Business Practices | | Published June 11, 2015

Online Customer Self-Service Best Practices

How and Why You Should Be Offering Self-Service Customer Support

It can be hard to find the best solution when it comes to handling customer service issues. Self-service is often hyped as the solution to increased customer support requests, but it’s not always clear which type of self-service support solution works best in which instances, or which common issues in support – like call abandonment and first contact resolution – are improved by customer self-service. Software Advice, a leading customer service software comparison and research company, recently completed a study of over 170 customer service managers and supervisors to assess the effectiveness of self-service customer support.

Popular Self-Service Channels

The research found that the top methods of self-service implementation were:

- Frequently asked questions (FAQs) page

- Searchable knowledge base (KB)

- Telephone interactive voice response system (IVR)

- Online Discussion Forums

Not surprisingly, the type of self-service used by customers varies by industry. For example, customers seeking assistance in the financial industry are more likely to call for support, while customers looking for software support are more likely to look online for answers first. So for software companies it makes more sense to implement online support options rather than phone for self-service offerings. It’s also important to remember that when a customer uses IVR for support, they are probably expecting to speak with a live representative, not a self-service system.

What Should You Measure?

If you offer customer self-service, you should be monitoring and evaluating each of your channels on a regular basis.  Your knowledge base should be actively maintained as new information and updates become available, and while an FAQ page likely won’t change as often as your KB articles, it’s important to track page visits to understand if it is being used.

Here are some of the most popular metrics used to measure channel performance:

Surveys & User Ratings

Surveys and user ratings are the best metrics because they go straight to the source (your customer) and are focused on customer satisfaction. Either follow up to a self-service event with a survey, or include ratings on your articles/self-help documents to gather customer feedback.

Return visits to the support page

It’s helpful to measure the number of visitors returning to a support page within a set time frame as this can measure effectiveness of the page.  For example if the issue is solved on the first visit, the customer won’t need to return to that page.

Page views & average time spent

Measuring the number of page views and time spent on your support pages, knowledge base, etc. can be effective at measuring the growth of the channel over time. However they don’t tell you if the page is actually meeting customer needs, so don’t misunderstand the purpose of these metrics.

Ticket deflection

If your customer service software offers it, make sure you implement ticket deflection and keep an eye on the metrics – this can show you how many times a ticket was started and not completed thanks to a recommended article.  If your software doesn’t offer ticket deflection, maybe it’s time to switch software ;)

Self-Service Reduces Costs and Improves Performance

Many surveys over the past few years have shown the increasing popularity of self-service from both company and customer perspectives, and this report validates that 

self-service really does have a positive and measurable impact on both quality and quantity of customer service issues requiring an agent’s attention.

Over 75% of respondents confirmed that First Level Resolution, First Contact Resolution, Cost Per Contact, and Cost Per Incident were improved.

Speed to answer was reported as improved by 80% of the respondents, and 65% reported improved (reduced) call abandonment rates. 

An important note – as you implement an effective customer self-service program, the types of calls you will reduce are typically the easier, faster ones.  So if you assess your self-service and agent support individually you will likely see metrics like Agent Time Per Incident and even First Contact Resolution get worse, because your agents will be working on more complex issues that take longer to resolve.  However if you use an integrated support system this shouldn’t be an issue because those will be offset by the improved time to resolution on self-service support.

Online Self-Service Best Practices:

- Don’t just track metrics for the sake of it – just because they’re easy to track doesn’t mean they’re effective.

- Add a like/dislike option or ask customers to rate articles to your knowledge base

- Always collect customer feedback (ie: agent ratings) when a ticket is closed

- With so many great survey and ratings tools available it’s easy to implement customer follow-up initiatives, but try to find one that integrates with your support system so all your metrics are in one place.

- Remember that the most successful metrics are those that focus directly on the customer experience

What is your opinion of customer self-service? Do you use it? What challenges do you find when using it? Let us know in the comments.


To learn more about Omnichannel Customer Self-Service, download our white paper: