Shaping Customer Preferences

Gianna Spitaliere

I love exploring, writing about, and building knowledge on different ways to make businesses and customers more successful all around. I have been with ServiceTarget for less than a year, but have been thrilled to expand my writing into customer self-service.

{ 3 Minute Read }

Customers cannot argue that the self-service channel is the faster and more convenient route. It is proven that customers show an overwhelming preference for self-service. Across different industries, 81% of all customers take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative. Yet still, it feels like your customer support team cannot take a breath as the contact volumes and overall support costs keep going up.

Changing people’s behavior is hard. Once customers become accustomed to emailing or calling, chances are, next time they have another question, they will just do the same. Resistance to change is natural. So, how do you proactively drive the change?

In this article, we will explore five core principles that, when brought together, will help your organization drive self-service adoption and shape customer preference toward self-service.

Make Self-Service Familiar

Shaping your customers’ preference toward self-service starts with understanding their current buying and servicing journey and identifying specific areas where they need help. One of the best and simplest ways to identify points of frustration is to analyze your contact data and customer feedback.

Another great way to experience your customers’ journey is just to do it. Be an undercover boss and step into your customer’s shoes—try discovering if one of the products meets your needs, complete the purchase, go through the onboarding process and troubleshooting issues, call your support line and see for yourself how easy or not so easy it is to get it resolved over the phone. Take this all the way to resolution—from searching for contact phone numbers or emails to making contact and asking questions, to working through different aspects of the issue (maybe being transferred to different departments or specialists), all the way until the issue is finally resolved.

And while you do all that, look for the areas that could be best served by convenient self-service options. Would a compatibility checker on the product page help avoid confusion and reduce product returns? Would troubleshooting step-through help diagnose the issue and fix it by a simple reset? Opportunities for self-service are innumerable and customers will prefer it if it is along the path of least resistance.

Make Self-Service Easy

Once you thoroughly understand your customer journey, make self-service the easiest option. Make it easy to use, personalized and relevant, and available everywhere customers need help. Whenever possible, keep customers on the webpage they are on to avoid sending them to another subdomain or external source. Make it easy to search and navigate and present only information pertinent to the customer’s product, process or issue. If you know something about the customer like the product they own, the region they are in, or the type of customer they are, use that data to personalize.

Simple, clear, and concise language can go a long way too. Do not introduce journeys with complicated terminology because this will just encourage the customer to call or message, rather than figure it out through your self-service. Using the language your customers understand will help prevent confusion, making it easier for them to navigate different processes on their own.

search bar self-service

Make Self-Service Desirable

Customers will always prefer self-service once they discover that it is a valuable tool and resource they can use at any time. Help them be successful with self-service by always keeping knowledge base content up-to-date and accurate. As your company continues introducing new products and product features or updates, make sure to keep your content up with all the innovation. The newest product or service your company launches is probably going to be the one that most people have questions with or seek information for. Therefore, consider creating and updating self-service content and experiences ahead of launch.

Make Self-Service Rewarding

One way to make it more desirable for customers to use self-service before contacting your support team is to present dynamic contact options at the end. This will get them directed toward the right agent via the best channel for their specific type of product or issue. Customers may also be able to request a callback and schedule the time of day that would best work for them.

Offering incentives to your customers for choosing self-help over contacting is a good way to draw in the people who may not have chosen to do so organically. Making self-help preferable to calling is sometimes more than just ensuring it is an easier and more convenient option because some customers are a bit more stubborn about their preferred method. So to curb this, offer things like a prize giveaway or promo codes for choosing a certain online journey instead of calling. This might appeal to that more apprehensive crowd.

giveaway self-service

Make Self-Service a Habit

Once your customers discover the value of the easy-to-use self-service option, how can you encourage them to keep coming back for more? Reinforce and remind your customers that self-service is the best service. Feature it prominently, make it accessible, keep it up to date. Your customers will thank you for that!

What’s Else?

Shaping your customer’s preferences is not the only step in creating successful self-service. You must also ensure your self-service program is successful with your internal business strategies and work to increase adoption of this new system you have created. Shifting your business to putting customers first is a great step to helping your customers trust your company, and ultimately, choose self-help. But, you still must work to align your internal efforts with leveraging self-service benefits, while working to make your customers aware of what you are providing. It is a tricky act to balance, but one that will allow your customers to flourish as your company grows.

Gianna Spitaliere

I love exploring, writing about, and building knowledge on different ways to make businesses and customers more successful all around. I have been with ServiceTarget for less than a year, but have been thrilled to expand my writing into customer self-service.

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