The rise of self-service support has been an interesting one to follow. I feel like it was only a few years ago that we as customers were at the mercy of companies when it came to support inquiries. I use to dread having to call a support number because I knew I’d be in for a frustrating experience.

Whether it was the lengthy hold times, the language barrier with outsourced call center representatives or the general lack of knowledge of the customer service agent, it all added up to a bad customer experience.

Fortunately, companies are beginning to recognize that these poor experiences are contributing to their declining customer satisfaction scores. These customer-centric companies have been the first to adopt self-service support and, as a result, are improving their customer satisfaction and increasing retention.

Customer support expectations are changing

The internet has ushered in an era where customers feel empowered. Customers are now comfortable with searching the internet for information and using search engines to find answers to their questions.

This has created a fundamental shift in the mentality of your customers. When they encounter a problem while dealing with your company, their first thought is no longer to pick up the phone, but instead to jump online to find the answer themselves.

For example, Verizon customers are searching Google to learn how to activate their Verizon phone, they aren’t picking up the phone to talk to a customer service agent.

Customers don’t want to call you anymore; they want to access your knowledge base, FAQ articles and online communities. In fact, a study by Coleman Parkes for Amdocs found that 91% of survey respondents said they would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.

Furthermore, in a separate study by Nuance Enterprise, 75% of survey respondents considered self-service to be a convenient way to address customer service issues. A whopping 67% of the respondents said they actually preferred self-service over speaking to a company representative.

If customers prefer self-service, then would it be safe to assume that if you don’t offer any self-service channels, you might risk making a customer unhappy?

You bet. These changing expectations around self-service mean you must be prepared to adapt or risk not meeting expectations, resulting in low customer satisfaction.

Tools and best practices to deliver self-service support

Offering a self-service support channel will help you improve customer satisfaction. There are a number of ways you can implement self-service support. Here are three ideas to help you get started:

Knowledge base

A knowledge base is a central repository that can be used to store all your support articles, FAQs and help documents. Knowledge bases work well because you can tailor them to meet your customer’s needs.

Let’s take a look at an example knowledge base used by Charity Water, a US-based non-profit.

As you can see, Charity Water is able to organize all their important information into an easy-to-digest self-service help center. You can quickly search the database or browse the different categories. This is a great 24/7 resource that provides self-service for Charity Water’s customers and supporters.

Customer community platform

A community platform harnesses your customers’ ability to deliver self-service support. It works by empowering your brand advocates to share and connect with your other customers. You can use these platforms to collect customer knowledge and distribute it in a user-friendly medium so that other customers can learn and benefit.

Take a look at Hootsuite’s customer community:

Hootsuite’s community leverages customer knowledge to provide peer-to-peer support. The company is able to collect and share a continuously growing repository of commonly asked questions.

Monitor social media

Your customers are on social media and likely enjoy engaging with your brand on these channels. Social media provides a great opportunity for you to be proactive with your support. You can use these channels to update customers on issues, monitor customer questions and complaints and monitor your brand mentions. One company that does this very well is Help Scout. They have a specific Twitter handle (@HelpScoutDev) dedicated to sharing information about bugs and other issues, product updates, features and integrations.

They use social media to engage with their customers and share knowledge base articles. For example, take a look at this conversation on Twitter between Taco Verdo and Help Scout:

@TacoVerdo this integration should do the trick- http://t.co/OUJDMnmMxO— Help Scout Dev (@HelpScoutDev) September 24, 2014

Taco sent a quick question via a Tweet at 12:01am and one minute later Help Scout responded with an answer and link to their knowledge base article. This is a perfect example of how to create a better experience by using social media and a knowledge base as self-service support.

Your customers want self-service

Customer satisfaction is influenced by an organization’s ability to meet and/or exceed customer expectations. If you deliver a better experience, you’ll likely see your customer satisfaction scores improve.

Your customers are no longer reaching for their phones to get in touch with you. They want (and expect) to be able to find answers to their questions themselves. Use a knowledge base, customer community and social media to deliver self-service support that meets these new expectations.

Other recommended articles on self-service support:

Gordon Tan

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Gordon Tan is an entrepreneur based in Australia who has started and sold multiple technology companies with a combined value of $150m. This included a client satisfaction benchmarking platform which gave him first hand insight into the best practices of over 6,000 businesses. After retiring at 35 he is now a recognised thought leader on winning and retaining clients - His two passions: making clients the heartbeat of a business no matter what the product or service and this blog.

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