Customers want quality service from businesses. That’s a given. But they also want the quality of customer engagement from their preferred brands to get better over time.
About 54% of them expect that companies will offer better customer service compared to a year ago. If they are between 18 and 34 years old, they will be even more demanding; 66% of them want to see firms up the ante on their customer service from the previous year.
Here’s what this means — businesses have to continually revise their service strategies to maintain a stable relationship with their customers. The best way to do this is to listen what they say about how they wish to be served.
But What Are Customers Saying about This?
About 73% of customers prefer to solve their product or service issues themselves. Also, 50% of potential buyers of various brands insist they want to be able to deal with product or service issues on their own.
In simple terms, they don’t think they must speak to an agent to get the answers they are looking for. They are demanding companies to facilitate effective customer self-service.
What Is Customer Self-service?
Customer self-service happens when a customer accesses the information that answers his questions about a product or helps him solve issues related to the product, without getting assistance from a customer service agent.
He will be able to do this only if the information he needs is made available to him. Today, most companies provide this information through digital media; many popular brands have come up with online channels designed specifically to provide the information sought by their customers.
The image below lists the digital tools used to facilitate seamless customer self-service.
- Web pages: The most commonly used self-service tools are pages on companies’ websites. Web pages are very useful to present detailed product information and provide a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about products. Businesses have relied on websites to supply customers with vital product information; this is likely to continue for years to come.
- Chatbots: Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) based technologies are the most recent addition to the list of tools businesses use to connect with their customers. These ‘digital agents’ are programmed to receive and respond to customer queries in a manner that mimics human correspondence. Ground-breaking developments in AI and machine learning (ML) domains have enabled chatbots to capture data from customer queries and use the data to enhance their abilities. As AI and ML technologies continue to develop, so will the abilities of chatbots. Many companies are increasingly relying on chatbots to serve their customers, and this trend will only grow in the foreseeable future.
- Online Communities: Instead of just relying on websites and AI, companies may also opt to create online communities where customers can ask and answer product-related questions, share information and learn from each other. These answers could be moderated and approved by a team assigned to manage the community platform.
- Knowledge Base: The information provided on the forums discussed above could also be a part of a knowledge base — a collection of web-hosted data resources customers can access easily. Other components of a typical knowledge base include manuals, runbooks, FAQs and troubleshooting guides.
Customer self-service communities are particularly useful because they achieve multiple goals. By building these communities, you can convert product users into brand ambassadors, leverage word-of-mouth marketing and take advantage of user-generated content to boost your online search rankings and visibility. But, the biggest advantage of developing customer communities is your prospective customers can get the information they need from existing users of your products. This will help create an impression among the prospects that they are getting honest reviews about the products, increasing the chances of purchase.
How to Build a Customer Self-service Community with Salesforce Community Cloud?
A customer self-service community is typically built using enterprise software applications. One of the widely used enterprise software applications is Salesforce Community Cloud; Community Cloud is a platform that allows your employees and customers to interact at and share content in one location.
Platforms such as this will give you the freedom to design the space within which the customer self-service community will exist.
Here are a few best practices to help you build a self-service community that works.
1. Make It Easy To Use
You want your visitors to spend more time getting answers to their questions and less time on learning how to navigate the environment. Make the transitions as straightforward as possible, and ensure they fit in seamlessly with your customers’ broader web experience.
2. Deploy an Efficient Search Function
Visitors should be able to find resources related to their queries with minimal effort. An optimized search function will list only the resources that match the query typed by the customer, helping him find the information he needs quickly.
3. Create Personalized Experiences
About 88% of marketers say they have improved their businesses by personalizing customer experiences. Customers are more likely to buy from you if your answers to their product-related questions are tailored to address their specific concerns.
Salesforce Community Cloud uses an AI-powered function to deliver personalized advice to customers. It can also direct them from a chatbot or an online community to a customer service agent in a seamless manner.
4. Update Your Content
Your team should supply the customer self-service community the latest information about your products. This includes introduction of new products, changes to existing ones, ongoing projects and upcoming events. Updating information regularly will help you ensure your customers don’t have to contact a customer service representative to stay updated about your company’s latest plans.
Salesforce Community Cloud solution gives you plenty of room to implement the best practices and build a robust self-service community for your business. You can provide a link to the community in your customer portal, so that people using the portal can find the resources they need with ease. Community Cloud’s drag-and-drop features allow you to create a customized platform that caters to your company’s unique needs very easily.
How Self-service Communities Improve Customer Support
About 70% of customers expect companies’ websites to have a self-service application. And 77% of consumers say they have used a self-service support portal. Businesses need to be aware customers want to find answers by themselves, and they should tailor their strategies accordingly.
Here’s how building a self-service community can give customers access to high-quality support and delight them.
1. Customers Can Access a Wealth of Information about Your Product
As customers on the community platform ask and answer questions, they build a treasure trove of information that visitors to the customer portal can use.
Businesses can leverage user-generated content to boost their SEO efforts and demonstrate they have a loyal, engaged following of customers. This will help drive traffic to their websites and trigger an uptick in conversion rates.
For the customer, it’s more about finding answers to the questions they have about a product or service. Studies show people are more likely to trust information about a product if it’s provided by another user than by the company that produces it.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t have control over what content gets viewed and shared. On the Salesforce Community Cloud, your team can put out information and respond to questions posted by customers. The team can also ensure the knowledge base contains the top-ranked answers from staff and customers alike; quality responses can be prioritized and less helpful answers ranked lower.
2. Reduces Delayed Agent Responses
Companies that rely heavily on customer service agents to take on customer concerns may struggle with large query volumes. They may be unable to attend to every customer’s needs on time. And if there are too many people in the queue all the time, there will be more un-replied messages and dropped calls, and ultimately, higher customer attrition rates.
If your business has this problem, you can fix it by shifting the bulk of that excess traffic from your brand representatives to helpful self-service resources. Community-generated answers can form a part of a broader body of material that a customer could draw answers from.
This solves at least two problems. First, customers don’t have to spend a lot of time and effort reaching out to your agents. It takes them just a few clicks to find the answers they are looking for. It also gives them a feeling that they are in control and makes them warm up to your business’ digital environment.
A second benefit is that the self-service strategy frees your agents from attending issues that only trained company staff can deal with in real-time. This will attract just a fraction of the total visitors to your website, so agents will be able to respond to them more quickly.
Resolving these two problems helps you satisfy your website visitors, win over new customers and retain existing ones.
3. Customer Needs Can Be Anticipated
Customer engagement on your self-service community could give you plenty of insights into their needs and help you understand how these needs change over time.
By combining search data with analytics, you can tell what keywords are most frequently used by customers. You can use this information to tailor your web content, so that it addresses visitors’ most pressing concerns. You can also get your service agents prepared to take on questions related to the most searched terms and be ready to provide answers.
You can also determine how customer needs evolve over a period by looking at how topics discussed by users change through time. You may leverage this insight to build products and deliver customer experience that reflect what buyers want from your brand.
4. Facilitates Comprehensive Customer Engagement
Self-service communities should not be your only channel for addressing your customers’ concerns. It’s better if the communities integrate seamlessly with other fronts from which visitors to your platform can get answers.
For example, customers should be able to move between an online community and a live chat with a customer service representative, with the least possible effort. This comes in handy when they want a more specific answer than what they are getting from the support portal.
If there are more ways for people to connect with your business, it will be easier for them to reach out and make their inquiries. This sense of choice expands the scope for engagement. When all relevant channels are seamlessly connected, customer experience is enhanced and retention becomes smooth.
5. Reduces Cost of Service
Businesses can save a significant amount of money by enabling more customer self-service communities and reducing their reliance on direct customer consultations with agents.
Self-service may cost a company less than $0.25 per customer. That’s a fraction of the $7 or more that it costs for live chats or phone calls between a single customer and an agent. If you are a B2B company, your expenses could exceed $13 per customer.
The cost savings from a do-it-yourself strategy could be channelled to improve other aspects of your business. If this leads to better products and service delivery across the board, your customer experience will improve, and it will be easier to convince your prospects that your brand is worth trying out.
6. Creates a Customer-centric Culture
In the online customer self-service community, everything revolves around customers. They set out the agenda (to a large extent), shape the discussion and make clear the aspects of your brand that they value or don’t like.
The community provides your businesses valuable consumer feedback to work with. The insights you gain from this forum are useful for building truly customer-centric products and experiences.
The community also gives your customers a sense of ownership of your brand. They will feel they have a stake in your business’ development because they can contribute ideas and suggestions, besides just asking and answering questions. This sense of belonging will grow stronger if there’s evidence you consider their feedback seriously. It’s a space for harnessing brand loyalty and creating brand ambassadors out of satisfied product users.
An increasing number of customers wish to find information about products themselves, instead of asking customer service agents. While you will still need agents to take on some enquires, self-service resources and online customer communities can meet the ever-growing information needs of customers.
The Salesforce Community Cloud is a widely-trusted platform you can use for this purpose. Using the platform, you can create and sustain a digital community of customers and enable it to readily find answers to any product-related problem.
Solunus’ Salesforce expertise can help you unleash the power of Community Cloud to facilitate effective collaboration with your customers. You can help your customers find answers themselves, on their terms and within their defined timeline. Whether you propose to use a knowledge base, a self-service portal or a forum, we can get you all covered. We assure you together we can go beyond pre-built products and create solutions that cater to your unique business needs.
Solunus, a North-American based Salesforce Partner, prepares businesses for their next-generation customers. Established in 2014, we simplify Salesforce for you to build more meaningful customer relationships. We partner for a win-win arrangement with a clear ROI that the client realizes by the end of the engagement. Our 350+ years of cumulative industry exposure and Salesforce experience underpin our position as the right Salesforce partner. We are a team of Salesforce Certified Professionals, CRM Architects, and certified Agile Scrum Masters with a passion for making a difference.
About the Author:
Phani is a seasoned content writer. He has written several well-received blog posts and articles on various subjects, ranging from online training to regulatory compliance. When he is not writing, you can find him watching Hollywood classics.
Shalini is a marketing professional with ten years of experience in Marketing & Branding, Marketing Communication, Content Management, Social Media Marketing, and Business Development. She is passionate about art and creativity and is an avid learner.