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Your Users Want to Serve Themselves. Let Them.

What is Self-Service Design?

Self-service design subtracts the human representative from a customer interaction. A big statement with a simple sentiment.

Picture this scenario dreamed up by our Inbound & Media Marketing Manager Sarah Carley :

“Imagine waiting on hold with your cable company for hours just to schedule a time for someone to come fix your internet. Your interaction with the representative is no more than five minutes long, and yet, you’re exhausted and feel like you’ve wasted your entire afternoon. Imagine if you could schedule that appointment without ever having to hold the phone up to your ear.”

Read an entire eBook on user experience design by Sarah here.

Users Want to Serve Themselves

As it turns out, Sarah isn’t alone in this sentiment. In fact, Forrester Research found that 72% of customers prefer using self-service tools to resolve their support issues as opposed to getting one-on-one attention from a representative. With an eye on the future, Gartner found that by 2020, customers will be managing 85% of their relationship with a company without any human interaction. But this doesn’t mean that every customer exchange will be (or should be) entirely automated.

Effective self-service design empowers users to find information or complete a task on their own, where before, a representative may have completed the task for them. It does not, however, remove the human element from customer interactions altogether. Instead, that human touch is shown through intelligent user-centric design. The Service Portal design must “deliver a customized, personalized interaction that lets people effortlessly make requests, discover solutions or find content to solve their own issues.”

The designer’s role is ever more crucial as customers demand self-service options. Forrester also found that over two-thirds of customers say that valuing their time is the best way to provide them with stellar customer service. In a fast-paced world filled with people who increasingly try to fit in as much – work, family, social lives – as they can in their waking hours, time is increasingly valuable. Customers don’t want to waste it on hold for hours or trying to navigate a confusing help page. “Both your internal Employee Portal and your external Customer Portal are critical business investments that allow users to utilize self-service tools and receive on-demand answers.”

The goal of every company is to create a Self-Service Portal that will connect the user – whether it be a customer or seasoned employee – as quickly and smoothly as possible to the resolution to their problem. As organizations change and adapt to suit this new need, they will be forced to find better solutions and figure out how to deliver quicker and more efficiently on these promises.

There is a catch, however – self-service design shouldn’t replace good customer service. It’s part of the total benefits package. A customer fed up with a slowly loading page who decides to call in and have a customer service rep take over and complete the action should be just as satisfied as someone who opts to wait for the page to load. In this case, the numbers speak for themselves – people prefer self-service options even though some problems will always require another human’s intervention. Given this, self-service options need to offer a seamless transition to an interaction with an agent if necessary. The entire history of the customer’s issue needs to be documented and available for the rep to reference so the customer isn’t starting back at square one and explaining their issues for a second time.

The Benefits of Self-Service Options

So what benefits can self-service provide for an organization and its customers? For one, it allows customers to complete tasks quicker and more efficiently. It also grants them room to perform these tasks outside of normal business hours – they can use an automated voice system to confirm when their local bank branch opens or use a Self-Service Portal to find an answer to a problem that’s keeping them up at 3 am.

Above and beyond empowering the customer to find solutions on their own time and at their own pace, employing self-service design principles can enable a company to streamline and save on customer service costs and reinvest those funds elsewhere to provide the customer with an all-around superior experience. Employing self-service design frees up an organization’s first responders’ time to tackle the most complex and pressing customer issues. If you can reduce the volume of incoming customer requests or tickets, your customer service experts can focus their time on frying the biggest fish.

The Importance of Self-Service Design

So why is self-service design so important? Because it takes the user’s input, actions, and goals and builds the interface or Service Portal around them. It’s taking the data and seeing how people navigate to pages, using that input to create a more intuitive design that will allow the user to resolve their own problems without having to pick up the phone.

Research indicates that Gen Z is the most comfortable with and likely to choose a self-service option (no surprise there), but professionals of every age can use self-service design to improve customer satisfaction and build relationships. As these relationships change, how companies deliver to customers will become just as important as what they deliver. In the customer experience world to come, companies need to shift focus from designing with their own goals and budget constraints at the forefront of their planning process to designing first and foremost to meet the consumer’s heightened expectations.

Learn how to maximize your Service Portal experience by downloading our free eBook: The New UX Strategy.

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