Using Self-Service Solutions to Make Support More Efficient

Gladly Team

Read Time

15 minute read

The modern ecommerce customer has higher standards than ever before, demanding a certain level of quality and personalization. In Gladly’s 2022 Customer Expectations Report, we found that 66% of consumers prefer brands that know them and can recommend things they would like. As a result, every digital retailer has an obligation to build and maintain a support center that can inform customers fast, otherwise they may choose a competitor.

An important part of informing customers is implementing self-service solutions, especially as the customer experience increasingly starts online. Our research shows that 45% of shoppers are buying directly from brands’ websites. This digital purchasing activity indicates an opportunity to provide more self-service in order to meet customer needs. Self-service solutions make shoppers feel empowered to find the answers to their questions on their own. As a result, these customers become loyal to your brand through a sense of trust and connection.

How do today’s leading ecommerce brands integrate self-service with live agent support without skipping a beat? We’ll explore the best way to provide a seamless customer experience that empowers customers and agents alike through self-service, including how the right support technology partner should help maximize these benefits. When used strategically, self-service tools can open your ecommerce brand up to enormous competitive advantages, strengthening your customers’ trust in your company and creating long-lasting relationships.

Self-Service Solutions: Questions to Ask Yourself

Self-service solutions, like FAQs or live chatbots, are service options that allow customers to access resources that help them solve their customer issues themselves.

Making self-service effective and easy to use is critical so that customers can feel confident that they can find the answers to their questions. Here are three key questions to ask yourself to ensure you’re giving customers the right self-service experience:

Are your self-service solutions accessible?

How easily can a customer find the self-service tools they need to solve their issues or complete transactions? If the basic elements of support aren’t present for them when they need them most, then the platform might as well not exist.

Consider where within the customer experience you include self-service elements. You might provide an FAQ page or an automated chatbot response that engages with shoppers before looping in a live agent. Doing self-service well can be the difference between a happy customer who returns to your store in the future and one who gets upset and never shops with you again. After all, Gladly’s 2022 Customer Expectations Report found that just two bad customer experiences are enough to turn away a shopper forever.

Do you provide a knowledgeable self-service solution?

Do your self-service solutions have the right information to solve common customer issues and answer product/service questions? Is this information clear and concise so the average consumer can understand?

Even if self-service is accessible, customers won’t be able to solve their problems quickly and effectively if the information isn’t accurate or digestible. They’ll then be forced to reach out to live agents. This defeats the purpose of having self-service and can also overburden your staff with these routine issues that should be solvable without their involvement.

There are a number of ways to ensure the self-service solutions you offer are knowledgeable. Use SEO and internal data to review what common questions users are inquiring about, or which products or services require the most explanation. Also take the time to have your support or other technical teams run a quality analysis review of your self-service solutions. If they’re finding it difficult to answer questions on their own, considering the amount of brand knowledge they already have, imagine how tricky it must be for a new customer.

Does your self-service solution work seamlessly with live support?

Does your self-service have the ability to transfer customers to a live agent if needed? Are you over-investing in certain self-service channels and not allowing entry points for shoppers across different channels?

As much as self-service tools should ideally get customers from problem to solution with no agent involvement, that isn’t always the case. Therefore, customers should be able to bring unique challenges and unforeseen questions to a live representative with ease.

This doesn’t necessarily indicate a failure in self-service. Rather, it creates an opportunity to connect self-service with live agent help at any point in the shopper’s journey so that the problem-solving process isn’t interrupted and doesn’t feel disjointed. In fact, Gladly’s 2022 Customer Expectations Report found that 57% of consumers want to be able to easily transition from a chatbot to a live customer service agent whenever necessary.

This level of self-service is a huge component for developing customer loyalty, as it proves to your shoppers that they can put trust in your brand’s ability to support them when they need help the most. As a result, customers will be more comfortable and likely to shop with your brand again, knowing that the experience will be pleasant and worth their time and money.

How Customer Self-Service Solutions Help Support Teams

Customer self-service solutions benefit shoppers by helping them handle simple questions with minimal friction. But self-service is equally important to ecommerce brands’ internal teams. It’s especially helpful for taking basic tasks off your support agents’ plates, freeing them up to handle more important projects, spend more time with customers to develop relationships, and feel happier in their roles, which ultimately prevents agent churn. Here are just a few of the many ways that implementing customer self-service solutions can help a support team work smarter, not harder:

1. Frees up staff to handle more important tasks

If your support agents spend the majority of their time handling the same dozen or so questions and complaints, your self-service solutions aren’t cutting it. Rather than having a live agent handle routine questions about, for example, a product function, a well-written catalog description or FAQ entry should include the information already.

As a byproduct of wasting less time resolving these basic issues that self-service can handle, your support agents can spend more time on in-depth customer issues. With more time for these interactions, agents will be able to develop bonds with shoppers and create long-lasting loyalty through genuine relationships.

2. Provides upsell and cross-sell opportunities

A rapport with customers is more than just a nice-to-have. It is the basis for creating new revenue opportunities through upselling and cross-selling. Gladly’s 2022 Customer Expectations Report found that one in four customers have purchased items that were recommended by customer service agents, meaning shoppers are open to suggestions, as long as they feel personalized. But that is only possible when self-service is strong enough to free up agents to do the important work.

3. Prevents agent churn

When repetitive questions are answered through self-service, customers aren’t as likely to be frustrated when they reach an agent with a simple issue they (rightly) feel they should have been able to solve on their own.

Meanwhile, agents don’t feel like they’re trapped in a loop and have the opportunity to see variety in their everyday work.

4. Keep costs down

With higher contact volume, hiring becomes inevitable, and gets expensive fast. The more your live agents have to handle, the more staff you’ll have to bring on, turning your support center into a major cost drain when it should be a revenue generator.

However, if you don’t appropriately staff up for this influx, burnout among customer service employees will lead to churn that’s equally taxing for your business. Turnover is a huge financial burden on growing companies, with reports showing that the cost to replace any individual role can range from half to two times the employee’s original salary. If your churn rates are high, those numbers add up fast. When self-service solutions can relieve agents from the day-to-day emotional labor that’s inherent to their jobs, the mental health benefits they receive will equally benefit your bottom line.

Maintain Efficiency and Personalization for Customer Self-Service

However you flesh out your own self-service solutions, make sure to never sacrifice the two overarching pillars of effective customer service: efficiency and personalization. Luckily, customer self-service can use both to great effect.

1. Maintaining efficiency

At its core, self-service should be about efficiency during each aspect of the customer’s journey. If it’s not, then something is going wrong behind the scenes.

Measure the success of your self-service solutions to see what’s paying off and what needs further improvement. Is your Customer Effort Score (CES) going down, showing that customers aren’t required to do as much work to solve simple issues? Are your self-service solutions providing a high enough resolution rate? Take the time to reflect and ensure the end goal of efficiency stays top of mind.

2. Maintaining personalization

Customer service is all about personalization, which serves as the backbone for long-term loyalty. As Gladly’s 2022 Customer Expectations Report shows, 73% of shoppers want to be treated like a person rather than just another case number.

This preference carries equally into customer self-service. Small personal touches, like remembering customer details or recalling previous shopping experiences, can help show customers you’re paying attention and invested in solving their issues. Therefore, it’s important when building your self-service to figure out the types of automated responses and FAQs that will reflect the common questions asked by your shoppers.

Essential Features of Customer Self-Service Solutions

Now that we know what a customer self-service solution should look like, let’s dive into the features that make it possible. The key words to remember are intelligent, dynamic, and flexible. When these principles are ingrained in your self-service ethos, you’ll be able to find the right solution to deliver the experiences that both your customers and internal teams will appreciate.

1. Intelligent automation

Self-service solutions and automation go hand in hand. When designed and implemented correctly, intelligent automation tools can provide the essential levels of personalization that separate satisfactory self-service from a truly impressive self-service experience.

Find a self-service solution that provides chatbot, IVR, and other automated communications that can be both responsive to customer needs and identify the needs of the individual customer. These tools should incorporate and build off of a customer’s ongoing history with your brand in the same way that live chat and phone communications do. Do not sacrifice personalization for the sake of cheap automation–learn from brands that made some unfortunate personalization mistakes.

2. Single source of truth (aka Knowledge Base)

Your product and brand information, self-service, or otherwise, needs to be consistent no matter where or how your customers seek it out. Make this process as simple as possible by employing a single source of truth that updates these essentials across channels, all at once, for maximum efficiency. An internal knowledge base can make all the difference in streamlining your customer experience.

In a self-service context, this single source of truth can be a major reference point for the aforementioned automated communications, with quick-response answers guiding customers through common situations and problems in a way that feels natural and well planned.

3. Tools for constantly learning

The options you provide within your self-service solution should reflect the common reasons why customers reach out to you in the first place. If you’re not utilizing tools to understand those common issues, you’re fundamentally misunderstanding the reason why customer self-service solutions are so effective.

In particular, SEO should be a major incorporation into your help center, by picking up on the most frequently searched and requested information on your brand. Similarly, the data you gather from customer conversations should inform your self-service solutions on where it’s falling short to answer the big questions and how you can strengthen it to be more effective.

4. Seamless transitions between channels

Channel flexibility is a big factor for customers when they perceive the quality of an experience. While all of the previous tools are essential, connecting them in a seamless, flexible system is crucial to making self-service efficient and preventing the customer’s experience from feeling disjointed.

Avoid the typical ticket-driven systems for customer service, which too often fail to integrate communications across channels and provide historic context for a customer’s journey. Instead, use a conversation-driven approach so that in those instances when a self-service experience transitions to a live conversation, your agents won’t skip a beat by quickly referencing an earlier chat and diving right into solving the problem.

Self-Service Solutions: Finding the Right One

With a clear idea of what makes up a successful self-service solution, your next question is likely something along the lines of “where can I find all these tools?” It’s essential for ecommerce brands to find a support platform that prioritizes self-service and is accessible to companies of all sizes as they grow.

The right support platform will let ecommerce brands perfectly balance self-service solutions with a scalable, easy-to-use platform that empowers both shoppers and service agents alike. For optimal flexibility and easy transition across channels, look for a conversation-driven system that forgoes the need for ticketing, allowing all customer information to exist in a single knowledge base that permeates both live and self-service interactions. With this, brands could master the efficiency and personalization that embodies memorable, high-quality experiences, which drive valuable, long-term customer loyalty.

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