The Art Of Customer ‘Self’-Service: Helping Customers Help Themselves
As the retail industry grows, customers too are becoming increasingly shopper-savvy when it comes to finding the best deals. They are persistent in letting suppliers know what they want, and even being prepared to solve their own consumer problems in the event of a crisis.
This in turn is helping to shape a new realm of customer service, one in which the role of the company becomes minimal and the customer is in the driver’s seat when it comes to enjoying a satisfactory consumer experience. Not only does this trend in customer ‘self’-service help to minimize costs for companies, it also leads to greater customer satisfaction in the long term. This trend has customers enjoying a feeling of self-sufficiency and accomplishment that doesn’t normally come with traditional customer service interactions.
There is a range of ways in which your company can help customers to help themselves during times when your frontline customer service team are likely to have their hands tied. In other words, companies need only provide the destination and add the signposts. Customers, meanwhile, are content to find their own way there.
Facilitate Peer Support
Provide an online area in which your customers can help one another, based on their own experiences. This can be in the form of a website forum, your company’s Facebook page, or a blog. Supporting c2c discussion and debate enables customers to get a more realistic, well-rounded view of your company’s products and services, as well as taking the strain off your customer service team.
In the meantime, be sure to encourage feedback from your customers via surveys or reviews, offering a reward incentive in exchange for completion. Make this feedback readily visible on your site for your customers to find easily.
Turn Successes Into Case Studies
Your website’s FAQs should be updated regularly to reflect real-life, relevant challenging customer scenarios. Whenever an initially new problem becomes recurring, it should be added to the FAQ list as a demonstration of genuinely possibly discrepancies.
Your FAQ section should NOT simply be used as a marketing tool to inform customers of your brand’s products and services. Questions like, “How does [insert company name here] manage to offer such great products at such low prices?” are not lucrative customer self-help questions.
Circulate External Resources
Social media is not just essential for communicating with customers directly; it is also a great tool for exchanging and distributing external resources that are directly linked with your company’s trade. These may include blogs, infographics, webinars, how-to videos, or news and magazine articles.
Doing this on a regular basis creates a continuous knowledge base for your customers to dip into whenever they please, giving them the opportunity to become their own Customer Service Guru. It will also help to further enforce a customer-oriented community and spark discussion over social media channels.
Employ Automated Intelligence
Soulless, automated responses to customer queries can drive consumers crazy. But with the use of tailored automated support tools such as nanoRep, they can become a lucrative part of your business. By starting off with your own set of FAQs, nanoRep slowly builds up a knowledge base that it claims is 90% accurate in identifying users’ needs. As it learns answers, it becomes able to automatically answer customer queries by itself. When implemented correctly, this is a tool that produces fast, targeted results, whilst requiring fewer company resources.
In addition, customer service reps are able to view from a dashboard which types of questions customers are finding automated answers to. In the meantime, they can develop their Q&A database further to ensure the accuracy and quality of automated responses.
Exploit The Smartphone
There is currently a debate about whether smartphone apps are a worthy investment as a viable customer service channel. Their benefits as a self-help feature are numerous. For the customer, they are a convenient, continuously available source of help that can be used anywhere. For businesses, an app can cut the costs of call queues and timely customer service interrelations.
Self service apps can be used by the customer to register a product, locate stores, generate support tickets, complete feedback surveys and receive rewards. Being an app, it can also integrate other aspects of the mobile platform, such as the camera for taking a photo if it is a problem is visual. ‘Compare The Market’ is one company that now make use of this feature as part of their utility bill comparison scheme.
A self service app can also be used to deliver important updates or notifications to your customers, so that they are already aware of potential problems before they arise, thus minimizing complaints. This includes any anticipated disruptions to a service during maintenance hours, as well as product retractions or discontinuations.
However, be sure not to make a self-service app a necessity for receiving customer service overall. If customers are left with no choice but to download an app before they can hope to get anywhere, this can have a deterring effect. Give your customers choice by making a variety of customer service channels available, but make sure your app is a clear example of the benefits of helping oneself.
Overall, customer self-service inevitably leads to:
- Immediate satisfaction (thanks to its 24/7 nature)
- The dissemination of richer and more in-depth information (customers may learn something they didn’t intend to find out, but which may be useful in the future)
- Reduced costs and time consumption for both the customer and brand
- Better retention of information for customers thanks to the learning and research process.
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