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Opposing Viewpoints: The Helpdesk and Support Team Take on Self-Service

Note from the editor: The helpdesk and support team play very different roles within the contact center. As such, they approach and see things differently.  We want to explore those differences in a featured article each month. In keeping with our August editorial focus, this edition is focused on self-service.

ICMI: Do you consider self-service to be a necessary customer service channel?

Jeremiah: Yes, if done properly, self-service can reduce support volume to the point where only truly difficult problems require a support call. It also allows you to cater to a wider personality base of customers. While some customers prefer to have a live person on the phone to walk them through issues, others (myself included) prefer to figure things out on their own if at all possible and would rather use the phone as a last resort. Self-service allows that to be possible. That said, even if your self-service system is fantastic, companies should avoid using that as an excuse to offer less than outstanding support through other channels.

Brooks: From a Technical Support/Customer Service standpoint, ABSOLUTELY.  In this day and age, people expect to be able to search the web for anything and everything.  When it comes to Support, we need to offer a similar option.  While there’s something to be said for human interaction, the ability to search a knowledge base can save time and money.  Articles and video tutorials can be created for anything, from the most basic Support inquiries to the most technical.  There will always need to be the option to get in touch with someone if needed, but if you can exhaust all other options quickly and easily beforehand, it can save you the time of calling, waiting in queue, and explaining your situation to a support rep.   

ICMI: Do you think self-Service customers expect a higher level of customer service than those from more traditional channels?

Jeremiah: I actually think that the standard is less than for traditional channels, though I’m not sure that it should be that way. My impression is that while it’s great if a customer can figure out something through self-service, contacting a support rep (whether through phone, email or chat) is still when a customer has the highest expectations. If they contact you and you can’t solve the problem, then where does the customer turn next? Whereas with self-service, the customer can still contact a live human if they get stumped. Again, I don’t know if that’s the way that it should be, but my impression is that’s the way most companies and customers operate.

Brooks: I think they expect more accurate support since the content has been written, edited, and published.  I think they also expect to have a fairly vast selection of help articles and video tutorials.  An extensive knowledge base with easy accessibility and accurate searching is key to making it an ideal channel.  The combination of articles and videos should create a great first line of support for customers. 

ICMI: What self-service options do you currently offer?

Jeremiah: We have an in-app help system that explains the different features of our app and answers some frequently asked questions. I think our most exciting self-service option is our video tutorials, which can help demonstrate the application in a way that a text-based help system simply can’t do. For our iContact for Salesforce integration, we also offer weekly webinars for new customers that help get thim started with the application. We also provide a comprehensive user guide PDF that covers all aspects of the application while covering some standard troubleshooting tips as well.

Brooks: We currently offer online resources in the form of blog posts, knowledge base articles, and video tutorials.  We also offer live and recorded webinars that customers are free to sign up for or view online.   These are easily accessible within the application under the “Help” tab.

ICMI: How do you measure satisfaction with self-service channels?

Jeremiah: Right now, it’s largely indirectly. We do measure how many times different help articles are viewed as well as how frequently certain video tutorials are watched. Beyond that, it’s indicated by the questions customers are still calling in about. If customers are frequently calling in about questions that are covered in our in-app help system or in our user guide, then this may be an indicator that we either: a) aren’t explaining something well enough or b) aren’t doing a good job making our customers aware of the different ways they might be able to find the answer to their problem themselves.

Brooks: We provide a Feedback button for customers to provide their feedback about the Help system.  Based on the feedback that’s received, we update, remove, or add additional article/videos. 

ICMI: What impact does self-service have on your traditional channels?

Jeremiah: Certainly, our self-service channels reduce our phone/chat/email volume. It stands to reason that if a help article or video tutorial is able to answer a customer’s question, then they won’t need to contact support through other means. We also use our self-service to help define the scope of support. Typically, our support team does not provide full application walkthroughs over the phone. Instead, we will point customers towards our video tutorials or weekly webinars in order for them to first learn the application. The presence of these tutorials and webinars allows us to focus our live support efforts on troubleshooting problems rather than teaching the application from scratch.

Brooks: The self-service options have a significant impact on the number of interactions we take through traditional channels.  Without self-service, we would be taking more and more calls for fairly basic inquiries.  In my opinion, this keeps agents off of back to back monotonous calls, and helps to keep them engaged in their daily responsibilities. 


About Brooks Webb:
Brooks Webb is the Manager of the Premier Support team at iContact, where his team handles all second level support inquiries, including Billing Support, Level 2 Technical Support, and Support for all Top Level Managed Accounts. Follow Brooks on Twitter @WBrooksWebb.

About Jeremiah Methven:
Jeremiah Methven is the Team Lead for iContact’s Tier 3 Support team. The Tier 3 Support position at iContact is a specialized role requiring both technical expertise and outstanding customer service skills. We handle phone and email support for our API and iContact for Salesforce integration, manage an internal ‘hotline’ where Tier 2 agents can call for assistance, document software bugs and their impact on customers, and respond to any inquiries from customers on Facebook and Twitter.