Improving Customer Service Agents' Skills With Self-Service

6 min read

One of the top dilemmas that businesses face is their customer service. And for good reason. Supporting hundreds, thousands, even millions of customers to be successful with their purchases is an impossible feat. This can lead to a plethora of problems: long hold times, no responses, lack of agent help, re-routing, and overall frustration on both the customer and employee end.

Naturally, the front-line agents often take the blame for these problems. If not them, it’s on the managers for not properly training and hiring adequate employees. But those managers aren’t given enough resources to do so. Basically, it’s one big mess.

So the solution to improving customer service skills is not to dump more resources or employees at the problem, but rather, work to resolve the problem from its source: front-line agents are not properly equipped to serve customer interactions with accuracy and speed.

How you can help front-line agents improve their customer service skills

How can you help front-line agents shine with improved customer service skills without just hiring more people to continue doing the same thing? The answer is simple: self-service.

Many assume self-service is for the customer-facing side only. But truly successful self-service implementations function just as effectively on the internal side. This is how companies can empower their customer service teams with the knowledge and resources they need to efficiently resolve all customer interactions, at scale. Essentially, to improve your customer service team’s skills, you must enable them to self-serve themselves and self-serve on behalf of customers.

Great, now how do you do that?

Improve your customer service knowledge base

The first way to begin improving customer service skills with self-service is through improving your knowledge base content. Agents are only as helpful as the knowledge they carry. When supporting complex tech products, it is especially important to equip agents with ample product and process content so they are prepared to resolve any customer issue that might occur.

If you already have an internal knowledge base for your team, consider updating it with more complex instances. Your knowledge base content should cover:

  • All product information, including discontinued products
  • All product setup and troubleshooting information
  • Product compatibility information
  • Feature knowledge like setting up, utilizing, and troubleshooting
  • All processes like registration, warranty, etc.
  • Advanced technical support
  • Order support
  • Sales support
  • And more, depending on what you sell

Now, how can you add more information to your knowledge base? Use our blogs to learn [how to build a knowledge base from scratch] and the [6 steps to writing a kb article]. Or, get started fast with our [knowledge article template].

Equip agents with easy access to this knowledge

This knowledge content is only effective if agents can access it quickly and easily. Your team likely has a line of people waiting for help, and therefore, you want to resolve each ticket as accurately and efficiently as possible.

But how can you make it easy for agents to quickly find the exact information they need. This can be especially difficult when dealing with hundreds, or even thousands, of articles surrounding every item under the sun (AKA our list above).

This simplest answer is to take a self-service approach (big surprise, huh?). This is something companies often overlook as they focus all of their self-service experiences on the external side to support customers. But the truth is, your internal teams need it just as much as customers do.

So what should an internal self-service portal include?

  • Powerful search so agents can easily type in keywords to find answers.
  • Guided navigation that they can walk through based on product or process area. This way, they can ask customers questions, and use those answers to find the best knowledge article with interactive, step-by-step navigation.
  • Content filtering and sorting to easily narrow things down.
  • Quick links to external resources that an agent may need.
  • Access to search and navigation through all types of knowledge including articles, community answers, product manuals, PDFs, and more.

This may sound tricky to implement, but luckily, there are many providers out there who offer templates to get you started. For example, the ServiceTarget internal customer service template includes all of the features above as well as what we will discuss in our next section.

Help agents easily perform transactions for the customer

Sometimes, simple answers won’t cut it. Equipping agents with knowledge is important, but it’s also important to offer them the ability to complete common transactions on behalf of the customer. This could be anything from filling out a warranty form to completing a product return. Because odds are, if a customer calls for help, they are not going to want to take these actions on their own after the call. They want everything resolved by the time they hang up.

So, how can you enable your agents to perform such actions? This answer can be trickier than it sounds since not only do agents need to fill out these forms, but you also need a way to store all of this customer data for future use.

Again, our answer here is to create more self-service experiences. This might include any forms an agent can fill out for the customer as well as access to store customer information directly. But what’s most important here is that these processes are still simple and fast for an agent to complete. This means no long forms with complicated instructions. Instead, focus on keeping everything interactive with simple, guided steps.

When choosing a provider, consider which will also offer an easy-to-use customer data management system. This is key to smoothing over your agent’s workflow and improving their customer service skills.

Tack on preventative contact strategies

Our final strategy for improving customer service skills steps outside of the internal self-service realm and into the external experiences you provide for your customer. The truth is, the best way to ease up your service teams and improve their success is by reducing the number of contacts you receive per day. And the best way to do that is by offering interactive, easy-to-use, and knowledgeable self-service experiences. This can include anything from a knowledge base and help center to guided contact options, interactive forms, and much more.

Here are a few tips for using self-service to reduce contacts:

  • Make content easy to find. Just like your agents, customers want to find answers immediately. If they can’t, they will just call or give up.
  • Offer processes online that customers can complete themselves (like warranty, returns, etc.) so agents don’t have to do it over the phone.
  • Embed self-service into all of your sites, apps, and portals so customers can always find the help they need.
  • Personalize and contextualize knowledge content and experiences based on what page they visit, where they are located, the products they own, and more. Essentially, do the searching and navigating for your customers to make things even easier to find.
  • Offer intelligent contact options. Route customers to their best agents based on who they are, what problem they have, and where they are located. And, offer preventative content as they go through the process. This can ensure only the most complex issues are becoming contacts. And, it can inform agents ahead of time on the issue at hand, improving resolution times.

This might sound like a lot, but implementing a total self-service makeover to your sites can offer huge rewards. Again, consider using a service rather than building this all from scratch. We recommend finding a solution that can let you implement both internal and external self-service so you can maintain unity across platforms. ServiceTarget offers all of these experiences and more.

Conclusion

The bottom line is the best way to improve your customer service team’s skills is by properly equipping them with self-service. Self-service for both the external customers and internal teams can ease all of the pain points that your support teams are experiencing, reduce wait times and contacts, and improve everyone’s overall experience.  

To continue learning, read about the [14 reasons you should invest in self-service].

David Hayden
Software entrepreneur who enjoys building products that empower business people to create and evolve enterprise applications without code.

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