From banking to bill paying, self-service is the new norm. Consumers are increasingly being empowered to do almost anything themselves online, from checking prices at stores to checking in at the airport. Where there’s a will, consumers want a way, and that includes procuring their own customer service.
New Mintel research suggests that sometimes people just don’t want to deal with another person when it comes to service. In Mintel’s Hotels US November 2012 report, 30% of hotel guests say they wish there were more opportunities for automated service so they could interact less with hotel staff.
In a new report titled The Real Self-Service Economy, 40% of approximately 3,000 consumers in a global survey said they prefer self-service to human contact for their future contact with companies, and 70% expect a company website to include a self-service application.
Help Me Help Myself
So how do you create a self-service experience that lives up to increasing online customer expectations? Because if you can find out how many home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927 or how many miles of internal telephone lines The Pentagon contains online, you should also be able to quickly find out how to return running shoes, cancel a travel reservation, or troubleshoot problems with your laptop or appliances.
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Search engines have dramatically increased the demand for all types of self-service content, and compounding these expectations is a growing need for speed. According to a 2013 Forrester Research report, customers not only want more information, they want companies to value their time, with 71% saying it is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.
Delivering Speedy Self-Service with a Full-Service Feel
Is there a way to combine quickness with quality when it comes to self-service support? Here are five self-service best practices to consider:
1. Make Self-Service More Inviting. There’s nothing that will turn those looking for self-service convenience away faster than pages of disorganized hyperlinks and questions to sort through. Ask.com is an example of a brand that has changed its self-service support offering to be more inviting, putting the most frequently asked questions and popular topics front and center, along with the name and the friendly face of who’s helping to provide answers at Ask.com.
Another consideration is to add a mix of video responses to frequently asked customer service questions, bringing a personalized feel to online self-service.
2. Make Self-service an Option, but Not the Only One. As part of a corporate knowledgebase or FAQ offering, give customers an easy way to ask a question if they can’t find the answer they’re looking for by adding a personalized channel such as live chat.
In a new 2013 LivePerson Connecting with Customers report which surveyed 5,700 global consumers, 83% of the more than 5,000 consumers said they consistently need some type of support during their online journey, and if they don’t receive it within five minutes, 48% will abandon the site (this percentage jumps to 58% for consumers in the UK). Chat provides a low-cost option for increased customer retention.
3. Information Availability and Accessibility is Everything. Your customer service content is only as good as your customers’ ability to find it. Ensure your content is indexed for the search engines and available in as many alternative locations as possible, including social media and mobile.
According to Nuance’s Weideman, more than 80% of customer service calls now come from a mobile device, so why not make a self-service offering available there? Survey findings by Amdocs found that 83% of customers would be more likely to recommend a company which offered “easy-to-use and consistent” self-service over mobile phones, while Nuance found that 67% of people prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative.
4. Never Be Content with Your Content. Generate consistent, fresh content and customers will look to you as a trusted resource, visit your site more often, and share your insights and information with others. Your search engine placement will benefit, as well, bringing more customers to your brand and your self-service offering.
5. There’s Always Room for Improvement. Though customers want to get their answer and go via self-service channels, as a brand, you need to know whether they got what they came for. Add a quick survey at the end to ask if the content was helpful, and if not, let them answer why. There’s always room for improvement.
Your self-service offering can be at the Motel 6 or the Marriott level, it’s up to you. But keep in mind the predictions that self-service support is the future and the ever-growing expectations for speed of customer service. Where a response time of 24 hours was once the norm, the clock is now set at just four hours. A premium self-service offering will provide a 24-hour service venue and give your CSRs a better chance of responding on other channels within that continuously narrowing customer service window.