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The Benefits and Pitfalls of Online Customer Self-Service

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Online Customer Self-Service

With changes in technology and the rise of a global pandemic, customers are increasingly uninterested in having direct contact with company representatives; face-to-face, or otherwise. Time-strapped customers want to be empowered to get fast, easy solutions to their queries at a time, location and through a device of their choosing. Zendesk research suggests that “a whopping 91% of customers say they would use a knowledge base if it met their needs”. This is great news for businesses as online customer self-service is the fastest and most cost-effective way to deliver customer support.

Whilst there are numerous benefits, not everyone gets it right. In this piece we’ve outlined what some of the key benefits are, in addition to highlighting the most common pitfalls.



What is ‘online customer self-service’?

Online customer self-service can include a variety of functions made available to the customer over the Internet.

Features that can be included are:

  • FAQ Listings
  • Searchable knowledge base archives
  • Discussion forums
  • Personal account management
  • Integrated online sign-up and purchases

The chance that you yourself have made use of online self-service functionality at some point, is pretty high.


The benefits of online customer self-service

1. Lower customer service costs

When customers are able to help themselves using your curated information and functionality, it reduces the load on your support and customer service teams.


2. Increases your teams’ efficiency

Every issue that a customer can resolve themselves through self-service, is one less issue taking up the time and resources of your business representatives. This increases support agent productivity by freeing them to focus on more complex issues that cannot be resolved through self-service.


3. Improved customer experience and higher customer retention

The data is in, and customers simply prefer using self-service options. Research by Zendesk indicates that 67% of customers reported a preference for self-service over other types of person-to-person support. A customer that has to wait to have a query resolved, becomes a frustrated customer. And a frustrated customer becomes an ex-customer. How much frustration could be spared if customers could get their own answers and solutions when they need it - especially if your competitors can deliver a better experience?


4. 24/7 support availability

The Internet never sleeps. Consequently, an online self-service solution doesn’t sleep either. Why make customers wait until tomorrow morning, when they can resolve their issues tonight?


5. Increased customer engagement and marketing opportunities

A well-designed online self-service solution boosts customer engagement and marketing opportunities. This can be done indirectly, by the simple fact that users are directed to your company website when using self-service, where they can engage with its content, or more directly, by allowing customers to discover, explore and get quotes for your service offerings.



Where customer self-service solutions go wrong

Although the benefits of customer-self service are pretty clear, not everybody gets it right. Some reports have found that only 9% of customers fully resolve their query through self-service, which is a tragic return on investment.

In order to reap the full benefits of online customer self-service, please make sure to avoid the following:


1. Outdated content

The fact is, customer self-service solutions are ongoing projects. Your business evolves, and with it the kinds of services and answers your customers need. If your self-service solution is to be an important aspect of your offering, it needs to evolve in tandem with your business. Monitor your content regularly. Analyse what is popular, what is working, what is out of date and what needs to be augmented over time.


2. Poor visibility/bad design

Customers need to know that your self-service solution exists. It also needs to include relevant, helpful content, and be well-designed and easy to use.

Here are some best practices for the design of a self-service portal:

  1. The most frequently asked questions and user services should be prominently placed on the self-service home page - making the most used section of your site easy to find.
  2. Your search functionality needs to work correctly. Customers will be extremely frustrated if they can’t find what they are looking for. Using well thought-out category development also helps here.
  3. Media is essential - supplement your services with video, images and audio.
  4. Make sure your self-service solution is mobile-friendly - not everybody will be accessing your service on a desktop computer.


3. A self-service ‘wall’

No matter how effective your self-service solution is, it will never completely replace human interaction. Some issues are just too complicated to be solvable without discussion.

With this in mind, it’s essential that your self-service solution includes a visible and accessible pathway for customers to make contact with a support agent. If you ‘hide behind’ your self-service portal, it will function as a negative and frustrating message to your customers that you’d rather keep them at arms length.


4. Correctly functioning features

If you’re offering your customers the ability to manage their account or make purchases through your self-service portal - you need to make sure that everything is functioning correctly. Software testing is essential to a positive customer experience. If a customer is expecting to be able to do something, frustration will mount very quickly when that expectation is not met.

The evidence is clear, a great customer experience in all aspects of your business is essential to your success. Part of this positive experience is the provision of a (well-functioning) online customer self-service solution. For more info about Customer Service and how to use all the benefits of automation - read this post

How to Achieve 5 Star Customer Service with Automation



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About Author

Wade Profe
Wade Profe

I drink a copious quantity of cappuccinos and have an issue with vegetables. Also I'm a software tester who writes blogs.

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