6 Surprising Advantages of a Self-Service Portal
| Published: September 25, 2014 | Comments
Having a reliable, dedicated self-service portal that your customers can turn to can bring a mound of benefits to your overall brand image and customer service platform, some of which you may not have thought of.
Besides offering customers a faster, more immediate way of getting their answer to an issue (and helping you control unnecessary costs), a self-service portal is also a fantastic way of boosting your relationship with customers; their relationships with one another, and your outreach to new customers.
Have a look at the six surprising advantages we’ve outlined below.
1. Customers are Taught New Skills
Part of assisting the customer is not just about solving their problem there and then. It’s about giving them the tools they need to solve their own problems in the future, and a self-service portal does this just beautifully.
When delivering your answers to commonly-asked questions or hiccups, think beyond basic words. How-to videos and step-by-step guides with diagrams and pictures are often much better ways of getting the information across, particularly if it’s something customers might need to try a few times before getting it right. Hints, tips and best practices can also help your customers know your product inside out and get the best out of their purchase, even when things don’t go smoothly.
By educating customers in problem solutions, you’ll be giving them so much more than just a product. You’re expanding their knowledge and their skill set.
2. It Can Create a Community
Introduce an open Q&A section or a forum into your self-service portal and you’ll welcome a whole host of valuable voices into your customer service frontline. Peer-to-peer support is a fantastic way of encouraging your customers to trust and build relationships with one another, as well as share ideas and experiences on using your product or service.
Not only does this create a warmer, friendlier environment (if sufficiently moderated) which your brand can be assimilated with, peer-to-peer support can also significantly alleviate pressure on your own customer service staff.
3. Social Engagement will be Enriched
You’ll probably already have a dedicated social media feed for dealing with customer queries (and if you don’t, it’s about time you did).
But with a solid, core source of guidance and assistance, you’ll have more knowledge to draw upon when offering advice. You’ll be able to direct customers to the right information more quickly, and use it as a way of gauging what sorts of problems need to be addressed more closely.
If your self-service portal does indeed include a knowledge base, your social media feed will be a way of dispersing news and information on anything relevant to your product that could enhance the user experience. This increased social media activity will boost brand voice and visibility; build stronger relationships with customers; attract new customers and help enforce that aspect of community we talked about earlier.
4. Customer Recommendations will Grow
A successful self-service portal will only strengthen your customers’ opinion of your company overall. Just like the phone, email and live chat channels, self-service is also crucial for creating those positive interactions that will impress your customers and make them want to tell their friends about it.
To do this, your portal has to cover all areas and leave no stone unturned. This means creating a knowledge base that is consistent; user-friendly; simple to understand; makes use of a range of mediums and is updated constantly. It also needs to be appealing to look at and if possible, intuitive. It should also still have a live chat and/or email option that the user can turn to at any time for assistance on using the knowledge base and giving feedback.
The better your self-service portal is, the less likely it is that your customers will need to turn to costly phone lines for assistance, and the more positive their experience will be.
5. It Brings Opportunity for Personalization
Drawing on the previous point regarding an intuitive self-service platform, this can be a fantastic way of saving time for customers and giving them that ‘wow’ moment they crave. An intuitive self-service allows customers’ previous areas of concern to be remembered and repurposed, for the sake of helping them find what they need more quickly or revisit past problems.
Personalization is also a powerful tool that can easily be harnessed with a self-service portal. When a customer logs in, make sure they are addressed by name upon welcome. You also might like to keep a record of what products or services they have purchased and display only the topics of expertise that will be relevant to them. This way, your customer will see that you are not treating them as one of the crowd, but as a valued customer whose preferences are unique.
And it’s also a two-way street. Learn the problems or issues your customers are experiencing time and time again, and take steps to address these more fully. Adjust your knowledge base in accordance with user demand and notice when there are patterns in their visits.
6. It Can Boost Web Traffic
A well-functioning knowledge base that has been fully optimized for search can be an extremely useful way to bring in more traffic and mark your brand as an authoritative expert in its own field. Not only does this encourage your customers to place trust in you; it again increases the visibility and credibility of your brand and can boost customer outreach.
Other voices out there, such as bloggers, writers and customers themselves, will try and create their own articles of assistance and share their own solutions to problems surrounding your product. This is great, but it’s likely to divert traffic away from your own website and towards those external sources instead.
A responsive, attractive, reliable and committed self-service portal will ensure that all the information your customers may need is in one place. The stronger and more dedicated your portal is to addressing customers’ needs, the less they will feel the need to look elsewhere when they have a problem.
Try asking these external customer service gurus to contribute to your knowledge base by speaking on the forums or sharing a blog post. Not only will this encompass a variety of voices from different backgrounds, it will also help to take the pressure off your own frontline to deliver all the answers.
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