ball in maze game

Overcoming customer self-service obstacles

Customer Service Channels

Customer self-service is a powerful tool.

With FAQs, chatbots, online discussion forums and more, consumers are no longer at the mercy of contact center wait times, hold Muzak or live-chat support queues. Instead, the ability to solve problems or answer questions is right at their fingertips (literally).

From a business perspective, giving customers the chance to resolve basic issues or concerns via self-service channels can free up your support team to focus on more complex problems.

Of course, self-service isn't a perfect support option one hundred percent of the time. According to a survey by TELUS International, conducted in partnership with The Harris Poll, Americans tend to shy away from self-service options for a number of different reasons, including not finding the answers they need (47%), not wanting to start all over with a human customer service rep if they can't find an answer (36%), and a general preference for speaking to a human agent (35%).

Fear not! Many of these perceived obstacles can be overcome with an efficient strategy. Here's a few root causes of customers' reservations when it comes to self-service as revealed by our survey, as well as some best practices to help you move beyond them to offer a better customer experience (CX).

Technology glitches (33%)

Technology glitches are bound to happen, and for the most part, they're easy to ignore as minor inconveniences. But when a customer is in the midst of solving a problem, nothing derails them like a page that won't load, an app that keeps crashing or a social channel outage. It can lead to frustration, poor CX and, in some cases, customer churn.

As such, it's essential to have a continuity plan for outages that includes a mix of channels to keep customers informed. Diversifying your support options ensures customers always have another channel to turn to when they encounter a glitch.

Difficulty finding answers (30%)

Obviously, not all inquiries will be conducive to self-service. Sometimes there's complexity to a solution that can't be conveyed smoothly by a bot or FAQ document. Other times it's a matter of not knowing what question to ask in the first place.

The moment a customer can't find the answer they're looking for, you want to make sure they can quickly rebound by finding help. Make it easy for them to escalate and/or switch to another channel. If it's a human being's support they need, make that option obvious, and include contact information as part of the self-service tool. Give them all the options they need to connect with a customer service rep and if they've already started a query, be sure to acknowledge their effort rather than making them start at square one.

Answers take too long to find (26%)

Sending a customer through several drop-down menus or dense FAQs is a surefire way to turn them off of the self-service experience. Self-service works best when it's intuitive. If someone's trying to troubleshoot a problem themselves, they're doing it to save time. Making that hard to accomplish erodes both their experience with the brand and your customer support team's time, especially when it could be a quick fix.

Ensure your user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) incorporates best practices. That could be as simple as improving your FAQ by highlighting the top questions customers ask and making those the first ones customers see when they start the troubleshooting journey.

Additionally, don't overload your self-service tools with overly detailed information. And above all, don't make customers dig through the depths of your website for a simple answer.

Interactions feel cold or impersonal (21%)

Chatbots and artificial intelligence are powerful tools when it comes to delivering consistent and efficient customer support, but they're not always the best at emulating the warmth and empathy of human interaction. Experiencing a customer service interaction that doesn't really line up with your expectations from a certain brand can be very off-putting. That's why self-service options should incorporate your brand voice.

Give your FAQs and conversational bots a dose of personality that matches the tone and personality of your brand. The familiarity can be comforting and can de-escalate a situation when a customer is frustrated.

Not confident the information accurate/up-to-date (20%)

As your products and services evolve over time, the information relayed in your self-service channels needs to keep pace. No customer wants to run through the steps outlined in an FAQ or watch a how-to video that doesn't match up with the updated features of your current offerings.

It's critical to implement a regular review schedule and adjust content featured in your self-service support options. Leveraging the treasure trove of data from past customer queries can also provide valuable information on what information may be missing from your site so that you can be even more helpful going forward.

Despite these customer-identified obstacles, the vast majority of customers do want brands to offer self-service options. Not only do self-service tools reduce contact center volume but it shows your customers that you understand their needs. By empowering them to seamlessly tackle whatever challenges may come their way, you're able to build a deeper relationship with greater engagement and brand loyalty.

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