Self-service is defined as the use of technology tools, which empower customers to address their own needs and help themselves, without interacting with a live agent.[i] These tools are two-way communication-focused, enabling such things as website interactions with FAQs and knowledge bases, chats with chatbots and/or live agents, verbal exchanges with IVR systems or virtual assistants, text and in-app messaging services, customer facing web portals, and social media content and communities.  

According to a study conducted by Aberdeen, 40% percent of companies already had a self-service program in place more than a year ago, that percent has almost certainly increased since.[ii]  So, it’s evident that self-service is more than an emerging trend; it’s an established activity and strategy many companies of varying sizes, across many industries are already utilizing

Increased CX with Decreased Effort

The number one reason companies incorporate self-service into their Customer Experience (CX) programs is because it delivers results. Aberdeen’s Omni-Channel Customer Carestudy found that companies offering self-service capabilities have higher customer satisfaction rates and excel in performance improvements.  By boosting the customers’ ability to help themselves, which in turn can lesson customer effort and stress, firms are actually increasing customer satisfaction rates![i]  Additionally, self-service can help customers address their needs more quickly, at the first point of contact, instead of waiting for agent-assistance service.

Another great ancillary result of self-service is access to data.  By tracking self-service activity, companies can assess and forecast anticipated traffic across all agent-assisted channels (e.g. live chat, phone, and email).[ii]  This enables a company to estimate the number of agents that might be needed to handle requests across each live channel going forward.  The data and the planning it enables can lead to optimized staffing, while still ensuring customer wait times are at a minimum.  Data shows that added visibility through self-service helps companies improve agent utilization by 4.3 percent year-over-year.[iii]

What Self-Service Is Not

Don’t make this mistake. Self-service is not is a way to deflect customer requests.  Your business will likely lose customers to competitors if deflecting customer requests is the prime objective of integrating self-service communication tools.  Customers must see self-service tools as a means of providing them choices in how to handle their inquiries or problems, nota way to force them into addressing all issues via a self-service platform. 

The Pros & Cons

While there are pros to integrating self-service programs, there are some cons to consider and prepare to overcome. One significant challenge for companies to consider in deciding whether and how to integrate self-service programs is the complexity of the customers’ needs, questions, and potential problems.  Some issues may be too complicated to handle effectively through self-service, and are better left to a live, knowledgeable agent. To overcome this challenge, companies must understand customer expectations and the complexity of solving clients’ issues. And they must be able to design, deploy, and support self-help capabilities that provide a top-notch user experience where customers can easily navigate a self-service portal.[i] By addressing these issues at the outset, companies can prepare for any problematic hiccups and avoid unwanted pain points.

Conclusion

Simply put, companies that incorporate self-service capabilities attain Best-in-Class results. The Aberdeen study found that companies with self-service programs retain 76% more of their clientele while achieving 14.2 times greater annual improvement in customer satisfaction rates. As a service business, consider joining your peers who’ve already integrated self-service programs into their CX strategy. 

Citation
Aberdeen Group, Self Service: Create Happy Customers & Reduce Costs, January 2018.