More companies are turning to customer self-service options to streamline service efforts and reduce demands on customer support. Seven out of ten customers (70%) expect company websites to have self-service applications and 40% prefer self-service over human contact – so companies that aren’t adopting these solutions, including knowledge bases, FAQs and chatbots, risk falling behind.
While offering self-service options is a ‘must’ for companies today, simply adopting these solutions doesn’t immediately translate to customer satisfaction and ROI. Improving the customer experience with self-service options requires adopting the right solutions, keeping those solutions up-to-date with current and accurate information, and ensuring customers can reach a customer service representative easily if their needs aren’t met by self-service offerings.
Self-service solutions can also have the opposite effects – for example, difficult-to-navigate solutions that require more customer effort to find the answers they need – and hinder the customer experience.
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To learn more about what can go wrong with self-service systems and how these issues can hinder the customer experience, we reached out to a panel of customer service experts and asked them to answer this question:
“What are the top things that self-service service systems can do to hurt customer experience?”
Meet Our Panel of Customer Service Experts:
Read on to learn what our experts had to say about how self-service systems could be hurting customer experience.
Luke Smith is the founder of We Buy Property In Kentucky.
“Self service systems hurt the customer experience when they…”
Add friction to the transaction or service. The whole point of self service is expediency. If the system is difficult to navigate or understand, then it provides the user with a poor experience. In some cases, a customer may choose to abandon their cart or their query if the process is too cumbersome.
Carol Tompkins is the Business Development Consultant at AccountsPortal.
“Poorly implemented self-service customer service can lead to a poor customer experience in the following ways…”
- It may be difficult to navigate, which can frustrate and irritate customers, leading the customer to develop a poor perception of the company and its products.
- The self-service customer service solution might not have the answer to the customer’s query, or it might give the wrong answers. When this happens, customers might get frustrated and feel that the company is wasting their time.
- Lack of a personal touch when dealing with self-service customer service might also be a turn off for many customers who would prefer to engage with a real human from the company instead of an automated service.
Bradley Keys is the Marketing Director for PatchMD.
“With the use of self-service systems, the goal is to improve the quality and convenience of customer service, but it eliminates the opportunity to…”
Create and establish genuine relationships with customers. Self-service systems generally remove the need for human interaction with customers, which can result in some factors that hurt a customer’s experience.
For example, it does not allow customization of service or addressing special customer needs/circumstances that may arise during an interaction with a customer. It eliminates the opportunity for customers to perceive empathy, appreciation, friendliness, or feelings of trust as it displaces the social component of customer interaction. This makes it hard to measure how a person felt about the service provided. Yes, self-services provide a more accurate and efficient way to deliver customer service but overlooks the considerable value that is added by employee interaction.
Not all customers are the same though, which is why it is critical to segment customer groups. Companies can work to give customers who value genuine relationships with their brand an opportunity to choose whether to use this kind of service or an alternative service that
characterizes a more human feel.
Rebeca Sena is the founder of GetSpace.digital.
“In my experience, the worst deployments of self-service customer service systems are…”
The result of the incorrectly applied automation. The customers’ questions and problems change over time, and thus such a system should always allow users to connect with an agent reasonably easily.
Meanwhile, the architecture of many call centre systems makes it next to impossible to reach a rep before answering a barrage of questions not relevant to the case. It is usually the result of a one-fits-all approach to structuring the order of questions. In many cases, a well-crafted yes/no question could eliminate three others.
On top of that, some people prefer to interact with humans. It should be taken into account, even when more costly, because customer service has a profound impact on the value perception.
Oliver Baker is a co-founder of Intelivita.
“No matter how good your system setup is, there will still come a time when your system will fail…”
Whether it is to prepare for an update, a software issue, or even a hardware problem, one way or another, your system can and will go offline for repairs. If most of your customer service is done on an automated system, downtime prevents your customers from reaching you and having their problems taken care of.
Furthermore, these types of systems can be too difficult for the older generation to understand, which can be very frustrating for them.
Andrew is the Director of Net Lawman.
“A lot of us don’t know what it is we want from our experience with a brand or retailer…”
We may have some idea, but there is generally a lot more that can be on offer if only we ask. By having self-service systems, we miss out on all those additional extras that make an unremarkable (albeit positive) shopping experience into something extraordinary.
We are again beginning to crave interactions with one another, having enjoyed the convenience of DIY/self-service experiences. I see this first-hand in my own business. I offer legal documents online, finding the right kind of documentation through a questionnaire. People crave that one-on-one interaction to just make sure they are getting what they need, and it is an essential service you still must provide, however automated your systems are.
Shelly Peel is one of the founders of SocialMum.com.
“Customer experience is paramount in business…”
A self-service option (SSO) is perfect for simple concerns such as payments, balance inquiries, or FAQs, but should not be the primary way to offer support or assistance. The worst things about it are the limitation in steps, inability to assess serious concerns, and no options for out of the box resolution.
A 24/7 customer service offering is ideal since most people have weekends off, and that’s also the time they have a chance to check on things. If they encounter complicated issues and they only get to the self-service menu, imagine the frustration and annoyance they’ll experience. People also don’t like to click or select answers on multiple screens. They think it’s a waste of time and would rather speak to someone directly.
Vinay Amin is the CEO at Eu Natural.
“The main problem customer self-service systems bring organizations is that…”
They tend to aggravate an already-frustrated customer. Customers turn to customer support in times of need, when something goes wrong. In such instances, it is likely they are already worked up, and customer self-service offers no chance of connecting with the customer.
In fact, reaching out for customer service is often the only time a customer comes in contact with a representative of the business. By denying customers a personal touch, businesses drive away their clientele in their times of need.
A perfect example of this over the past few years has been the rapid rise of Fintech banking solutions, which focus on outstanding, personalized customer service as opposed to traditional brick-and-mortar banks, which generally relied on automated self-service. This difference in personal customer service and automated self-service has been one of the founding principles for the success of Fintech banks.
Kevin Vandijk is the CEO, Founder and Online Marketing Expert at Tree Online.
“The major problem with customer self-service systems is that…”
They deny the organization an opportunity to touch base with their customers. For many businesses, the only time a customer directly contacts the organization is when they need customer service. While a customer self-service system may be cheaper in the short term, the number of frustrated customers who will switch businesses based on poor, automated customer service will significantly outweigh the cost of using a trained, competent customer service team.
Yaniv Masjedi is the CMO at Nextiva.
“Self-service customer service systems can damage the customer experience if the created system is too complicated and confusing…”
Some customers prefer resolving issues independently, so companies should create a system that makes it easy for customers to troubleshoot their problems. Otherwise, if the system is too complicated to navigate, it defeats the purpose of the customer’s desire for autonomy.
Test a self-service customer service system with a trial group before rolling it out to your entire client base. With this strategy, you can record feedback and make necessary changes. When everything is smooth-sailing, that’s when it’s time to introduce the self-service system.
Max Harland is the CEO of Dentaly.
“The lack of a personal touch with a human customer representative gives customers…”
A terrible customer experience when using self-service customer service systems. Human representatives can empathize with customers, which is a critical component in improving customer experience. However, a self-service customer service system can never emulate that experience, no matter how expensive it is.
Although the system might resolve the customer’s issue, the experience is different without human interaction. Customers subconsciously appreciate a company better when they receive top-notch customer service from actual humans.
Andreas Johansson is a UX specialist.
“The biggest mistake you can make with a self-service customer service system is to skip usability testing…”
There is a huge benefit from ensuring that any self-service system supports the users’ tasks in the best possible way. One way to do this is to perform regular usability testing with the intended users of the self-service system. You do this by:
- giving the intended users tasks to perform (e.g., find knowledge article X or look for help on problem Y in the service system),
- asking the users to think out loud as they perform the task, and
- observing how easy the tasks are to perform.
One example is the iterative usability testing that Mozilla did on their self-service support portal, which – after improvements based on the usability tests – decreased support calls by 70%.
So, while usability testing is an upfront investment, the return on investment (ROI) is potentially huge.
Jakub Kliszczak is a Marketing Specialist at Channels.
“The main issue with self-service customer service systems is…”
Outdated data. Self-service systems, whatever they are (bots, knowledge bases, etc.) require some preparation and pre-programming. Contrary to the live information provided by your customer service agents, this information can get outdated, and when you have a lot of self-service resources, such mistakes can easily get lost. This may lead to confusion and, as a result, unhappy customers. The worst-case scenario is that your customer breaks a piece of their setup because of such outdated info. Then there’s little you can do to keep the customer from churning.
Dennis Bell runs a multimedia company and Byblos Coffee.
“Self-service customer service allows you to provide support to your customers without any interaction from your representatives…”
Self-service can hurt a company’s reputation when you do it with the wrong intentions. For most companies, the priority is to save money over improving customer satisfaction, which can affect the customer experience negatively.
Some companies’ self-service tools make it impossible to contact a human being. If a customer describes a specific problem, and you suggest they look at self-service options that are irrelevant, it will annoy and frustrate your customers. People will get upset that you don’t listen to them. If your customer explains that they have a great experience with you and you auto-reply with a triggered message that suggests checking the FAQs, you’ll risk losing a huge fan, and your customer will lose their excitement over your brand. Knowing they aren’t heard and appreciated will hurt their experience.
Start investing in a self-service offering that improves customer satisfaction. Don’t make self-service the only online option, but also offer an assisted service option such as a live chat. When self-service can’t help them, they can at least get help and support from one of your representatives.
Ian Kelly is the VP of Operations at NuLeaf Naturals.
“The biggest mistake you can make when implementing self-serve customer service is…”
Making your contact information difficult to find. There is nothing more frustrating as a customer than not finding the answers you need on a FAQ page or with a chatbot and then struggling to find out how to reach a real human being.
Self-service should be a tool implemented to make answers to frequently searched questions easy and convenient for the customer to find, not just a way to cut down on customer service efforts on your end. Be obviously reachable; most customers will want to avoid the live interaction anyway and will find the self-service pages more convenient, but those that have specific needs will be able to reach you quickly and without confusion.
Diana Goodwin is the CEO and founder of MarketBox.
“One popular self-service customer service system is an…”
Online or ecommerce booking flow that customers can use to book services and buy products online 24/7. This type of self-serve customer service can lead to bad customer experiences in a number of ways: a confusing user experience (UX), a booking flow that doesn’t make sense, or one that doesn’t give the customer enough information to make an informed decision can hurt a brand. There’s a good chance that the customer will drop off, which can lead to missed sales, referrals and opportunities.
To fix this, brands should add high-quality photos and information to each step of the booking/purchasing process, make sure website copy is clear and straightforward, and provide detailed FAQs for particularly complex products or services.
Jim Pendergast is the Senior Vice President of altLINE Sobanco.
“Companies using online self-servicing have to…”
Prioritize cybersecurity, otherwise they set themselves and their customers up to have sensitive information and data breached. Once that trust is lost, it’s probably gone for good.
Attacks manipulate vulnerabilities within these self-servicing applications and websites to plant malware or extract consumers’ sensitive data. And, with the growing advancements in Fintech apps connecting multiple accounts and financial services into one platform for customers, those potential vulnerabilities only grow. The more complex this infrastructure, the more security blind spots exist.
To ensure customers can send and receive account information safely online, businesses must have self-service portals with fully encrypted data transactions, regularly update and patch anti-malware software, and make clear what information will never be requested from them during a self-service interaction.
Edgar Arroyo is the President at SJD Taxi.
“One of the worst things that self-service customer service systems can do is…”
Force customers to read through or listen to a long menu of options before being able to contact a customer service representative immediately. While this is an attempt to encourage customers to get the solutions they need themselves, customers who already know that existing self-service options cannot answer their questions may be frustrated by having to wait longer on the phone or chat, hurting the customer experience.
Some self-service customer service systems also have complex options or are not user-friendly. For example, a customer who wants to check recent transactions after checking their bank balance may have to return to the main menu and answer a repeated series of questions again to get what they need.
Kevin Lee is the CEO of JourneyPure.
“Self-service customer service systems that are not updated with the latest information can sometimes make customers frustrated…”
For example, the system may direct customers to an older guide that is outdated instead of an updated guide with relevant screenshots and explanations. This damages the customer experience when customers find that their problems aren’t solved and they have to reach a customer service representative to get an updated solution.
Systems that are not detailed or cannot interpret a customer’s query accurately can also worsen the customer experience. Some systems cannot interpret context correctly and may direct the customer to a different guide or help article or a different phone menu. The customer sometimes may have to search help articles or different phone menu options themselves to find what they need.
Michael Miller is the CEO of VPN Online.
“Two factors that can hurt customers’ experience are…”
The very limited nature of self-service and that it promotes disconnects/lacks human connection.
Self-service can only do so much. Unlike a great customer service agent, they can only answer questions that are programmed into them. If the problem is not among the pre-programmed answers, chances are the customer might get frustrated. Furthermore, these self-service systems are unable to escalate things that might need a more human touch. A chatbot can never duplicate these scenarios.
Also, self-service doesn’t involve any human intervention. This gives a wrong connotation that the company doesn’t care for its customers. Remember, we’re in a customer-centric world. The more you automate, the less human our processes become.
Ted Mico is the CEO and co-founder of Thankful.
“Customers want to be regarded as individuals, not just another customer service issue to be deflected…”
Part of feeling valued by a company is being known, and that means customer service has to be a personalized experience. By deflecting customers to clunky self-service options, companies are missing out on an opportunity to foster a deeper brand-customer relationship. The 2021 goal for any brand should be to provide a full-service experience at self-service speed (and cost).
Companies that rely too heavily on self-service as their strategy overlook the most fundamental part of the customer experience – looking after the customer. Customers not only want their immediate problem fixed, but they also want to feel taken care of and valued by the companies they give their business to.
If customers want to find their own solutions to the problem, great, but if they need help, being told, “Go fix it yourself,” is guaranteed to have customers abandoning ship. Self-help is a great option until it isn’t, and this one-size-fits-all strategy inevitably leads to customer frustration when they get trapped in the time-suck that self-help options often become. Instead of helping the customer, brands are helpless and watch that customer’s lifetime value drops to zero.
Valerie Nechay is the MarTech and CX Observer at Iflexion.
“Self-service customer service is a great additional option for those customers who are not into conversations and want to get help instantly…”
Without spending time on writing emails and describing their problem. The key word here is ‘additional.’ When self-service becomes the only viable customer service option, that’s where companies might run into trouble with their customers.
Imagine a customer who has looked through the entire FAQ or knowledge base, interacted with a chatbot and still found no actionable tips on how to fix their problem. They check for another available channel and find something like a contact form with an array of required fields to fill in or a phone number. That is the point where you get one extremely frustrated customer..
Why is a phone number a poor option? First of all, it can be expensive for international customers to call from other countries. Second, and no less important, millennials and younger generations would rather deal with the issue themselves than call a stranger. As a result, their loyalty level and overall inclination to use the services of such a company again shrink to zero.
Eric Sachs is the CEO at Sachs Marketing Group.
“A big problem with automated customer service or self-service comes into play when it…”
Actually makes it more difficult to interact with a human. Yes, self-service gives the customer the ability to move through their experience quickly, but sometimes things happen where a real person needs to get involved. If the system is over-automated, this can cause a lot of confusion and friction.
Self-service should always be looked at as a supplemental tool that makes the customer experience easier. If there’s any point in the process that frustrates customers, it’s no longer serving them. Always have the customer in mind when creating these systems and find points in the process where customers are most likely to ask for additional help from a human.
Mika Kujapelto is the CEO and Founder of Laptop Unboxed.
“Most customers prefer to use self-service systems rather than calling a customer representative to ask questions about products or services…”
However, companies that don’t take this seriously with organized and easy-to-use self-service systems might be met with confused or disgruntled customers who might decide to call up a customer representative or forgo your business altogether.
Having too many channels or mismatched information can become too confusing for customers who want clear and informative web pages that allow them to figure things out independently. That is why it’s crucial to have business websites that are seamless to navigate, with clear headlines, updated content, helpful chatbots, and more that makes the customer experience easy enough for customers to comprehend on their own.
Maintaining your self-service for your customers can also make customers more loyal to your business, especially when your competitors aren’t up-to-date on their self-service systems.
Will Ward is the CEO of Translation Equipment HQ.
“Self-service customer service systems require a lot of content maintenance…”
Most self-service systems result in a horrible customer experience because of a lack of information or outdated information. Customers who are facing a problem will already be under stress. A bad database will only aggravate the stress and put a blot on customer satisfaction.
Poorly organized databases are also troublesome. Even if people get support, but only after hours of toiling, it’ll amount to a poor experience. The next time they have an issue, they won’t bother checking the database. It’ll be easier for them just to switch products.
The above customer experiences go from bad to worse if your company doesn’t provide any alternative ways to solve problems. Customers will feel that you genuinely don’t care about them. That is the worst customer experience your brand can give.
How does your organization overcome these common challenges when leveraging self-service customer service systems?