How Do I… Get My Customers to Self-Serve?


Our panel of experts share their top tips for encouraging your customers to help themselves.

Create a forum so customers can support one another

A significant number of B2C companies miss a trick by overlooking the value of self-service in the form of FAQs and customer communities.

Mats Rennstam

Mats Rennstam

The underlying problem is that a majority of customer service organisations do not monitor why customers are contacting them in a structured and ongoing way. Therefore they don’t know what to put in their FAQs on the website, or how to update them when their customers’ top 10 queries change.

If they start a forum for customers to help each other, there will be bad things written about them, yes, but it will also be a great resource to identify FAQs and will also provide a platform for other customers to provide support.

Personally, I have started going to unofficial sources online first when I have a query, as that’s often where I will find the most useful answers.

With thanks to Mats Rennstam at Bright

Make it easy for customers to find the relevant information

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Always make it easy for customers to find relevant information that will help answer their queries.

Consider an online knowledge base, or a web page listing your FAQs, or even a ‘how-to’ video if you have physical products that will lend themselves to this medium.

Review your FAQs frequently and remove any that become dated or less relevant.

Capture and review the terms customers type into your website’s ‘search box’

If your website offers a search facility then make sure you’re capturing and reviewing the terms that your visitors are typing in.

You can then be proactive, by acting on this insight to continually try to make this information easier to find. Or, if you see significant volume on certain queries, think about including relevant instructions in other communications, like within confirmation emails to customers.

Mike Donohue

Mike Donohue

Use intelligent data lookups to pre-empt the question

If customers do end up picking up the phone then use intelligent data lookups to pre-empt the question.

Play personalised messages based on the caller’s ID. For example, check in the database to see if they have an outstanding order and, if so, use text to speech to play them their expected delivery date.

Very often they won’t need to hang around and speak to an advisor – you can answer their query before they’ve even asked it!

With thanks to Mike Donohue at Magnetic North

Learn where the strengths and weaknesses are in your current self-service offering

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Badly maintained self-service across multiple channels is almost as bad as not having the self-service option available at all.

The key to successful customer self-service is careful planning and considering self-service in the overall context of multichannel customer engagement, while understanding your customers’ current self-service experiences.

Determine what you want to achieve with customer self-service in tangible, measurable objectives – be it financial or AHT. Learn where the strengths and weaknesses are in your current self-service offering.

Factor customer requirements into your self-service objectives

Do you understand what your customers do, why they do it and how they want to do it? What about their needs, expectations and channel preferences?

Do they expect a smartphone app or will the website suffice? What about IVR? The answer will be different based on your customer demographics.

Focus on making it as smooth as possible for customers to get what they want, when they want it, from the self-service process.

Chris Dealy

Chris Dealy

Regularly update your self-service information

A successful self-service process will have multiple unified channels that support people, processes and technology, enabling customers to self-serve easily across channels.

Ensure that consistent and regularly updated information from multiple content sources, including process and practices, is available for each supported channel, from the contact centre to email, messaging, webchat and social media channels.

With thanks to Chris Dealy at injixo

Contact your customers before they contact you

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Anticipate and solve customers’ problems before they contact you. For example, an IVR can provide a self-service resolution to a common issue before the customer connects to an agent – helping to keep call volumes and costs down.

Using a mobile IVR also enables the provider to further improve the self-service offering. For example, allowing a patient to quickly view and modify an appointment or send a request to rebook without having to make a phone call.

Listen to your customers and make things easy for them

One effective way of reducing call volumes is by finding out what your customers are doing and then acting on it.

Organisations are increasingly using business analytics in conjunction with this feedback to understand the typical customer lifecycle or path and pinpoint ways of improving customer-facing processes.

Customers want the interaction experience to be as effortless as possible, so businesses should be looking for ways to conduct simple and straightforward transactions like regular payments or meter readings through a self-service approach rather than requiring agent involvement.

Jeremy Payne

Jeremy Payne

Don’t neglect your customers when they don’t want to self-serve

For the most complex queries and for customers who prefer interacting with a human being no matter what, the self-service approach will not be the best option.

Money saved from the approach, however, should be invested in the other end in developing the connected enterprise – so that queries needing expert help or maybe a longer call can be escalated from the contact centre to specialist staff in the middle or back offices.

With thanks to Jeremy Payne at Enghouse Interactive

Consistent delivery is the key to providing intelligent channel support

A report carried out by Econsultancy and ResponseTap found that whilst 66% of companies have a contact centre, less than half of these companies are using telephone call tracking analytics to connect online and offline.

Simon Cocks

Simon Cocks

This technology and service delivery ‘gap’ presents a significant omnichannel customer experience and customer effort negative.

How do we meet customer expectations when potentially 50% of the journey is not in the contact centre agent’s field of view as they answering a call?

Be it the solutions used, or business departments themselves, seamless integration and consistent delivery is the key to success in providing truly intelligent channel- and device-agnostic support.

Arguably, this is how champions of customer service get their customers to self-serve – by delivering answers where more than 60% of customers begin their service experience… on the web!

With thanks to Simon Cocks at Transversal

Omnichannel self-service is more dynamic than traditional self-service

New omnichannel self-service is far more dynamic than traditional self-service and links to assisted service, taking into account the context of each and every customer.

When a person calls wanting help, the IVR offers the customer corresponding visual information in a web browser or a mobile app. The visual information complements the spoken word from the IVR and handles the more complex information sharing or survey-type interactions.

For example, if the customer wants to make an appointment to meet with a company representative, they could fill out their information in the mobile browser. Equally, filling out electricity meter reading information is far easier on a mobile browser than trying to type it into a phone.

Lucille Needham

Lucille Needham

Understand why your customers are getting in touch

Context is also important when encouraging customers to self-serve.

If, for example, we know that a particular customer always calls to find out the balance of their account, make that the first option within the self-service function.

This will prevent them from getting impatient and having to seek help from an agent.

With thanks to Lucille Needham at Genesys

IVR self-service helps customers check their balance without an agent

To function at its best, a contact centre needs CRM integration. This enables IVR self-service, for instance, allowing customers to check their balance or the time of a delivery without the need to speak to an agent.

Not only do your customers get what they want quickly and easily, but it also frees up customer service agents so they can devote more time to handling more complex queries.

Tim Pickard

Tim Pickard

Personalise your recorded messages

Personalise your recorded messages based on what you know about your customer and deliver answers to anticipated questions.

For instance, if you know they are expecting a delivery that day, chances are they are calling to check the status of their order, so present that information to them in the message.

With thanks to Tim Pickard at NewVoiceMedia

Develop YouTube content that you can point to from other channels

Our YouTube channel provides a lot of useful general advice that we can point to from other channels.

It’s also easy to support across our social channels.

With thanks to Craig

What have you tried to encourage your customers to self-serve?

Published On: 7th Oct 2015 - Last modified: 30th Oct 2017
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1 Comment
  1. Remy – this is a great post. However, makes me think why is this even a question today with instagrams/snap/wechats around? Why aren’t we smart enough to know the problem and proactively reach out and help?

    Self-Service. Will that be relevant in five years? Do we expect customers to leave their routine and come to a website/wait for someone to chat with?

    Ashish Joshi 12 Oct at 7:31 pm
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