With an increased call for rapid support among customers combined with pressure to monitor and actively engage across multiple channels, many companies are feeling the burn of a customer service gap. Such times call for alternative methods, and one way that seems to be working is through self-service support.
Self-service support is most often deployed in the form of user forums or a comprehensive knowledgebase. Both options allow the customer the ability to actively seek out the specific information they need without having to wait on hold forever.
A user forum allows your customer community to thrive. Early adopters and seasoned users relish in the opportunity to provide essentially free support on your behalf. Take a look at the Apple forum to see just how active their brand champions are. As the community grows, help seekers turn into help givers and the cycle continues.
A knowledgebase entails a comprehensive database of guides, manuals, and processes that customers can access based on their specific need. It may take a while to build out, but it can always be added to and revised with new products and services or updated software.
An added benefit of both options is the ability to enhance your SEO over time. To use Apple as an example again, try a Google search for: “how to change the time on my iPhone.”
The first thing that pops up is Apple’s support page. How many millions of users have searched that exact phrase? And they all land at Apple’s doorstep.
Knowledgebase articles and forum posts can likewise be linked to by supporting sites or shared across social media which helps increase your brand’s reach and potentially drive more traffic your way.
Self-Service Saves You Time and Money
While any company is happy to have that much traffic pointed their way, they are also happy that other customer support channels aren’t being monopolized.
Two companies that have found success through the use of self-service support are Agilebits and Hootsuite. Both companies have found an dramatic increase in the effectiveness of a well-optimized forum and knowledgebase for self-service support.
“As of April 2016, we’ve seen an incredible increase of 5,330% in active community users compared to when we came onboard in June of 2015.
Our customers find the community to be easy to use and are able to ask and find answers to their questions quickly.” - Gabrielle Maheux, Social Channel Lead for Hootsuite
As for enhancing SEO? It’s working.
According to Gabrielle Maheux, Social Channel Lead for Hootsuite, 90% of their new visits to Hootsuite's support community comes from Google's organic search. She estimates that 10-15% of all questions asked are answered by other Hootsuite users and ambassadors, translating to a lot of deflected support tickets.
By providing a hub of information to address common inquiries, the pressure can be taken off of other channels and free them up for more serious customer issues. Agilebits takes the opportunity one step further and actively utilizes the forum to engage with customers as well as to provide support.
“The forum let us gather feedback, but also allowed people to give opinions and suggestions to reach a consensus. In the end, it helped us make a better product”- Jeff Shiner, CEO Agilebits
The important lesson from Agilebits is that while self-service support is intended as a means to allow customers to assist and educate themselves, there are still other opportunities to take advantage of when your customers are literally at your fingertips.
Consider your self-service support channels to be similar to a library. While your customers are searching for the information on their own time and terms, they still need librarians to curate the collection, keep things organized, and tidy up the place.
What about the customer?
Seasoned customer service pros may balk at the idea of funneling customers away from live help. However, signs are pointing to an increased interest in exactly that.
A recent study by Amdocs found that 91% of respondents said they would use an online knowledgebase if it were available.
A completely different study by Nuance Enterprise found 75% of survey respondents considered self-serve support a convenient option in general, and 67% stated they’d rather use self-service over speaking to a company representative.
Customer service is all about delivering a positive experience, especially when your customers need help. Self-service provides the customer with the opportunity to educate themselves on their own terms and at their own pace, as well as the ability to assist their fellow customers.
The data all points to a customer base that is growing in their demand for self-service. When considering the added benefits to the company, it’s hard to argue with the idea or the results.