Today, consumers want easy and efficient ways to solve their issues, and customer self-service portals give access to all the necessary resources to do so without contacting customer support by phone or email.
According to Statista, 88% of customers expect brands to have a self-service support portal. What is more, recent research by Salesforce shows that 59% of customers actually prefer self-service when they have a simple question or issue. For that reason, building a customer portal equipped with self-service tools is no longer an option, but an essential strategy for ensuring a satisfying customer experience.
So let’s examine essential self-service functionality for a customer portal and how to make the most of it.
4 essential self-service features
Here are four key features for a customer portal that will help users quickly solve their problems and save time.
1. Knowledge base
A knowledge base contains valuable insights about a product or service and other related topics. Serving as an interactive library, it allows for information collection, organization, and sharing with all portal users.
Knowledge base content can be organized differently depending on the nature of a business. The most common types are:
- product- or service-related articles
- how-to guides
- video demonstrations
- step-by-step troubleshooting instructions
We recommend keeping a knowledge base well-structured and easily searchable so that users can find what they need instantly. It’s also a good practice to create curate helpful content not only for specific customers but also for all consumers in the industry. This will help businesses attract a new target audience who can eventually buy their products or services.
2. Search widget
A powerful search engine is crucial for a satisfactory customer experience. The need to browse through numerous articles, instructions, or FAQs looking for an answer can annoy some customers. However, by streamlining the search process, companies allow users to find answers and solutions on the first try, making the self-service portal operate as an online help desk.
Customers also have queries varying in topic and complexity, and still the portal should provide each a comprehensive search experience that helps them find what they are looking for. So a good self-service portal should offer a faceted search with multiple filters to narrow down the queries and refine the results.
Companies may consider applying more advanced technologies, including AI-powered search. Apart from analyzing users’ queries and actions, AI algorithms identify behavioral patterns based on their context and browsing history. This way, you can get a better understanding of what a specific customer hopes to achieve and enable personalized suggestions and recommendations in your customer platform.
3. Community forum
Companies can also provide their customers with a collaborative space to discuss their issues with thousands of other community members and share practical solutions. An active community forum may become a source of valuable quick fixes and tips that even a support team is unaware of.
Above all, online communities remain a reliable channel for reaching out to the support team and live assistants as well as sharing feedback on the product or service. All this increases customer engagement and loyalty. To top it off, community forums help businesses get new ideas for product development based on the customers’ requests.
Another self-help option is an automated chatbot. Chatbots and virtual assistants can not hold meaningful conversations with customers but also help them solve their problems. Chatbots can be configured to answer common questions and direct users to relevant information in the platform. If a query is too complicated or a chatbot is not trained for a particular task, the query can be automatically forwarded to a live assistant.
AI-powered assistants can also answer questions in multiple languages and suggest possible solutions based on previously solved requests. Using natural language processing techniques, chatbots provide a more lifelike and personalized interaction compared to FAQs or static troubleshooting guides.
Best practices for self-service features implementation
Introducing self-service features to your customer portal is an efficient way to notably improve customer experience and stand out among the competitors. The trick is to do it right. Here are several tips on how to create the optimal self-help experience for your customers.
1. Focus on the most common issues
A helpful customer portal provides guides that solve the problems users face most frequently. For example, if you have a FAQ section on your website, consider highlighting the most read articles or guides at the top of the page.
2. Keep your knowledge base up to date
As your product or service continuously evolves, the information in your knowledge base may become obsolete. This requires a recurrent review of your content, including images and videos, to ensure they are accurate and up-to-date.
Also, let your users know when your product or service information was last updated. You can also enable your customers to rate your content and help you detect areas that require updates or improvement.
3. Ensure easy navigation
Publishing helpful materials on your self-service portal is not enough – you should also make sure that it is easy for customers to find them. For this, attach a proper tag to every topic and insert cross-links to other relevant content. This will empower customers to find solutions when they are both browsing and using the search tool.
4. Optimize for SEO
Your customers may look for answers on Google as well. SEO optimization of self-service materials enhances Google search visibility and raises the chance that they will be found.
Once you adopt SEO techniques, new customers searching with the relevant keywords can also visit your portal and ultimately take interest in your brand.
5. Don’t bank on self-service only
Providing solely self-service features can backfire because some customers may still prefer speaking to a live agent to resolve their issues.
Therefore, try to find a perfect balance between self-service and live assistance. Include links leading to all available support channels or add a contact form in the portal footer to provide your customers with all possible means to put forward their help requests.
Self-service is no longer a trend but rather the need of the hour. Dedicated self-service platforms help enhance customer experience by making information search and problem-solving intuitive, fast, and user-friendly. Companies investing in customer portals with flexible self-service functionality today will surely win customers in the long run.