "Extended the knowledge base with the help of their users. In the past half year, Infoland users have created 130 new topics in the knowledge base. This is additional to the 116 topics produced by the company’s support and product team."
  • "Shifted preferred channel of support from support desk towards self-service. When Infoland recently surveyed its customers, they saw that only 38% of customers prefer to get their answer via the service desk, with the preference for online self-service rising to 31% (of which 15% is from the existing knowledge base and 16% from the newly launched community. "