4 Reasons Your Business Needs a Self-Service Portal

« Blog

Consumers are increasingly savvy in the ways they conduct research on the internet, likewise they are increasingly more demanding of getting the answers to their questions as quickly and painlessly as possible. Unfortunately, most businesses don't do an adequate job of giving consumers the tools they need find those answers. That's because they're relying on a traditional, reactive customer service model, one which depends on customers interrupting what they're doing and contacting the company to resolve their problems.

The Move to Self-Service Customer Service

The fact is that any time a customer is forced to contact your business for help, you've disrupted whatever it was they were doing before their problem arose. That means wasted time for them. The longer it takes your business to provide them the answers they need, the more their impatience and frustration grows, and so does their unhappiness with you.

Increasingly, forward-leaning companies are turning to a new customer service paradigm, one which gives customers the tools they need to get answers on their own, quickly and without unnecessary disruption. As Forrester points out:

"Customers demand accurate, relevant, and complete answers to their questions upon first contact, served up as painlessly as possible...Forrester data backs this up: In our December 2015 Customer Lifecycle Survey, we found that 53% of customers are likely to abandon their online purchases if they can't find quick answers to their questions. 73% say that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with good customer service."

The Rise of the Self-Service Portal

One of the best ways to enable the kind of self-service options customers want is with a self-service portal. A reliable, dedicated portal offers several key benefits to your business, from expediting your customers' search for answers to controlling unnecessary costs and improving your relationship with your customers, and their relationship with each other.

Here are 4 ways a self-service portal will boost customer experience:

1.  You'll Empower Your Customers

The old saw is still true:  if you give someone a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for life. When your self-service portal gives customers the tools that can help them solve problems not just today, but in the future, you make them feel empowered, and that makes them feel better about your business.

Find out what questions customers ask most frequently, then use diagrams, step-by-step guides and how-to videos that show them how to get answers. That's what Facebook did with its "Tips" series, which shows users how to get more out of the social media site's functionalities. Notice how this Stickers Tip arms Facebook users with valuable knowledge they can use in perpetuity, and does so in just 19 seconds.

2.  You'll Create a Self-Service Community

You can include a users' forum in your portal, empowering customers to provide peer-to-peer support as they answer one another's questions. This builds trust in your business (since customers can see how your business is empowering other customers), establishes your brand as one which values community, and potentially reduces traditional customer service costs.

3.  You'll Increase Referrals to Your Business

Every time your self-service portal works for a customer, that customer's opinion of your company will be strengthened, which means he's more likely to recommend you to his friends and coworkers. The more robust and effective your portal, the more current customers will push referrals to you. To boost referrals, ensure your portal has a comprehensive and consistent knowledge base, that it's user-friendly and intuitive, and that it's integrated with other customer service features like email and live chat.

4.  You'll Enhance Personalization

Your portal can be an extremely effective tool to personalize customer experience. For example, you should address customers by name each time they enter the portal. You should also maintain a comprehensive record of the products and services they've purchased and the issues they've had in the past to more effectively steer them to solutions. Finally, you should use the data you gather through portal interactions as business intelligence to update and improve your portal's knowledge base.

The installation of a self-service portal can be an extremely effective strategy to boost customer service, customer experience and customer satisfaction. It's important to remember, however, that every interaction customers have with your business is critically important, whether it involves a portal, a phone call, an email, or a visit to your website. The sum of these interactions defines the nature of the relationship you have with your customers, now and in the future.