Online Customer Self-Service - Why and How?

John Eccles, 03 June 2020


What is Online Customer Self-Service?

This blog could have been about Online Self-Service because employees, students, partners, and other stakeholders might benefit from online self-service. But I am focusing on customer self-service because generally that is where the greatest opportunity lies.

Customer self-service is simply any action a buyer (or potential buyer) takes to solve their problems or answer their questions without the assistance of a customer service agent or representative.

Self-serve customer service channels include:

  1. Static website pages
  2. Knowledge bases
  3. AI/automated chatbots and regular chat services
  4. Online customer communities for customer engagement
  5. Profile administration including password reset
  6. Access to order histories and account information
  7. Online shops
  8. Online help and support
  9. Service requests

Why is Online Customer Self Service important?

1. Customers want it

We are all customers and we demand accurate, relevant, and complete answers to our questions at a time that suits us – served up as painlessly and as quickly as possible. Online self-service is 24-7. A Forrester study found that 73% of survey respondents say that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with good customer service. The same study found that survey respondents reported using Web or mobile self-service more than speaking with agents over the phone.

2. Higher Customer Satisfaction

Done well, customer self-service improves the speed of issue resolution, delivers personalised engagement, and improves customer satisfaction, retention, and referrals.

3. Increases conversion and revenue

Self-service content can help onboard customers. A significant proportion of customers (I have heard 75% but it will depend on your industry) start by looking online. Proactive content, delivered at the right time in a journey, helps educate and empower customers and gives them confidence in their purchase decision.

4. Deepens customer engagement

Users access self-service content for best-practice advice and peer input. Organisations can obtain customers’ suggestions for new product features and analyse use of content to understand issues within the product. Such insights help organisations develop products that better meet the needs of customers.

5. Increases productivity

Self-service reduces operational costs by deflecting common customer inquiries that might otherwise require the attention of a customer service agent. This frees up the customer service agents to provide better service in response to customer calls or emails.

Where to Start

Start with your customer! What do your customers want in the way of online customer self-service? What are your competitors offering and do your customers (or prospective customers) want that? When you know what online customer self-service you need to provide for your customers, only then start looking at the (software) technologies to deliver it.

And there are a lot of software options! A key driver should be how well the system will work with your core systems – especially your customer relationship management (CRM) system.

A self-service portal is often a good place to start. A self-service portal is a website, consisting of self-service and self-help functions, that enables and empowers the consumer to request services, find information, and register and resolve issues. A self-service portal can be thought of as an “electronic door” to the IT organisation, from which the customer can obtain products and services.

A self-service portal can be implemented with basic functionality and then developed to add more and more self-service options.

But remember that a self-service portal is not just about having the customer log their own ticket. It is not just about having them perform the tasks traditionally performed by a service desk agent. A self-service portal is about delivering a positive customer experience via an easy-to-use interface.

If you have a Dynamics 365 CRM system, you likely have a portal included with your license and this may be a good starting point. The Dynamics 365 portal is integrated into the D365 system with all the security and connections available out-of-the-box, so it is a very cost-effective option.

Once a self-service portal is in place, it can be extended or supplemented with the following:

  1. Virtual agent / chatbot capability
  2. Online shop
  3. Omnichannel customer support whereby all a customer’s prior and current interactions are included into one integrated interface for the support agent.