Customer experience is evolving. Until recently, the gold standard for customer service was embodied by businesses such as Ritz Carlton. Helpful concierges were available for any need you might have – ready to answer any question. But, times have changed. Now, customers would rather “Google” a question on their smartphone than speak with a real person.

A new model for customer service is taking shape, and it looks like this:

Do everything possible to help customers solve their problem on their own, but be there if they need you.

Whereas in the past, a customer’s first instinct was to call customer service for help, now they prefer to solve problems on their own.

Let’s explore how this change in customer expectations affects how to deliver incredible customer service.

Consider these facts

It’s more evident than ever that customers prefer to solve issues on their own.

Even Harvard Business review has highlighted the importance of self-service:

True customer-centricity requires that answers can be quickly found and easily implemented with a minimum of muss and fuss.

The Self Check-Out Line

What’s the right framework for implementing self-service? Consider the self-checkout line at the grocery store.

Why would anyone want to use the self-checkout line instead of having someone handle the checkout process for them? Here are a few cases where self-checkout makes sense:

  • You have a few items
  • You have many items, but all of the other lines are busy
  • You want to avoid human interaction
  • You want to feel in control and not worry about being overcharged

While some people will always prefer to go through the standard checkout line, many people will opt for self-check out.

In addition to purely cost-savings, self-checkout systems benefit stores by letting cashiers focus on the most complex orders for customers with dozens of items.

How does this apply to customer support?

Many of your customers want a self-checkout experience. They don’t want to go through the perceived hassle of speaking with a customer-service representative, sharing their information and having to deal with upsells.

Many customers simply want to solve their problems at their own speed – all while remaining 100 percent in control.

What are examples of requests that users should be able to resolve on their own?

Many support requests revolve around basic issues such as:

  • Password resets
  • Adding users
  • Billing questions

These are the exact types of issues that users are perfectly capable of resolving themselves. If a user could only find instructions on how to reset their password or add another user, they would gladly complete the process themselves.

4 steps for better self-service support

The idea of self-service has existed forever (see: user manuals). Yet, we are just now beginning to understand how software and high-tech companies can deliver great self-service support.

Here are four steps for enabling your customers to help themselves.

Create an up-to-date knowledge base. Knowledge bases are not new, but many companies haven’t implemented a knowledge base, or they do not keep the instructions up-to-date. If customers cannot find documentation in your knowledge base for a product or feature, they’ll be extremely frustrated because this prevents them from solving their own problem.

If you haven’t setup your knowledge base yet, most of the popular customer-support vendors such Zendesk, Salesforce and Atlassian offer knowledge base functionality.

Record demonstration and tutorial videos. A common problem with knowledge-base content is that there is too much text! These knowledge bases read like dictionaries. Users trying to fix a problem will struggle with reading through pages and pages of text documentation. This is why video tutorials are so important. In fact, humans process visual information 60,000 times faster than text.

Video tutorials are simply easier to follow for users, as they show them exactly what to do. Unlike text instructions, nothing is left open to interpretation. Additionally, video tutorials are often easier, and take less time, to create than text instructions.

Next time you create a knowledge-base article, consider adding video tutorials and guides.

Create in-app tutorials. For software and app companies, why not actually help users solve their problem within your product?

In-app guides and tutorials let you point out the exact things a user must do to solve their problem or workflow.

For example, if a user is struggling to reset their password, you could actually guide them, click-by-click and page-by-page, through the process of resetting their password.

Identify and fix bottlenecks in your product. Ideally, your product should be so intuitive that customers can use it without any documentation or support.

That’s rarely the case 100 percent of the time.

Customer-support teams should partner with product managers and user-experience architects to fix the areas in your product where users get stuck. Which features, processes or pages lead to the most support requests? What changes can you introduce in the product to make it more intuitive for users?

Should I still offer in-person support?

Creating better self-service support means your support team can spend more time helping customers with critical issues that make the best use of your team’s expertise. Instead of resetting a password, your team can help a customer debug an advanced use case.

Don’t forget, many of your customers will still prefer to receive their help via email or phone. A strong self-service process will only make your in-person support stronger.


Customers are becoming more self-reliant than ever, preferring to solve issues on their own. While many users still prefer to speak with a real person for support, many others now prefer searching for documentation and answers.

Exceptional customer-service teams must now provide a streamlined experience for users that want to solve issues on their own. This means a thorough and complete knowledge base, along with some type of visual-communication such as training videos or in-app tutorials. Finally, your customer-support team should partner with your product and user-experience team to enable self-reliant users to complete more tasks on their own.

Doing this ensures customers that prefer self-service will have the right information available to them when they need it. And, your support team will be able to spend more time focused on working with customers that have complex issues worthy of their expertise.

Why self-service is the future of customer support – and how you can get it right” first appeared on the Breakout Room blog.