Rules for self service in customer experience

Rules to play by when empowering customers to take control of their own experiences and fast-track resolution times with selfserve avenues



Gustavo Imhof
03/11/2020

Image of self service in customer experience

Customer centric self service

In recent years, leading businesses have been providing more convenient services than ever. As a result, customers now know it is possible to access a movie or a cab ride in minutes or get a grocery delivery in a few hours.

Recent research from CX Network uncovered that more than half of CX practitioners identify digital customer experience as the leading trend in the field. Self service, allowing customers to fast track the resolution of their issues with no or limited interaction with the organization is the most prevalent manifestation of this trend, and thus a key area of focus on its own.

As well as empowering customers to take control of their own experiences, self service channels bring a range of business benefits. These avenues can resolve issues without the need for human agents, which shrinks cost-to-serve levels and can administer customer care outside of standard business hours.

Use these rules to guide the process of using self service support to meet customers on their own terms while reducing the financial burdens of customer service.

The five rules to self service in customer support

Image of self service in customer experience

  1. Ask yourself: Are you doing it for the right reasons?

Ensure the reason your business is going down the route of self service is primarily to better cater to your customers’ preferences and to serve them on their terms rather than ruthlessly eliminating costs. Now, it would be naïve to say financial considerations are not strong supporting arguments for self service channels, but you need to ensure that the project drivers are rooted in meeting customer needs with corporate savings being a close second. Examine data from voice of the customer listening channels to decipher if your customer base is at all compatible with self service options. Fail to set the right priorities and your new service strategy may backfire, generate unnecessary contact to your ‘human’ channels (thus hurting your support KPIs) as well as lead to costly reworks, turning the ROI on its head. In essence, you need to see your costs as a symptom of your implementation success, not its sole measure.

  1. Know thy customers

To be successful in implementing self serve, you need to understand the common points of friction with your product or service. These pain points may be problems your customers could realistically self serve on.

This mapping technique will indicate the apt locations where self service would assist and not frustrate customer. Then, it’s just a matter of implementing the right format and embedding it in the new design of your support journey (it may even be a proactive or preventative support opportunity). For example, if you are a mortgage lender, let customers overpay on their loans or mortgage through your online portal, thereby removing the need to call you.

Use the customer pain point to illuminate the opportunity for self service and this move could end up offsetting ticket volumes that originally demanded attention from human agents.

Read also: Winning tactics for B2B customer experience

  1. Know thy toolbox: select the correct self-serve format

There are many ways you can deliver self service options. This can span from the most simplistic formats like frequently asked questions webpages, all the way to more sophisticated measures like virtual assistants bolstered by machine learning.

For instance, ‘How To’ videos can prevent inbound calls by troubleshooting common user issues and educating customers on how to squeeze the most value out of your product or service.

These self serve options need to align with user behaviors, so if the majority of customer interactions are seen on mobile, ensure your self service systems are mobile-friendly and be agile to any changes in customer preferences.

The key is to ensure you identify the most suitable system to the use case and your customers rather than attempt to shoehorn a use case into a shiny new tool.

  1. Become experts at exception-handling

Support staff will still be instrumental to a business that utilizes self service tools.

Indeed a sizeable share of inbound support contact will be eliminated by allowing customers to troubleshoot themselves. This means that while workforce volumes can shrink slightly, staff skillsets will morph toward exception handling, where self serve simply won’t cut it. This could be an escalation because the self service did not address the customer’s issue or an active decision to engage with a human member of staff.

It is critical that you ensure your teams are given the right tools and knowledge to support the customer. There are few things more frustrating to a customer than calling to ask for help, only to realize the agent is unable to add any value beyond the capabilities of the self service option.

  1. Resist the temptation to add unnecessary friction

As you implement self serve, there may be a temptation to hide the staffed support channels from your customers in a bid to maximize your investment and cost savings. For instance, complicating the journey to reach email addresses or helplines. Don’t. There is no shortage of arguments against this far too common maneuver. Making it harder for your customers to get the help they need is a sure-fire way to erode the trust they deposited in you, and frustrate them. This then becomes a virtual guarantee that every single support interaction starts on the wrong foot, making it much harder to deliver the great experience you aspire for.

Ask yourself this: If your customer base has a segment with people that are not very technologically savvy or are physically unable to interact with certain technology, are you willing to pay the price of excluding them from your strategy? Some people may never move to self service, so make sure you offer them an avenue to contact you and get help, or be ready to lose them to your competitors.

To successfully deliver, remember it’s about resolving customer problems


The beauty of self service is that both the customer and the organization can benefit from it.

However, do not simply roll out self serve channels for the sake of it, without knowing exactly the use cases it would support. The goal is to be smarter and more efficient in resolving customer problems, not give a new channel to frustrate your customer. Without proper planning, a self service-first strategy will backfire, create significant reworks, added costs and erode customer trust.

The rules highlighted above will place CX practitioners on a safe path to more delighted customers served at a lower cost. Ignore them and CX professionals should expect the opposite motion with brand loyalty and cost-to-serve levels.

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