by / Thursday, 20 August 2015 / Published in Customer Experience, Customer Service

First, let’s discuss what I mean by self-serve customer service. It is anything that you do to help your customer resolve the issue about which they are contacting your company in the manner they want and to do so on their first contact. In essence, you are providing them with the tools necessary to come away from that initial contact with the issue resolved and your brand enhanced. In the best case, you may have just created an advocate for your brand.

Why is this important? Well, the world is changing around us and people’s view of what is and isn’t acceptable has changed with it. Like it or not, we live in a constantly connected world where people expect to be able to complete a task with a simple click of the button. Need a ride? Use Uber. Need some home repairs? Use HomeAdvisor’s app. Simplicity and self-service are at the forefront of the new economy.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at some interesting facts that I believe validate the need for companies to offer self-serve customer service options.

  • 72% of people think self-service support is a fast and easy way to handle support issues
  • 40% of customers contact a call center after they have looked for support via self-service
  • 67% said they preferred self-service over speaking to a company representative
  • 56% of people cited lack of information as their major reason for abandoning a website
  • 91% of customers would use an online support center if it were available and tailored to their needs

Some companies are doing a really good job with this concept, but they are the exception rather than the rule. What should you include as part of your self-help portal on your website? It differs based on the type of business you run, but there are some constants that I think will give you a good idea.

  •  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) – but please make sure that these are actually the frequently asked questions. Many times I find that a company’s FAQ’s are those that they or their web development team believe their customers ask. You should have a reporting and feedback process with your customer service team to make sure that this knowledge base is up to date and represents what your customer is actually asking.
  • Industry Specific Information – each industry has certain pieces of information that are so important to their business that they should identify them outside of their FAQ’s and should include them in their self-serve portal; for example, if you are a restaurant you most likely have customers asking for your Nutritional Information and should probably offer this as a separate link on your portal rather than make your customer search through the FAQ’s.
  • Customer Feedback Form – remember that your customer came to your website looking for resolution, and you need to give them the opportunity to provide you with feedback; feedback on your website, feedback on your company, feedback on their experience. And you should be glad that you have a customer who cares enough about your company to give you this feedback.
  • Contact Information – you should provide them with a phone number for them to contact you directly and resolve whatever their customer service issue is with that phone call. You will not be able to satisfy everyone with your self-serve portal, so you absolutely need to provide them with another channel by which to reach you. Some portion will prefer to deal with this via a feedback form or email, but some may still prefer to call and resolve immediately and you need to give them that option but only after you have given them the option to resolve through your self-serve portal
  • Some optional elementsto include would be the following:
    • Chat feature – this provides your customers with the ability to get immediate resolution while giving them the ability to stay online and not go offline with a phone call (some people just don’t want to talk to one of your reps)
    • Community Forum – certain companies could benefit from the idea of building a community forum on their self-serve website, and allowing their customers to share with each other, ask questions, etc.
    • Tutorials , Manuals and other learning tools – this can be very helpful, especially for technology companies


However, you design your self-serve customer service program there is one rule that you should consider and that it should be a self-learning process. Information you receive from the various channels should be used to improve the process. Let me give you an example. One of our clients is a restaurant chain that franchises its concept, and we were getting a large number of contacts from people who were interested in their franchise program. While they had a link on their website for those interested in becoming a franchisee, if someone went to their Contact Us page they were not provided with a unique number. We advised them to revise their website accordingly, and we saw a drastic reduction in contacts regarding franchising and they saw an increase in franchise requests…simply by learning from their customer service program.

My advice would be to start now, build a self-serve customer service element to your program but make it a self-learning process and work toward continual improvement.

I’d enjoy hearing back on what you think about the self-serve customer service, its future and your company’s direction in this area. You can contact me here, or email me directly at:

Rich Flaherty is a Vice President of ServiceCheck, a Sertec company. ServiceCheck is the recognized leader of Customer Recovery and Insight solutions that help companies retain dissatisfied customers and gather insights that lead to operational improvements. ServiceCheck has developed and provides a holistic, omni-channel approach to Customer Recovery including phone, web, social media and more. ServiceCheck has been providing its services to leading brands and franchise organizations since 1987, and counts 50+ brands and 1,000’s of organizations among its client base.

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