Online self-service support is not only a growing trend in customer service; it is increasingly a growing demand. Customers prefer to be able to gain immediate, accurate, and easy-to-use support, without the hassle of having to find a phone number and wait in a queue while the minutes tick by. There-in lies the rub – customers don’t want just immediate help, or accurate help, or for it to be easy-to-use, they want all three.
But in an Internet-enabled world, customers aren’t just calling you. They want to reach you via email, chat, text, in some cases even social media. In order to create a great online self-service support system for your customers, you need to address not just the platform, but the wants and needs of your customers.
Nobody likes to wait for a problem to be solved, especially if they could solve the problem themselves with a little help. Knowledge bases are good for online self-service support, but can be cumbersome and difficult to navigate. Email is great for managing issues on the supporter’s side, but can appear slow on the supported’s side. Chat is about as immediate as you can get, but it means someone always has to be present.
Customers who use online chat typically expect a response within five minutes (Source). Chat is easy to use (usually you just type your question in a box and click “send”). If you can provide enough customer service representatives, all they need to be is relatively knowledgeable or know where they can find the answers, and you’ll have covered all three areas. The problem is this can be costly, and you may have customer service representatives often doing nothing.
A 2012 survey found that 75% of customers prefer to use online self-service support when it’s available, but only about half do so. This is because of the stigma that online self-service support is flawed, or usually incomplete. Almost 91% of those surveyed also said they’d use an online knowledge base, if it was available and could be setup to meet their needs (Source).
The problem with a knowledge base is that it needs constant upkeep. Your business offers a new service? You’re going to need to document the FAQ for that. An update went out for your software? Time to update the online documentation as well.
It isn’t just a matter of keeping everything current, though, but about ensuring the information is accurate. Even when dealing with an actual person, approximately 27% of all email inquiries are answered incorrectly (Source).
Easy to Use
Nearly 40% of customers prefer the phone route still, nearly neck-and-neck with the 41% who prefer email and online self-service support (Source). However, 85% of customers are unhappy with the phone support experience (Source).
It would be easy to just say “do all three!” here, but that isn’t realistic for most companies. The best solution for online self-service support is always going to be to deal with a person, one who is available fairly quickly, can be reached via multiple forms of communication, and is knowledgeable of the customer’s problem if not the solution itself.
Customer portal web sites are becoming the norm, allowing customers to submit tickets with their own written descriptions for their problem. They usually provide a way for customers to track the ticket’s status, and provide additional information to the customer, such who to call if there is an emergency, or the name of the person actually helping them.
If the online self-service support is easy to use and provides accurate information, all it comes down to is the actual customer support employee to be knowledgeable and on top of their tickets.
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