Online Self Service Best Practices

Gladly Team

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6 minute read

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Ecommerce brands are experiencing explosive growth, with projected global revenue from retail ecommerce sales of 8.1 trillion dollars by 2026. However, with this boom in business comes increased competition and higher customer expectations. To stand out, brands must reduce points of friction for shoppers, reinforce their reputations as helpful resources, and transition from fully reactive to proactive customer service. Enter online customer self service: a checks-all-of-the boxes solution that has become a staple for beloved (and efficient) online businesses.

However: successful online customer self service looks like more than just a bare-bones FAQ page, plus maybe a discussion forum. To help you get it right on your first try, we’ve compiled this guide of customer self-service examples, online self service best practices, and the benefits of customer self service. Let’s dive in.

Why Online Customer Self Service is a Must-Have

Modern consumers–especially Millennials and Gen Z shoppers–love to figure things out themselves first. These younger consumers are tech-savvy and skilled at navigating online shopping experiences. As a result, usage of online customer self-service is at an all time high, and businesses are busy making sure that their solutions are up to the challenge.

The preference for online self-service options is increasing: from the 2020 to 2021 Customer Expectations reports, consumers’ preference to resolve issues on their own while online shopping rose 10%. A customer’s first stop when resolving an issue on their own will always be the company website. This allows them to get specific, isolated information quickly, and saves time for everyone involved.


Customer Self-Service Examples

Thanks to innovation in both technology and automation, brands have a wide variety of offline and online customer self service options. The most popular and common customer self-service examples include:


Delivering Customer-Focused Self-Service Options to Shoppers


Launching online customer self-service

Brands should leverage at least one, if not several of these methods for maximum impact. Most brands start with a combination of a FAQ page and chatbot. Most customer inquiries relate to shipping updates and questions on returns, so be sure to include those details on your self-service options, as well as any recurrent topics, like product sizing, rewards or referral programs, and promotions.

Benefits of Customer Self Service

Online customer self service portals, when done well, can have a positive impact on your company’s productivity across the board, as well as lift some of the weight off of your service staff’s shoulders, and contribute to customer satisfaction.

Additional benefits of online customer self service include:

  • The reduction of costs associated with customer service staffing and operations.
  • The increase of agent productivity and efficiency.
  • The advantages associated with teaching customers new skills regarding your products and site.
  • Increased customer engagement with your website.

Best Practices for Online Self Service

1. Highlight popular FAQs.

The main purpose of any self service portal is expediency, so if there are a number of questions which are asked more by customers than any other, they need to be at the top of your FAQ page. Frequently Asked Questions pages are the first stop on any customer’s self-service journey, and should be streamlined and easy to navigate. You should never receive a customer complaint about the structure or content of your FAQs; if you do, something’s not right and should be addressed ASAP.

2. Design content for learners of all kinds.

This is an accessibility issue. Small businesses may not have the resources needed to address every possible customer inquiry with every media format, but your online self service channels should include visual demonstrations as well as written ones. Many end users might not be able to comprehend the solution to their problems solely through written instructions, so video, photos, and screenshots should be used in addition to text. For example, consider creating a voice-over recording that reads each question and its corresponding answer aloud, paired with a video, walking through the process being described; such as how to initiate a return on your website or log in to a referral program portal.

3. Update self-service content frequently

The moment your content becomes outdated, you need to refresh it. This may happen when a new product is launched, a flaw is found, or you add or change rules about promotions or rewards programs. Fresh, consistent information not only helps to improve your credibility as a resource, but also encourages customers to visit your self-service pages more often, improving both their knowledge of your products and your website’s traffic. Self service content must also be consistent across all channels, and available in as many locations as possible. Your website, social media, and mobile platforms should all provide the same answers to the same questions.

4. Provide ways to contact your team

If users find that their questions just aren’t getting answered, you need to provide an easy and apparent way for them to get in contact with you the moment they realize they need to, however they want to. An ever-present chat button should be waiting off to the side to quickly connect the user to your customer service agents, and phone numbers and appropriate email addresses should be easy to find. Not providing a backup contact method leaves you at risk for a churned or abandoned customer.

5. Make it easy

Having a hard-to-use online customer self service portal defeats the purpose of having one. So every aspect should be easy and intuitive for customers to navigate, especially your search function. It can be incredibly frustrating to search for the answer to your unique problem only then to wade through a sea of irrelevant content. Articles, forums, and other content pages should be optimized for searchability with appropriate and detailed keyword tags. The other benefit of this item is that by monitoring customer searches you can identify and mitigate content gaps in a timely and efficient manner.

Image of a man looking at a tablet with Gladly’s self service chat options to the right

With Gladly, customers can easily access a menu of self-service options from any device – desktop, mobile, or tablet.

6. Track your performance

As with all things, you must keep track of your self-service feature’s effectiveness, and address issues promptly. It’s tricky to measure: as so much of self-service involves a page-visit to your FAQs and not much else, tracking web traffic doesn’t get you any truly actionable information. One way to assess customer self service performance is to compare inquiries being made to your support content. Are they questions which could have (or should have) been answered by your customer self service tutorials? If the answer is yes, it might indicate an issue with your current system.

7. Ask shoppers for feedback

Another solution, which provides data that’s useful for multiple teams, is to ask your users what they think. Consider adding a customer feedback tool somewhere within your self service portal to garner honest feedback from your customers, and use that information to deliver a better experience.

Customer Self-Service Case Study: Deckers

Deckers, the parent company of popular shoe brands like Ugg, Hoka One, Teva, and Sanuk, has radically boosted their customer self-service. Due to their size (with over 140 retail locations and multiple ecommerce sites) Deckers needed to optimize their substantial customer service operation and provide better customer self-service options.

Decker’s Action Plan for Customer Self-Service

They developed a knowledge base using Gladly’s FAQ Answers feature, which allows teams to author answers to common questions once, and then publish across every channel. This not only increases productivity and maintains version control for internal teams, but it also ensures that customers receive the most current, accurate answers to their questions, regardless of the channel they used.


The Results

With their new self-service solutions, Deckers significantly reduced their customer service call volumes, and with the addition of native reporting functions, their leadership team can now identify trending issues and update their FAQs accordingly.

See Decker’s Customer Success Story

Ready to Launch Online Customer Self-Service?

Online customer self-service is good for everyone involved, but like anything worth doing, it requires ongoing effort for maintenance and updates. Fortunately, the work you dedicate to customer self-service will come back to you in the form of self-sufficient shoppers, fewer tasks for your service team, and deeper customer trust.