Today’s customers increasingly expect personalized experiences from brands, so it is tempting to think that if your customer were having a problem, their first choice would be to get on a live call with customer service.
When looking at actual customer behavior, the opposite is true. According to a Forrester report, 72% of US online consumers prefer to use self-help tools online to get answers to their questions rather than contact the company’s help desk via telephone or email.
Data cited in a Harvard Business Review article shows a strong preference for self-service: Across industries, 81% of all customers attempt to solve their problems with self-service options before reaching out to a live representative.
70% of people expect a company’s website to include a self-service application, and Gartner predicted that by 2020, 85% of the customer contacts with a company would take place without interacting on a live channel.
Why do people prefer self-service? Because customers do not like to spend time or effort dealing with customer service issues. They believe that self-service requires less effort on their part and leads to faster resolution.
For example, let’s say a customer wants to change their address on an account. Which experience do you think will result in a happier customer?
- The customer logs in to their account
- They quickly find their account information
- They update the address themselves
- Customer calls a customer helpline
- Maybe has to wait on hold
- Verifies their identity for security purposes
- Verbally gives an agent the new address, spelling it out
- Listen as the agent repeats it back
- Confirms the change
For customers, needing to call or live chat customer service for issues they can do themselves is like having to go to the bank to cash a check for cash vs using Venmo.
So what is the answer? Should companies add more self-service channels? While customers may like more choices in product features, it turns out that more choices in customer service channels are not a plus.
Adding more channels complicates customer relationship management, leading to many side trips and alternate routes, all of which the company must manage to avoid losing the customer.
The efficient way to think about self-service is rather than adding channels, the goal is to streamline and reduce live channels by optimizing the self-service function to reduce the volume of live calls.
Instead of more choices and channels, companies should optimize a self-service process that:
- Prioritizes customers’ ability to resolve their problems via self-service.
- Gives customers confidence they can resolve their issue, so they don’t abandon the attempt too early.
The place to start with a self-service first strategy that benefits customer engagement and experience is to improve knowledge management for customers.
What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge management involves two perspectives. The first is customer knowledge management which refers to the customer data they collect.
One way of thinking about it is data vs. knowledge. Companies can collect data about customers, but data sitting in different silos doesn’t yield many insights. Combining and managing data allows the company to glean more knowledge – or a complete picture – about the customer. Several years ago, hotels began experimenting with personalizing the experience for their best customers by tracking preferences for rooms or amenities, for example.
The second perspective for knowledge management is how the company manages its FAQs and other service-related information to enhance customer self-service? As we’ve seen, customers want to be able to help themselves.
Based on customer preference for self-service, knowledge management from the online help desk perspective means designing a knowledge base of the company’s information to prioritize customer success with self-service and make the service agent’s job easier on live calls. Knowledge management is the key to self-service customer success.
How Does Knowledge Management Improve Customer Service?
Knowledge management must result in a frictionless customer experience from start to finish. Customers want to solve their issue using a self-service function, or, if that doesn’t work, they can get on a call or live chat with an agent equipped to solve their problem quickly. Behind the scenes, three main goals can help create an ideal situation.
Centralize Data in One Place
When customers arrive at your site looking to solve a problem, their experience with the interface is very important. Customers expect a single entry point and want to locate information and help quickly.
To enable ease of use for customers, companies should centralize and organize their knowledge base in one place. The goal is to build a help center that is easy to use, puts answers at their fingertips, includes automation that make their life easier, and limits the number of calls that are elevated to live chat or live calls.
Reduce Standard Inquiries
Reducing live help calls for standard or basic questions is a major goal of knowledge management for a self-service help desk. Three ways a company can benefit include:
- Happy Customers: Because customers prefer self-service, companies that provide a frictionless self-service experience will improve customer retention and maximize customer lifetime value (CLV).
- Happy Bottom Line: A self-service transaction usually costs less than a dollar. The average cost of live interaction (phone, e-mail, or live chat) is more than $7 for a B2C company and more than $13 for a B2B company.
- Happy Agents: Agents can focus on higher-level problems and not spend time repeating the same request repeatedly.
This rare opportunity for a win-win-win situation is substantial. Customers prefer self-service, the company saves money on live agent time, and agents don’t have to spend time on the same low-level requests over and over again.
Deliver Consistent Service in All Customer Service Channels
Let’s say your knowledge management is primed for a self-service function operating like a well-oiled machine. You have successfully reduced the number of routine calls to customer service.
But what about the customer who has not been able to solve their issue? They are now taking the next step of their customer journey with your customer service function.
What is the quality of their experience once they get on a live call? The answer to that is directly related to the service agent’s resources at their fingertips.
Live call quality is why the knowledge base organization should also support the internal stakeholder audience, namely service agents and supervisors. They should be able to view the customer’s entire history of purchases, calls, self-service attempts, and more.
While many companies have made progress in providing a better customer self-service experience, they have not made the same improvements in training and tools for service reps. It turns out the live call experience has not changed in recent years and is part of the decline in customer satisfaction.
Worse yet, even if a company does a great job with its self-service offering, few happy customers will post about a frictionless “I did it myself” transaction on social media. Unhappy customers are much more likely to vent about poor service on posts that can go viral, leading to customer attrition from negative word-of-mouth feedback.
The good news is that dissatisfaction with live customer calls provides a window of opportunity for companies that can optimize the live call experience by equipping their agents with training and tools.
How about you? Are you ready to deliver Friction-Free Customer Service? Capture your customer’s entire journey in a way a support ticket or traditional help desk never could. Discover Kayako Single View