In recent years, the rise of social media put the customer in charge of the brand conversation. As e-commerce and demand for online help expands, companies have to meet and exceed new expectations to keep customers satisfied.
Simply put, customer satisfaction measures whether your products and service meet or exceed your buyers’ expectations. Customer satisfaction affects the bottom line because it is a critical predictor of retention and repeat revenue. Today’s customer expects efficient, seamless interactions with products, services, and customer service help across various devices.
Fortunately, customers also like to help themselves. In fact, 79% of US consumers say they have used a self-service portal for customer service, and 88% of customers expect companies to have self-service options. 65% use self-service channels because they like the convenience and don’t want to talk to agents or wait on hold to do simple routine tasks.
Customer self-service portals are a win-win situation because they increase customer satisfaction while freeing up live agent time. A customer self-service portal is an important tool for improving customer satisfaction and increasing loyalty. Let’s look at the elements of a self-service portal.
What Is Customer Self-Service?
Customer self-service is exactly what it sounds like – making it easy for customers to help themselves. Self-service portals provide the foundation of modern customer care by allowing customers to help themselves with information about products, services, the company, account information, and order status. The portals also automate routine customer issues such as changing account information or passwords.
Three different channels for self-service that are critical for the customer service eco-system:
- Help Center: a knowledge base where customers can search and find answers to questions and learn how to solve their issues, like updating an account or reviewing return policies.
- Self-service Customer Portal, also known as a service desk portal: where customers can access their account and take action. Tech glitches and poor user interface (UI) are frustrating to customers, so it is important to provide a frictionless experience to quickly complete their tasks. Gartner reports that 96% of customers experiencing high friction with a company are more likely to become disloyal, purchase less in the future, and spread negative information to discourage others from becoming customers.
- Customer Community: an online space where customers can share feedback, ideas, reviews, and advice. A well-managed customer community can increase customer loyalty and convert some engaged customers to brand evangelists.
The different channels of a cohesive self-service system give customers more than one way to find answers to their questions and enable them to take action.
Benefits of Customer Self-Service Portals
The overall benefit of customer self-service portals are they help retain customers and increase loyalty while freeing up customer service representatives’ time for higher-level work. A 24/7 self-service portal is much less expensive than staffing a live help desk around the clock.
Companies benefit because customer service agents can focus on customers with more personalized or complicated issues. They don’t spend as much time on routine tasks, which reduces call center costs. 66% of service professionals say self-service portals reduce case volume.
Let’s look at a few key ways self-service portals benefit customers and companies.
Help Customers Find Their Own Answers
Today’s customer is busier and more distracted than a few years ago. They want to complete routine tasks as quickly as possible. Helping customers find their own answers is key. Here are common ways self-service portals can help:
- Intelligent systems powered by AI can auto-suggest solutions based on the customer’s description of the issue
- Systems help customers save time by auto-filling forms and suggesting topics as the customer types.
- Accommodate different learning styles by providing a variety of media such as step-by-step guides, FAQs, and how-to videos.
Keep Customers up to Date on Demand Status
Have you ever noticed that when airlines have a flight delay, people are more impatient if the staff does not offer updates? The problem is delays introduce the unknown, and uncertainty makes people anxious.
The same dynamic exists with updating customers on the status of their orders. Customers want to be able to quickly check the status of their support ticket and don’t want to start from scratch with each new inquiry or agent.
To keep customers happy, support ticket information that includes the context and previous progress on the account is essential.
Kayako’s SingleView™ includes every customer’s interaction in our help desk support ticketing system so that customer service agents can access a centralized, visual story of the entire customer journey
Understand What Your Customers Need
Poor site functionality and a glitchy interface introduce friction into the customer’s experience. If they can’t easily and quickly find answers, they may doubt if the company understands their needs and may seek alternatives.
Friction is any point in the customer’s journey with a company where they hit a snag that slows them down or causes dissatisfaction. In the most basic concept, providing frictionless customer service means tracking the customer journey and enhancing the customer experience.
Why do we go back to our favorite restaurant over and over again? Because it feels familiar and convenient. The waiter knows what we want even before we order. Take a cue from your local diner when designing your portal.
Self-service portals should feel familiar to customers. They should also be convenient to use. Can customers accomplish several tasks with a minimum of repetition or steps? And finally, does the platform anticipate their needs by offering relevant, helpful suggestions?
How to Create a Customer Self-Service Portal
Creating a customer self-service portal is a project that involves content organization, deciding on portal access, and partnering with the right portal provider partner.
Content for the Customer Self-Service Portal
Before you set up a self-service portal, organize your existing content. A good place to gather content is agent knowledge base articles you can repurpose for self-service queries. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and be sure the tone of the writing is appropriate for them and not tailored for the agent’s position. Other content sources include:
- FAQ sections
- White papers
- Blog posts
- User guides
- How-to guides
- Terms and conditions
- Privacy policies
- Company policies that affect customers
Customer Self-Service Portal Access
One consideration is access to your portal’s channels. Will you require people to create an account to access your self-service portal and knowledge base? If not, the term for the channels is “unauthenticated”. They are open to the public and have some SEO advantages because search engines can bring new people to your content.
“Authenticated” channels are private and require registration and log-in. The advantage of requiring registration is you can track customer behavior and track search and usage analytics of individual users.
Choosing a Self-Service Portal Provider
Once you have your content list, the most important decision for the success of your project is choosing a customer self-service portal provider. Look for providers that simplify the setup and offer ease of use as you grow. Your portal will expand over time, so it’s important to choose a provider with a solution that also simplifies ongoing staff interactions with the platform.
Features to look for in a self-service portal include:
- A knowledge base with a collection of FAQs, articles, videos, diagrams, how-to guides, and more
- A branded, customized Help Center
- An interface that makes it easy to create articles for the knowledge base
- A portal that connects to internal and public-facing knowledge bases
- Integrates downloadable resources and rich media content
- Intelligent forms with auto-suggestions as customers type
- Ability to tag and organize articles
- Internal tools like draft status to keep articles hidden until ready to publish
- Password reset capabilities
- The ability to log a service request
- Collaborative spaces, like community forums for customers to share information and provide helpful tips
As you can see, self-service portals can be a powerful tool to increase customer satisfaction by helping customers help themselves. Choosing the right provider is a critical step to providing fast and responsive customer care.