Online Self Service Best Practices

Implementing quality customer support functions is rule number one for ecommerce businesses. Effective service delivers benefits which can be felt company-wide, and retailers everywhere should be making their best effort to have quality practices in place. 

Customers today, especially Millennials and Zoomers, love to figure things out themselves first. The younger generation of consumers are tech-savvy and skilled at navigating the rough water that is the internet. As a result, self-service customer support usage is at an all time high, and businesses are busy making sure that their solution is up to the challenge. 

[Learn More: Customer Self Service Software]

And a successful online self service looks like more than just a bare-bones FAQ page plus maybe a discussion forum. Poorly designed self-service tools can be more of an obstacle than an asset, to both business and customer, if visitors come away with their questions unanswered. To help you get it right on your first try, we’ve compiled below a short list of best practices to follow when implementing your self-service solution. 

The Benefits of a Self Service Solution

Self-service portals, 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.

73% of customers surveyed say that their first stop when resolving an issue is the brand’s website: if they can fix it themselves, they will. It allows them to get specific, isolated information quickly, and saves time for everyone involved.

Additional benefits of 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

Highlight popular FAQs in your self service solution.

The main purpose of any self service portal or help desk software 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 the list. 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.

Design self-help 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 self service portal 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 implemented in addition to text.

Update your online self service content frequently.

Your self-help content must be refreshed the moment it becomes outdated, you add a new product, a flaw is found, etc., etc. Fresh, consistent information not only helps to improve your credibility as a resource, but also encourages customers to visit your help pages more often, improving both their knowledge of your products and your website’s traffic. Self-help content must also be consistent across all channels, and available in as many locations as possible. Your website, social media, and mobile platforms must all provide the same answers to the same questions.

Make online self service easy.

Having a hard-to-use 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.

Keep and eye on online help center 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 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 self-help tutorials? If the answer is yes, it might indicate an issue with your current system.

The other solution is to ask your users what they think. Consider adding a feedback tool somewhere within your self-service portal to garner honest feedback from your customers, and use that information to deliver a better experience.

Make the transition between help services seamless.

Ideally, if users find that their questions just aren’t getting answered, 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. 

Last Thoughts: Online Self-Service Best Practices

Online self-help is good for everyone involved, but as anything requires maintenance, updates, and a little love every now and again. Empower your customers to help themselves by providing a self-service portal you can be proud of.

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