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Customer Self-Service: How Support, IT, and HR Can Do More with Less

Customer Self-Service: How Support, IT, and HR Can Do More with Less

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💡 What is customer self-service?

Customer self-service is support for people who want to serve themselves—as soon as possible.

You’ve probably heard of self-service in the context of internal to external customer service. 

A customer has a question or a problem. They want their inquiry to be addressed and/or their roadblock to be removed. Ideally, they won’t have to wait in line (literally or figuratively). Self-service makes it possible for them to find exactly what they need, when they need it, without any human interaction. 🙏

The shy and introverted aren’t the only ones rejoicing, in this scenario.

  • 81% of all customers (across industries!) try to take care of issues themselves before reaching out to a live representative. 
  • 91% say they would use a knowledge base if it met their needs.
  • 90% of global customers expect brands and organizations to have an online self-service customer support portal.
  • Over half of customers say the main reason they can’t resolve an issue on their own is because there’s too little information available online. 

These stats probably come as no surprise to people who work in Customer Service, Support, or Success. (Angels on earth, all of you!) But similar behaviors, desires, and expectations exist inside organizations, too. Just ask your friends triaging tickets in Information Technology (IT) and fielding requests in Human Resources (HR). 

In this post, we’ll cover: 

Why customer self-service is important

It doesn’t matter if your customer is internal (a team member who’s stuck) or external (a consumer with questionable patience). 

To deliver a friction-free experience, you need to give people what they’re looking for, fast. 

We’ll get into the 360-degree benefits of a self-service model later on. For now—here are eight larger trends influencing the rise of self-service.

  1. As consumers, our expectations are skyrocketing. 67% say their expectations for customer experience are at their highest.
  2. There are more brands to buy from than ever. Over 50% of customers will switch to a competitor after a single unsatisfactory customer experience.
  3. Companies that make customer experience management their #1 priority make more money. Customer-centric brands report 60% higher profits—which is nothing to sneeze, in an up-and-down economy. 
  4. What was local is increasingly global. Having customers (and coworkers!) around the world is now common—making it more important than ever to find efficient and effective ways to meet needs 24/7/365.
  5. Technology is making us less patient. 45% of Millennials say technology has made them more impatient than they were five years ago.
  6. Instant gratification is extending to all aspects of our lives. How quickly do you expect a on 👍🏽 a Slack you shared, or a 🧡  on an Instagram reel you posted? How long are you willing to wait for takeout to arrive, or for Netflix to load? 
  7. We want more from our work—and the people we work with. Over 50% of workers can’t find the information they need to do their jobs, and 39% feel that their peers don’t collaborate enough.
  8. There’s a lot of pressure to do more with less. Want to see 10 million search results in .41 seconds? Google “how to do more with less.”

This combination of factors makes self-service options more critical than ever. 

Types of customer self-service (with examples)

The good news is, there’s no shortage of ways to help people become more self-sufficient. 

A graphic depicting 7 common customer self-service types.

1. A how-to guide

Step-by-step how-to guides make it easy to find answers quickly, minimize avoidable mistakes, and complete tasks with confidence. Want to skip the tedious, text-heavy approach to sharing what you know? Try Tango to guide people through automatically generated processes in real-time (without screen sharing). 🎉

A screenshot of a process about to be automatically documented with Tango.

2. A knowledge base

A knowledge base is an online library of information about a product, service, department, or topic. Information is centralized, searchable, and easily accessible—and ideally, incredibly useful. Notion, Guru, and Helpjuice are at the top of the class, if you want to scale your ability to serve your team and/or your customers. If you’re looking for inspiration, HubSpot does a great job. 

A screenshot of HubSpot's knowledge base landing page.

3. An FAQ page

Frequently asked question pages are a simple but powerful way to help people find the information they need. By addressing common concerns and stumbling blocks, FAQ pages can reduce the number of repetitive questions and prevent them from arising in the first place. 

A screenshot of Tango's FAQ page.

4. A chatbot

AI-powered customer service chatbots aren’t new—but they have gotten much more effective. Use them to deliver customer support, help people make purchases, and access information. If you’re in the market—check out Zendesk, Drift, and Intercom.

Example of a conversation with a customer service chatbot from Zendesk.

5. A self-service portal 

Whereas a knowledge base typically provides information, a self-service portal allows people to perform specific tasks. Self-service portals are popular for software as a service products because they make it easy for customers to access account information and manage subscriptions, among other things. But they’re equally great for IT and HR teams. Help people access training materials, order their own tech, reset their passwords, find their pay stubs, track performance, and more. 

An example of a self-service portal from Cireson.

6. An online community 

If one person has a question, chances are someone else does too. A community forum is a fantastic way to enable peer-to-peer support and empower people to find readily available answers when they need them, without tapping into an in-house subject matter expert. Slack, Tribe, and MightyNetworks are all great options to research. 

P.S. Looking for more online community? All are welcome here!

A screenshot of Tango's online Slack community, where people trade their best tips and tricks for using Tango.

7. An automated call center 

If you’ve ever activated a debit card by phone (without talking to a human), you’re probably familiar with this one. Automated call centers use interactive voice response systems (with pre-recorded messages and voice recognition technology) to help callers make a selection from a menu of options—like checking an account balance, paying a bill, or scheduling an appointment. 

A man typing on his phone, following a series of commands supplied by an automated call center to complete a task.

Benefits of customer self-service for Support, IT, and HR

Customer self-service has a host of benefits beyond time and money saved—and the joy doesn’t only flow one way. 

An illustration to show how customer self-service is a win-win for everyone involved.

18 Reasons for Customer-Facing Teams To Champion Self-service 

What’s in It for Inquiring Minds 🙋 What’s in It for Anyone Facing an Avalanche of Incoming Requests
No outreach required Fewer tickets, emails, interruptions, etc.
Near instant gratification A scalable solution
Less aggravation Less stress and burnout
Around the clock support, regardless of business hours or time zones More bandwidth (especially during spikes) to focus on more strategic, higher value work
Faster service when human support *is* needed Faster time-to-triage
Higher productivity Increased efficiency
More consistency More data to understand customer and employee behavior, preferences, and needs (which can be used to improve services and products)
Better experience Better ratings
Happier customers Happier employees

👀 What’s the caveat?

Self-service content needs to be easy to find and follow. If a how-to guide has 50 steps, walls of text, and hasn’t been updated in three years, wouldn’t you be more likely to open a support ticket, too?

Self-service challenges 

“Triage” and “ticket deflection” are magical words for anyone who works in Customer Support, IT, and HR. 

Here’s a popular way to prioritize a large volume of incoming requests:

  • Tier 0 tickets → Can and should be solved through customer self-service. ✨
  • Tier 1 tickets → Ideally can be solved in one exchange, without follow up or escalation. 💪🏿
  • Tier 2 tickets → May require more of a human touch, for more complex troubleshooting. 🤔
  • Tier 3 tickets → Definitely require a human. 🆘

What’s the TL; DR? Even with all its benefits, self-service isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. 

There are times when combining self-service with human support—or jumping straight to a very high touch customer experience—may make the most sense. And even when self-service *is* the right path, it needs to be done equally thoughtfully. 

So what can make self-service fall short?

  1. Low customer adoption. 📉 “If you build it, they will come” has never had more riding on it. 
  2. A clunky user experience. 😩 What’s just as frustrating as waiting in a long line? Trying to navigate a non-intuitive knowledge base or buggy FAQ page. 
  3. Incomplete information. 🧐 Self-service options may not provide all the information a customer needs, leading to confusion and defeat.
  4. No feedback loop to proactively fill in gaps as they arise. 🤦🏽 Knowing what your no-click and no-result searches are will help your team create what’s missing. Fielding feedback directly from the people you want to help will also go a long way.
  5. User error. 🙃 #technicaldifficulties
  6. Inaccurate and/or irrelevant content. ❌ Since content is the #1 way to make self-service sing—it’d be a mistake to skimp on creating documentation people actually want to use.
  7. Poor search functionality. 🔍 Good self-service connects people to just what they need, ASAP.
  8. Lack of flexibility. 😕 Self-service options may not be flexible enough to accommodate unique or complex customer needs.
  9. A preference for human interaction. 🫶🏽 Some people *do* still want to talk to a person, and may feel dissatisfied when that’s difficult.
  10. Unsurmountable security concerns. 🔓 This is a big one. When sensitive data is involved, some may feel more comfortable working directly with another human being.
  11. Language barriers. 🤷🏽People who aren’t fluent in the language used in self-service systems may struggle to navigate and understand the information provided.
  12. Inaccessibility. 🧏 Self-service options may not be accessible to customers with disabilities, such as those who are visually impaired or have mobility issues.

The self-service tool you haven’t tried yet 

To recap: Effective self-service is a win-win. It empowers people on both sides of the equation, saves time and money, and drives seamless experiences. 

It can also reduce the number of Tier 1 (first contact resolution) tickets we talked about above, by turning them into Tier 0 tickets that can be solved without help from a human. Whether you’re in Customer Support, IT, or HR, it’s in your best interests to minimize the number of non-complex requests.

To do that, you need to optimize the way you share knowledge. To our earlier point—if you pack everything under the sun into an encyclopedia of a PDF, people will be less likely to 1) use it, and 2) rave about it. 

This approach will also take your team far too long to make and maintain…which is where Tango comes in. 

See how Senior Business System Analyst Rebecca Zey increased self-service and slashed ticket volume by creating how-to guides with Tango

The bottom line

We covered a lot of ground in this guide. What are the top three takeaways? 

  1. Customer self-service is on the rise for a reason. It creates a virtuous cycle—with benefits for both the people looking for information and people tasked with providing it. 🙌
  2. To do more with less, Customer Support, IT, and HR teams need to maximize the percentage of tickets that can be solved with self-service. ☑️
  3. Success with self-service hinges on your ability to connect people to the knowledge they need, when they need it, so they can get sh*t done. Related: there’s a (free!) tool to help you do just that. ↙️


What is a self-service process?

A self-service process empowers people to complete tasks or access resources without help from a customer service representative or another individual.

How do you get customers to self-service?

To encourage customers to self-serve, you should:

  • Create a clear, user-friendly self-service platform.
  • Promote its availability. 
  • Optimize how you share information—in your knowledge base, your FAQ page, your how-to guides, etc.
  • Offer incentives for self-service.
  • Monitor and improve the self-service experience.
  • Provide backup support for when more extensive, personalized support is needed.

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