Even if customers want self-service, and even if you give them self-service, smart companies realize that, occasionally, there will still be a need for more traditional customer service teams to intervene from time to time.
It might be easiest to think of customers using self-service options — particularly those who do so as part of a digital community of peers — as a sort of loosely-connected team. The traditional customer support staff, in this scenario, are akin to coaches, giving guidance that doesn’t merely solve a problem but gently teaches a customer how to do it more successfully themselves the next time around.
To get a better sense of how this plays out in real life, it’s important to recognize that self-service is often built on having a strong library of content to support customers. Even if you’re using chatbots and other automated features in tools like Service Cloud, you’ll need to have information as well-organized and as accessible to your customers as the information you provide to a call centre agent.
The scope and variety of self-service content will vary from one business to another, of course, but these are some of the most common forms. Let’s consider why each of them are important, and where customer service teams might occasionally be called upon for that little extra assist.
What It Covers: With most products and services, there’s often more than a simple on/off switch to begin getting value for your purchase, especially for offerings in the B2B space. A good “getting started” guide will introduce customers to everything from a product’s components, an overview of features (including some they might not have even thought about), safety precautions before using a product for the first time and even ways to conduct tests in order to ensure everything will run as intended. Sure, your sales team may have done a series of demos to close the deal, but there can still be people on site at a customer location who will be brand-new to using a particular product, so getting started guides should help accelerate their ability to get comfortable with it.
Have Customer Service Teams Ready For: More context. By their nature, getting started guides are intended to be relevant for every kind of customer imaginable. In practice, though, customers may have questions about how a product should be deployed in a particular vertical industry, a certain size of company or to deal with a particular business challenge. These are highly specific inquiries that may include some things your organization has rarely been asked before. As a result, customer service teams need to be prepared to filter their answers through the prism of what they’ve personally learned through interactions with many other organizations.
What It Covers: Mistakes will be made whenever customers start working with products on their own, and a thorough, easily-searchable list of frequently-asked questions will serve as a test of how well you’ve used data to identify the most likely things that will trip people up. At their best, troubleshooting FAQs not only reduce the volume of interactions with live agents but empower customers to add their own unique workarounds and fixes — sometimes through portals that allow them to support each other.
Have Customer Service Teams Ready For: Thwarted DIYers. Customers never like to be surprised by products that aren’t performing as expected, but the feelings of frustration and anger can get even worse when they’ve looked for solutions in a troubleshooting FAQ list and still haven’t managed to overcome their challenges. These FAQ lists aren’t just offering information but instructions, which means a live agent may need to ensure all the steps are clearly and consistently followed — or to deal with the anomalies that come up.
What It Covers: Unless they are brand-new organizations, most companies have other products that they have already been using for long periods of time. In some cases these are tools they love and want to keep, but they also want them to integrate well with new tools they bring on board from companies like yours. This kind of content will help customers understand the quickest and least-complex approaches to connecting different products together -- perhaps to share information, for instance.
Have Customer Service Teams Ready For: That product that just won’t work with the one you sold the customer. Or an older, outdated version of a product that is otherwise compatible with yours. Or the products for which your company plans on offering an integration or add-on, but hasn’t quite delivered yet. This is where you’re dealing with exceptions to the rule, and it can require real diplomacy and grace by a customer service agent who has to manage the customer’s expectations.
What It Covers: This is pretty self-explanatory, but even products for which you offer frequent upgrades or new versions need to be cared for in some way. This is about extending the return on investment and other value a customer has enjoyed through their purchase for as long as possible.
Have Customer Service Teams Ready For: Those who never bothered to look at this content in the first place and are dealing with the fallout after the fact. This is obviously not a moment for “We warned you” but rather trying to do whatever is possible to remedy a situation that could have been easily avoided. Customers might learn from such experiences, but as with any self-service situations, it’s really up to them.
No matter what self-service content or tools are available to help customers solve their own problems, traditional customer service teams should adhere to some tried-and-true principles. This includes being available to answer questions in the channel of a customer’s choosing, having detailed information about a particular customer account ready, and making an ongoing effort to gathering and analyzing data about service cases. That way, your self-service content can only get better and better.
Check out our ebook, "5 Ways to Make Service Easy for Today’s Customers," with more ways you can make the service experience easy for your customers.