Putting customer centricity at the heart of your customer self-service

A customer-centric approach to building self-service solutions improves uptake, reduces costs and increases customer satisfaction – so why do so few businesses put the customer at the heart of how they do it?

Self-service for customers and the pursuit of customer centricity

Any forward-thinking business knows that to stay ahead of the game, you need to embrace new technologies that make it easier for customers to do business with you. Digital channels have opened up that weren’t there before, and they’re empowering customers like never before.

While supermarket self-service checkouts have given customers the option to pay for their shopping quickly, without needing to queue for the traditional checkouts, online knowledge bases are doing the same thing for customers looking for information digitally.

Hence the rise of customer self-service and the increasing use of online knowledge bases to allow customers to find answers to questions without the need to contact your customer service team. This reduces the stress on your business, allowing your customer service team to focus on providing an even better service in the situations in which the customer really does need to speak to a human being.

Making things easier for customers with online self-service

Online knowledge bases give customers the flexibility to find things out for themselves, which is more convenient for them because they don’t have to spend time phoning you. In fact, research shows that many customers don’t actually want to phone your business.

In a recent survey by Zendesk 91% of respondents said that they’d use an online knowledge base if it met their needs, and 67% said that they actually prefer doing so to speaking to an advisor. Helping customers to help themselves is also good news for your customer service advisors, who probably spend the majority of their time answering the same questions anyway; it makes perfect sense to give customers an online resource that answers all those queries instead.

The problem is that unless you put a lot of consideration into it, customer self-service risks brutally backfiring on your business, potentially giving you a reputation for unhelpful customer service, leaving customers frustrated and taking their business elsewhere (and taking their word-of-mouth referrals with them). The issues start to arise when businesses fail to consider the customer’s point of view. As a business, things make complete sense to you that may not be so clear to an outsider, and many companies are guilty of being too internal in their perspective.

There’s an easy enough solution, though…

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

Putting customers at the heart of your self-service strategy

Before you can unleash self-service on your customers, you have to understand their needs and emotions on contacting you. Are they typically getting in touch to complain about something? Or are they likely to be looking for more information about your services, or about ordering from you? Or are they simply looking for advice? Perhaps your customers do all of these things at some point in their relationship with you.

Examining emails and phone calls from customers to date will shed light on the kind of issues your self-service will need to address. But don’t just assume that self-service is the correct way forward; you’ll need to examine the evidence and be objective about whether or not an online knowledge base would actually help answer questions more easily. Knowledge bases can be hugely beneficial, but they’re by no means the only option, or even the best one for your particular customer base. Your customers could be crying out for a live chat facility, for instance, or an online community forum that would enable them to learn from each other through sharing and solving problems.

To add to your understanding of customer needs, you can also look at how they’re currently completing tasks on your site. What does your customer journey look like, and how could it be optimised? In-depth analysis of big data will enable you to make informed decisions about what’s right for your customers. To add to this, you could conduct some user experience testing to examine people’s thought processes as they journey through your site, which may uncover frustrations that could lead to an annoyed customer contacting you.

Once you’ve identified exactly what you want your self-service to achieve, you can then move on to building the strategy, knowledge base and infrastructure that will allow your site to deliver a sterling service. As anyone who’s ever typed a question into a knowledge base and been presented with entirely irrelevant answer will know, you need the technology to ensure that customers can find the precise information they’re looking for, as quickly and easily as possible.

To summarise, empathy is the order of the day when you’re creating a self-service facility that works for your customers. Without your customers you wouldn’t have a business, so make sure they’re at the heart of your self-service strategy.

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