It's easy to see why self-service features are taking off. More than half of all customers prefer to use self-service options rather than pick up the phone or email someone. This, alongside the reduction in customer service costs, makes the business case for self-service portals highly compelling.
Self-service portals are collections of self-help functions that can be accessed through a password protected part of a website. They include features that allow visitors to do a range of transactional tasks – from viewing and updating personal data, to resolving issues. Portals can include a combination of other functional aspects too like knowledge bases, collaborative spaces, chat, and service requests. Above all, these portals provide a fast and direct way for users to carry out tasks and get to answers to questions themselves without having to phone or email.
Most service-based organisations have one – from banks to software providers to membership organisations. So, what can you do to create an even better customer experience for self-service platform users? And in the process, differentiate your experience from that of your competitors.
Here are our top tips to improve the customer experience of self-service portals:
1. Offer great help alongside transactional features
Many portals focus on transactional aspects and are more ‘application than website’, but help content is just as important when it comes to self-service. Running a chatbot within your portal provides an easy way to provide help and for users to access answers 24/7. Importantly chatbots provide on-page assistance – so users don’t have to navigate away from the page they are on to get help.
2. Personalise the portal experience
When users log into your portal they expect personalised content and that’s no different when they’re looking for help. When they engage with a chatbot, they expect it to know who they are. Any chatbot that requires the person to re-identify themselves – for instance when they need to raise a service request - leads to frustration for the user. On the other hand, personalising the chat – as you would an email – provides users with a welcoming, more engaging experience.
3. Integrate with CRM or membership software
When your portal is integrated with your CRM or membership software, customers self-manage simple tasks directly in chat, such as updating addresses without any additional verification after logging into the portal. This gives a frictionless customer experience.
Along a similar theme - if the user needs additional support, an integrated chatbot/CRM solution will allow you to link their chat history to their CRM record (and automatically create a service ticket in the CRM too).This means that when your contact centre team get in touch with them, the experience they can deliver will be so much more personal with the history of their issue and chatbot engagement to hand.
3. Content that is current is king
Customers prefer knowledge bases over all other self-service channels. They must answer member questions quickly and accurately, and have relevant, up to date content.
However, keeping your knowledge base current can be a big task. Here are a few tricks that will help you stay on track.
- The structure of your knowledge base will influence how easy it is to maintain. If your knowledge base is built on questions and answers that uses AI and NLP to match answers, you'll have a foundation for easier management (and if it's easier to manage, it takes less effort to keep it current). Watch out for chatbots that use ‘tree structures’ to model conversations. Tree structures are much trickier and more time-consuming to build and maintain. The complex IF/THEN structure introduces complexity – and this usually results in taking more time and effort to maintain knowledge. And in some cases, needing a consultant to manage.
- Knowledge bases that allow you to tag items around topics make it easy to keep track of related areas that need to be updated together. Even better, if you can set an expiry date on content that has a fixed shelf life, such as videos and time-bound promotions, you’ll know when to revisit and update them.
- Some knowledge bases and chatbots are run from the same information repository. This means that if you choose your customer service automation tools wisely, you'll get software that does double duty with the same set of information. And of course, this means that you’ll save stacks of time.
5. Call out to users when there are changes and updates
When new features are released in your portal it’s a good idea to promote them inside the portal, so your users get value from the new capability. Equally if there is a known issue with functionality, new features or changes to plans, it is good to make people aware of that and preempt them from raising a support request.
Informing users like this is easy with a chatbot. Once a user has logged in, the chatbot can pop out messages with relevant information – whatever that may be. More advanced chatbots can even tailor messages to specific pages in the portal.
6. Stronger feedback loops
Tracking metrics within your portal will give valuable insights into development opportunities. For example, you’d want to track how many people use your knowledge base and then go onto raise a support ticket and ideally this number would trend down over time. If you’re seeing users struggling with specific topics, it could indicate that more or different content formats, such as a video tutorial, are needed to support users further on this topic.
Users and customers like solving their own problems. It’s faster and easier than emailing or calling a contact centre. When self-service portals are customer focused, satisfaction will improve even more. Combining help content and actions alongside transactional functionality will make your portal even more helpful. A knowledge focused chatbot is a good fit for this.