Customer self-service, while not new, is growing in popularity. And for start-ups, self-service is more important than ever as consumers increasingly expect – and often prefer – to find their own answers to support questions.
We did some of our own research recently, which found that four times as many customers seek answers for themselves through self-service options than submit a request to a company for support. Some of our other research found that two out of three consumers say they prefer finding their own answers over interacting with customer service representatives.
The trend of turning to self-service goes even further, with customers increasingly seeking out peer support from online communities instead of interacting directly with companies.
This is great news for start-ups; self-service is the fastest and most cost-effective way to customer support.
Many successful start-ups are realising that enabling self-service support is good for business and good for customer satisfaction. Obviously, more self-service behaviour lowers support costs and also frees up resources to dedicate to high-value customers.
Below are some tips on how start-ups can offer a first-class experience, encouraging customer self-service through online forums, communities, and social media.
1. Make it your own
Make sure your self-service tools and help centres reflect your company, products, ethos and voice. Make your self-service centre look visually pleasing and easy to read.
To save you time and effort, I would highly recommend choosing self-service products and services that are easy to customise, update and mange yourself without needing to be an expert in HTML or web design.
2. Keep content relevant and updated
For self-service capabilities to work, they need to offer your customers the information they are looking for. Our research showed that a whopping 91% of customers would use a knowledge base if it met their needs. Your knowledge base should be built on content and advice based on customer enquiries and needs, and updated regularly.
If you work across multiple regions and countries with languages other than English, make sure content is managed from one place by linking translated versions of content with the English original.
3. Ensure searching is easy
This may sound basic, but it’s important. Good self-service allows customers to access relevant content quickly so they can get answers in fewer steps.
Make sure your self-service is able to find the best matches by narrowing in on the best results for each search query even if the user’s search keywords are not exact. You can rank articles that answer frequently asked questions and searches higher up in search results.
You can also use self-service searches to promote your community content by emphasising user or agent-generated content by boosting the type of content you want to showcase at the top of search results.
4. Encourage communities
With customers increasingly turning to peers for advice, it makes sense to encourage communities and forums. After all, your customers can often be the best advocates for your product or service.
Look at question and answer capabilities where customers can participate in conversations with one another. Once your community is established you can even highlight trending questions to the entire community, should other customers be searching for the same answers.
5. Embrace mobile
It comes as no surprise to any of us that customers are increasingly accessing information from smartphones and tablets, and this trend extends to customer preferences for engaging with companies through self-service forums and help centres. Our recent Benchmark research found that the percentage of users accessing self-service content from their mobile devices has grown by 50% over the past year.
The rise of mobile as a means of accessing self-service options means that start-ups need to address and embrace this medium as a means to provide your customers with the answers and support they want.
6. Measure its effectiveness
Measuring the effectiveness of your new self-service is quite straightforward. We found that a good indicator is what we call the ‘Self Service Score.’ This is simply the number of customers using self-service tools, such as online forums and communities, for every customer submitting a request for support.
Customer self-service not only helps start-ups save time and improve efficiency but makes sure customer satisfaction is high. By extending your self-service customer support beyond a traditional FAQ page, you’ll have happy customers that keep coming back.
Michael Folmer Hansen is vice president and Asia Pacific managing director at proven cloud-based customer service software provider, Zendesk. www.zendesk.com