Updated: Jun 8, 2018
If you have a business, then you have customers, they might be buyers or maybe citizens. Regardless of what you call them, a business is about facilitating interactions with people. And if there is one thing that we know about people, it is that they are all unique. This unfortunately mean regardless of how amazing your product or service is, a portion of your customers are going to have “issues”. How those “issues” are resolved has a big influence on customer satisfaction, retention and advocacy. Like everything in business, it’s a balancing act. Creating great customer service comes at a price and finding the perfect level of service can be a real challenge to a business.
With an established internet, saturation of mobile phones and a generation of customers who just “want it now”, we have seen customer self-service expectations sky rocket. For many companies, self-service means creating a static FAQ page which is forgotten as quickly as it was created. This approach is unlikely to create a satisfying experience for anyone, particularly a frustrated customer looking for help. It also means that your customers will inevitably end up making a call to your customer service team, which is not only slow but also an added cost to your business.
Creating a dynamic and useful self-service experience is simpler than it may first seem and when done right, it can become an asset to your internal support staff, as well as your customers. It all begins with a great search experience. Typically, your website will contain a great deal of useful content. Helping your customer find that content is the beginning of a satisfying self-service interaction. Search needs to be fast, but most importantly produce relevant results based on what the user is trying to do. Our experience as users, with platforms like Google, Amazon and Netflix, have made our expectations of search incredibly high. Behind the scenes, these platforms utilise a range of tools including the latest machine learning capabilities to take the experiences of other users and deliver the most relevant matches.
Sometimes the starting point can be the most difficult for a user. Knowing what keyword or phrase to search for can be a real struggle for some people. There are a number of ways a well implemented search solution can help solve that problem. One method is to use the type ahead query suggestions, we are all familiar with. Alternative methods can include trending or hot topics. These can be driven by the most popular searches that other users are running. Great search will also include advanced filtering (facets), visual or styled search results (like being able to embed a video in a search result) and intelligent recommendations. It is the combination of all these features that can make self-service much more rewarding for your customers (and customer service teams), resulting in higher satisfaction rates and greater call deflections.
An effective self-service portal is going to look clean, the layout and functionality will appear obvious and straight forward. Achieving that does however take a great deal of experience from the developer and the ability for your consultant to understand your business, your product and most importantly your users. Before you break out the development tools, make sure you have thought through these complexities.
In many cases, the answers your users are in search of may often be stored somewhere other than on your website. The information might be stored in systems like your Knowledge Base, your intranet, your CRM or help desk application. This means that your in-built customer portal search can only do so much. In these situations, your customers are going to eventually end up calling your customer service team, wasting their time and yours to find an answer to a question you have already solved for other customers.
Too many times we see this problem being solved by duplicating the content in multiple locations, for example trying to keep a static list of FAQ’s updated based on the latest customer service call resolutions. This is time consuming for you internal team and is constantly out of sync. A much smarter way to achieve the same outcome is to utilise your search tool to use the content from your internal knowledge stores and, where appropriate, allow your customer self-service portal to use that information in the search results. This can all be done without duplicating content. This is what we refer to as “store it where it lays”. A quality search solution will be able to search a wide range of existing systems, including your website, intranet, CRM, knowledge base, document store, help desk system, email, YouTube channels and many more.
Go-Pro is a great example of a company who has been able to leverage all of these techniques to produce a hugely successful customer self-service experience. Using the leading search technology they are able to provide customer service to over 1 million customers in 8 different languages with a team of only 200 customer service agents.
With increasing expectations of customers for fast and relevant support, providing an effective self-service solution is no longer optional. Understanding how and what to deliver to your customers can be a complex undertaking but when done well, it is proven to keep your customers happy, your resolution times low and your support costs under control.