The 7 Sins of Self-service Support

Written by on November 3, 2016

As a big fan of self-service support (and no, I’m not saying that as someone who works in the industry), I’m not surprised when I read articles about how self-service is eating the Internet. I mean, you tell me I don’t have to pick up the phone, wait on hold, explain myself or give someone else power over my mood to find out why I couldn’t cancel my order, and you’re golden.

And it’s not like self-service isn’t a blessing for businesses, either. To start with, the more people that resolve their issues with self-service, the less load there is on your support team. With self-service, you can create a new, sustainable system for support by building a comprehensive base of knowledge around your product or service that not only educates and empowers customers but employees too. You can even foster an active user community around these self-service channels to serve as great social proof, while acting as a self-service support tool in itself.

So for me and many other customers like me, not having the option of self-service can feel like a handicap. However, there are some mistakes that businesses often make with self-service support that can be worse than not having self-service options at all. These practices make businesses fail on the promise of self-service support; they are the 7 deadly sins, those which must not be named, but which we shall:

Hide: Restricting access to information

Self-service is a dish best served hot. Customers prefer self-service primarily because it’s often the fastest way to find a solution to their issue. Needing to sign in to make full use of a business’s support portal is an irksome speed bump that defeats the point of self-service support – speedy solutions that can be easily sourced independently. Remember that solution articles can also double as sales tools – tantalizing peeks at product features that set you apart from your competitors!

Hide: Restrict access to information

Entry: Leaving your support portal unbranded

Customers don’t want to feel like they’re being redirected to a whole new site for their support questions; they want to feel like you are interested in helping them, even when you’re not directly doing so. If half the charm of self-service support lies in convenience, the other half lies in feeling that your needs have already, thoughtfully, been anticipated and provided for. This fosters customer loyalty, and putting your brand’s colors, messaging and design all over your self-service channels can help you capitalize on that opening.

Entry: Leaving your support portal unbranded

Cluttery: Keeping a haphazard knowledge base

A cluttered knowledge base won’t help anyone; customers need to be able to find their solutions with ease and know where to look when they have an issue. While it may be true that customers would prefer to use search rather than browse through your knowledge base if the option were available, it’s important to keep this ultimate body of knowledge on your product neatly organized and user-friendly. Choose the right categories, sequence articles logically and make sure all categories and titles are self-explanatory and understandable to the customer.

Cluttery: Keeping a haphazard knowledge base

Slog: Having no search

You might have categorized your knowledge base articles to perfection, but customers don’t want to have to browse through lists to find the solution that’s relevant to them. Don’t let them search your kbase, and you’re ensuring that they give up on using it.

Slog: Having no search

Rust: Failing to maintain your kbase

A knowledge base takes the most work when you’re building it. So make sure you don’t have to build it all over again because you let it to go out-of-date. Make sure you update your articles, including any screenshots and pictures, keep improving on your categorization, search engine and user interface.

Rust: Failing to maintain your kbase

Hamper: Making it hard for customers to give feedback

Not every customer can write a blog post to tell you what they don’t like about your solution articles. Customers will rely on your self-service channels less or stop using them altogether if it’s difficult for them to give you feedback, because they know that their problems with it are never going away and the improvements they’d like are never going to be made. You won’t be doing yourself any favours either – if you don’t listen to what your customers have to say, you’ll never know where your self-service is failing and what you need to work on. All the effort you put into setting up self-service will go to waste and fail to reap the anticipated benefits of reduced ticket volume and increased customer satisfaction.

Hamper: making it hard for customers to give feedback

Impede: Offering no other options for support

Self-service for support makes a huge positive difference to both a business and its customers, but not offering other means of support is a huge no-no. Some answers just can’t be provided for by your portal. If you don’t provide other means of reach out, you’re failing at support. It’s also important that customers feel like you’re unreachable or that they can’t be heard. Whether they want to email you or phone in or leave a comment on your Facebook page, they should be able to do it.

Impede: Having no other options for support

Steer clear of these 7 sins and your self-service channels will become indispensable to your business. What other mistakes made it to your list of self-service sins? Let us know in the comments section below.

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