The three key self-service channels
Each self-service channel serves a different – and important – purpose:
- Your help center, also known as a knowledge base, is often the first step on the customer’s journey. Customers visit your help center to find answers to common questions. Examples include how to manage a subscription or review your privacy policies.
- Your customer portal is a branded website where customers can access information and complete actions. If you’re a bank, customers may go to your customer portal to order a new debit card. Or if you’re a retailer, your customers may log in to your portal to see their order history and loyalty status. The goal is to give customers a seamless, timely, and personalized brand experience.
- Your customer community is a digital gathering space for peer-to-peer support. Customers come together to share ideas, answer questions, and solve problems. Customers feel like brand insiders and subject matter experts, which drives loyalty.
Knowledge articles, how-tos, and frequently asked questions (FAQs) are common self-service content. If a process involves many steps, you may also create diagrams or videos for more context.
Your self-service channels are either unauthenticated, authenticated, or a combination. Unauthenticated self-service channels share public-facing content. This content can help anyone who uses your product or service. There is no need for a user to create an account. With authenticated portals, a user logs in to receive more personalized information. An example would be a retail account. A customer logs in to update their shipping address or check their loyalty status.
How to optimize your customer self-service channels
A great start is to repurpose existing agent knowledge articles for common requests. Topics may include how to update payment information or set up device verification. Update the language to put the steps into the customer’s perspective, rather than the agent’s.
You’ll also want to optimize your help center content for search to ensure that it gets enough traffic. Work with your search engine optimization (SEO) team to identify top keywords. For example, a local food delivery service may find that the phrase “how do food delivery services work?” is very popular. They then update relevant knowledge articles with this phrase to boost traffic.
Beyond SEO, make sure to tag your help center content for searchability on your site. Customers get frustrated when they type a query into your search bar only to come up with an error message.
While it’s common to keep some content public, there are benefits to authenticated help centers. Customers log in for more personalized support. You can use your data to share relevant resources. You can also gather more data about your customers based on the content they review. This will improve targeting and ensure customers receive a personalized experience.
It’s also important to stay ahead of the curve for future customer requests. Watch emerging search trends, like the value of setting up two-factor authentication on an online account. Check out resources like Google Trends and AnswerthePublic for help. Review your contact center analytics to uncover new patterns and recurring requests across support channels as well.
Be sure to give your help center a spring cleaning. Retire outdated knowledge base articles and redirect them to more relevant, up-to-date resources.
Remember to apply chatbots to your help center for more support. Chatbots use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze case data and surface the right content to customers.
Customer portals take self-service a step further. Authenticated customer portals use customer data for a more relevant and personalized experience. When customers log in, they gain access to personalized content to resolve issues and complete actions on their own terms, from anywhere.
For the best experience, keep personal information in a secure account page. This should only be accessible after the user has logged in. Enable multifactor authentication for an added layer of security. Use AI to analyze search behaviors to continuously tailor the experience for customers. Make it easy for customers to access a record of purchased products or services and display relevant articles and topics.
Be sure to clearly label and tag every piece of content. Add links to other support channels and include a “contact us” form in your portal’s footer.
Customer communities build camaraderie and collaboration. They are a place for customers to come together to discuss product capabilities and offer peer-to-peer support. To participate in discussions, customers log in with a unique username.
One word is synonymous with successful customer communities: engagement. To make your customer community more engaging, gamify your approach. Incentivize customers to take part in discussions by showing a leaderboard. Customers receive points for answering questions. As points accumulate, the customer moves up the leaderboard. Offer badges for behaviors that customers can show off on their profiles as well. For example, if a customer answers five questions, they receive a badge.
Don’t keep your customer service team on the sidelines. Instead, have them contribute to the conversation. Encourage agents to share expertise, ask questions, and join in on discussions. Track what customers are saying and jump in if there are issues. After all, communities help businesses surface trends and potential concerns.
Some brands may choose to have discussion threads publicly available for key topics. In these cases, add SEO keywords and tags so that search engines index your community.