Beyond the Knowledge Base: Your Guide to Self-Serve Customer Support

February 5, 2019
12:00 am

Customers want a great experience with a software company - and they want it now. Influenced by the eCommerce sector with its two-day shipping and personalization efforts, the modern customer wants a personal touch - and frictionless touch points - with your company. To meet these expectations, many B2C and B2B brands are turning to self-serve customer support.

CX consultancy CTMA World reports that 50 percent of customers may be experiencing issues, but only 5 percent actually reach out to customer support. This means companies must be proactive in their customer experience strategy. What better way to do that than through self-serve customer support?

Self-serve in customer support translates into a couple of different elements, depending on need:

  • Automated messaging (or chatbots) will respond to customer inquiries and escalate tickets when necessary.
  • Knowledge bases provide a self-help option for customers in the form of FAQs, guided search or specific articles.

The goal in customer service is relatively straightforward: to satisfy customers with the aim of increasing customer retention and ultimately driving revenue. Introducing self-serve customer support into a multichannel strategy can do both. Here’s how.

How to win over customers with self-serve customer support

The core elements of self-serve customer support are knowledge centers and chatbots. Both can help your brand win over customers and lead to higher customer satisfaction.

“Customers aren’t just embracing the do-it-yourself model of customer support. They are demanding it. Smart companies see this as an opportunity to create a better customer experience.” ~ Don Brown, CEO of Interactive Intelligence

Customers like having a self-serve option. Research from Harvard Business Review shows that more than 8 out of 10 customers will try to take care of their problem themselves before reaching out to a live rep.

When done well, chatbots and knowledge centers are easier to navigate and take less time than calling a support center or waiting for an email response. A recent poll found that 60 percent of customers have used the Help or FAQ page in the past 12 months, while 59 percent had a phone conversation with a customer service rep. Self-serve options may not be able replace personal customer support (yet), but they can certainly augment it.

“Many customers like to be self-reliant and don’t want to take the time talking with a customer service rep. Being self-sufficient is often faster and more reliable.” ~ Scott Wingo, CEO of Spiffy

The way to win over customers, then, is to meet them where they’re at. These are a few ideas to get you started down the right path:

  • Invest in customer-centric content. For some companies, a full blown knowledge center makes sense, complete with questions, staff comments and articles. For others, a thought out FAQ page with clear information may do the trick.
  • Use automated messaging as your front line. Reduce customer wait time with a nearly instantaneous response. You don’t need a futuristic AI program to address a customer’s needs. A chatbot equipped with the right responses will get the customer on the right track - particularly when it can reroute seamlessly to a live chat agent.
  • Keep self-serve options front and center. This is your chance to be proactive. Automated messaging on your site can offer help before customers even ask for it. Posts on your social media can point customers directly to self-serve resources.

Even after introducing self-serve customer support, continued monitoring of these efforts is critical to customer satisfaction. Despite its ability to reduce the load on staff, self-service is not a set-it-and-forget endeavor. “Every time you set up a process, you need to monitor it,” writes customer service consultant Micah Solomon. The best in CX tech will allow you to assess how your self-service resources are working from both a sales and customer satisfaction standpoint.

1.    Save time and money with knowledge centers and automated messaging

Self-serve customer support can save your support team time and your company money by cutting down overall support volume. The benefit here is almost common sense: if the customer finds the answer they need in the self-service portal, the ticket volume for customer support staff decreases.

The same HBR article from above that showed how much customers love self-service also showed that self-service offers companies the opportunity to dramatically reduce spending. The average cost of a “live service interaction” (a phone call, an email or a live chat session) runs over $7 for a B2C company and over $13 for a B2B company. In contrast, the cost of a DIY transaction is “measured in pennies.”

Juniper Research predicts that chatbots will save the banking sector alone around $8 billion every year by 2022.

The long-term payoff of building a knowledge center and incorporating chatbots into your support channels is clear. Beyond simply reducing volume (and therefore budget), there are a few different ways investing in knowledge bases and automated messaging pay off:

  • Improve individual agent productivity. With fewer calls and support tickets, agents can address the most complex cases and better care for each customer.
  • Increase customer self-sufficiency. Taking the time to explain the solution to a problem in writing means customers will be more likely to be able to help themselves with future issues.
  • Bring in organic leads. Companies can save dollars spent on advertising by increasing organic reach. A well written and optimized knowledge center or FAQ page can go a long way toward driving traffic to your site.

2.    Keeping it human with self-serve customer support

Focus on how self-serve not only saves time and potentially leads to improved support KPIs across the board, but how it can also feel human as well. Especially when you don’t treat one element as the entire solution - supporting automated messaging, a chatbot and a knowledge base is the foundation for good service, along with a great support time to follow up.

Remember: self-serve customer support is just part of the bigger picture. Efficiency is not the primary metric for customer service. Customer satisfaction trumps nearly any other KPI. Introducing self-serve options can not only save time and potentially lead to improving support KPIs; it can also feel human.

One single element of CX technology should never be treated as the entire solution. Instead, automated messaging, chatbots, and knowledge centers can lay the foundation for good service. Live agents can build up from there.

For example, Forrester’s Customer Experience Index is based on three factors: ease, effectiveness, and emotion. Companies with a customer focus can meet all three by integrating

  1. Automated solutions (like chatbots) with
  2. Self-serve resources (like knowledge centers) and
  3. Human-powered channels (like live chat).

Kate Leggett at Forrester writes that enterprises “must focus on delivering the best experience based on context and inquiry type, including via chatbots, visual engagement, and voice interfaces.” Chatbots and AI are the future of customer experience: but that doesn’t mean live agents are a thing of the past. Multichannel solutions will bridge the two for better CX.

What Samsung is doing to connect with customers

Acquire has partnered with Samsung to provide a more personal experience for their customers in Spain.

The strategy incorporated two elements of CX tech: live chat and automated messaging. The live chat solution allows a more effective response to customer conversations, improving CX and reducing delays in serving customers. At the same time, the automated messaging campaigns take a proactive approach. By reaching out to online customers with targeted messages determined by their behavior, Samsung is better able to address customer needs - and boost sales in the process.

The combination of live chat and automated messaging brings the best of both worlds, laying the foundation for a satisfied customer.

Extra insight: Boost sales and traffic with customer-centric portals

The application of this self-serve approach to support goes beyond customer experience.

As the previously siloed spheres of sales, marketing, and CX increasingly overlap in the SaaS world, self-serve customer support can act as the bridge that eases the transition from one to the other. For example, Harvard Business Review research shows that nearly a quarter of companies take more than 24 hours to respond to a sales lead. Introducing self-serve customer support - and the multichannel approach that comes with it - can reduce this response time by an order of magnitude.

“You have a very small window to successfully convert a lead,” writes Rebecca Hinds at “If you are struggling to improve customer service, having chatbots respond to freshly generated leads can do wonders.” Tracking sales from self-serve customer interactions is a good way to see how this happens.

There you have it: companies can increase efficiency, customer satisfaction, and even sales with self-serve customer support.

Multichannel customer service - including self-serve customer support - is the new name of the game. In 2018, Gartner expected nearly 85 percent of organizations to increase investment in CX technology. What will you do to keep up?

Self-serve support can decrease the load on the customer support team and increase customer satisfaction simultaneously - winning customers and saving time. The bottom line: self-serve is easier for the customer and better for the company.


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