Your Customers Want to Self-Serve. Are You Honoring Their Choice?

Customers control the conversation with companies. And today, customers have more choice over which products to buy, which customer reviews to consider before buying, and which channels to use to engage with companies. What they don't have is time. In fact, Forrester Research found that two-thirds of customers say valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with good service.

Customer service organizations have to make self-service easy and fast while still connecting the customer to the right action or answer. Self-service should be delivered when customers are engaged, in the flow of their actions within the applications that they are using. Interactions should seamlessly transfer to agents if needed. Self-service should empower customers with knowledge they are anticipated to need, ensuring success with their journeys.

When done well, customer self-service should do the following:

  • Impact the speed of issue resolution and customer satisfaction, delivering personalized engagement and reducing operational costs.
  • Increase conversion and revenue. Proactive content, delivered at the right time in the customer journey, can help educate consumers and give them confidence that they are making the right purchase. This decreases buyers' remorse, which ultimately decreases returns.
  • Drive customer engagement. Users access self-service content for best-practice advice and peer input. Organizations solicit customers for suggestions for new product features and mine used content to understand areas of friction. In combination, these insights help organizations evolve products in line with customer demand.
  • Create lasting customer success. Self-service content can help onboard customers, increase product education about new features, and deepen the success that customers have with their purchases.

Great self-service rests on deeply understanding customers and their context to serve up the right self-service experience to address their questions or problems from within the channels and touchpoints that they are using. Start by identifying and addressing the 20 percent of repetitive issues that are causing 80 percent of inquiries, or the most costly inquiries that have repeatable resolutions. In both cases, you can identify these inquiries by mining contact logs and polling your agents.

No single-vendor self-service solution offers all of these capabilities today. This means that technology-powered customer service organizations must assemble these experiences themselves.

To do this, you should follow these five steps:

  1. Build a foundation of answers. Start with a modern knowledge solution. These solutions support content authoring, workflow, versioning, and localization. They also support federated search, taxonomies, tagging, and metadata management.
  2. Layer on community answers, while promoting unified experiences. Search should return content from your knowledge base and communities, so community content should be added to your knowledge base.
  3. Design common self-service processes. Use process guidance to standardize customer actions through disconnected applications. Surface guided dialogues and decision trees to the customer. Connect to back-end systems to surface relevant customer and product data and to allow customers to transact.
  4. Invest in chatbots. Chatbots hold the promise to anticipate needs based on context, prior queries, and sentiment and provide transactional capabilities. Today, there is a large difference between answerbots that use deterministic dialogues and present answers from a content store and those that embed deep learning for natural language and can handle complex interactions and transacltions.
  5. Explore in an orchestration platform to tie these technologies together. All self-service interactions should start with a customer asking a question. The orchestration platform uses natural language processing to understand the customer, intent, and context, and presents the next step to the customer, which could be a dialogue to clarify intent, an answer, or a process to take. The orchestration platform ties processes, bot flows, and answers together.

Kate Leggett is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Related Articles

Problems arise when the capabilities that chatbot vendors promise to deliver just aren't there, or require too much involvement from internal IT teams.

Posted May 17, 2019

As companies increasingly defer customers to self-service and automated channels, there's a cohort of customers that may not benefit from this approach—anxious ones.

Posted May 10, 2019