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What was that that Daniel Craig film with the car? How many shopping days until Christmas? Where’s the nearest petrol station? These days, we’re all used to finding our own answers on the internet – and when we’ve got a customer service issue, our first instinct is often to seek out online customer service.

Our 2015 State of Service report suggests the world’s top performing service teams are working to ensure we can find the answers we need, in the first place we look.

Indeed, high performing teams are four times more likely to maintain a self-service customer portal than low performing teams – and eleven times more likely to create and manage their own online customer communities.

Self-service customer support in the UK

Back on home shores, there’s a similar division between the top service performers and their less successful peers.

71 percent of top UK teams rate their web self-service capabilities as ‘outstanding’ or ‘very good’ – claims made by just 20 percent of UK underperformers.

UK top performers are also blazing a trail when it comes to community creation and management, with 39 percent already helping customers help themselves – and each other – in this way. Not one of the UK underperformers surveyed is currently doing the same.

Self-service customer support in B2B – Business Stream

One company that certainly believes in helping customers help themselves is Scottish water retailer, Business Stream, which supplies water and waste water services to the non-domestic market – whether that means, schools, supermarkets, manufacturing plants or maternity units.

The company’s My Business Stream self-service customer portal – based on the Salesforce Platform, and tailored to suit customer needs – lets users manage their account themselves, without having to pick up the phone.

“My Business Stream allows customers to take control of their account at a time which suits them,” Mark Powles, CEO, Business Stream

Around half of Business Stream’s customers already make use of the portal, and with the company planning to add more self-service features in future, there are hopes to push adoption even higher.

Self-service customer support in B2C – Activision

Hop across the Atlantic, and we find another great example of self-service success.

Activision – the company responsible for Guitar Hero, Call of Duty, and more generally, some of the best loved video games of recent years – implemented Service Cloud to help it pull off a dramatic shift in the way it meets its gamers’ needs. As Robert Schmid, Activision’s CIO explains:

“It’s all about being personal, and interacting with people in the way they want to be interacted with.” 

In the past, half of customers experiencing issues would turn to the company’s online self-service resources, with the other half picking up the phone to an Activision rep.

Now, 82 percent of customers turn to online self-service, and 10 percent get in touch through social media. Only 8 percent still choose to talk to a rep on the telephone. 

"It's an incredible change. We're reducing costs and increasing satisfaction at the same time." Tim Rondeau, Senior Director, Customer Care, Activision

The march towards self-service customer support

While top performing service teams have led the march towards self-service, teams at all levels aren’t far behind.

40 percent of the UK’s current underperformers are either piloting or planning community creation and management projects in the next 12 to 18 months. The same percentage is also preparing to leap on board with self-service customer portals.

If the pull towards self-service is proving irresistible for even the country’s relative service laggards, it’s surely in part because there’s a whole generation of customers who aren’t so keen on the idea of calling for help.

Millennials – the self-service generation

Did you know one in three of millennials say they’d rather visit the dentist and have their teeth cleaned than call a customer service line?

The same study found that when millennials have a question, 39 percent will check out a company’s FAQs before resorting to any other channel. Only one in ten go straight for the company’s service line.

The summary

Today’s customers like to serve themselves, and service teams everywhere are taking steps to ensure they can – whether that means offering self-service customer portals, or nurturing online communities and forums. Get self-service right, and it’s genuine a win-win situation:

  • Customers are happier – since they’ve been empowered to find their own answers, fast, without leaving their screen or their comfort zone.
  • Service agents are happier – with more time, to handle more complex, unusual and satisfying cases.

You can read the full 2015 State of Service report. It shines a spotlight on the challenges service teams are facing right now, as well as revealing what’s setting top performing teams apart. Even better, it’s free. So go on, help yourself... It's self-service... see what we did there?