Self Service Support vs Classic Customer Service

What’s so special about self service support? Everywhere you look in support and technology blogs anymore, you see so much to-do about self service support. This isn’t a recent development, but the attitude about it has changed significantly the past couple years.

But, I get ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the 1990s, when the internet and personal computing became very global and commonplace. Early experimentation with online support showed a lot of promise, but also revealed extreme limitations due to the technology of the time. Quite simply, technology was too limited (as was bandwidth) to make a truly dynamic and stable support interface that was both effective and easy for customers to use. Competent designs that could work were far too insecure or complex for users to interact with, and so online support was relegated to just another human-to-human interaction and communications channel. This was the case for over a decade, and even now, that’s the bigger use of it.

But, the past couple years, new technology has come along that has made designing secure, easy-to-use and effective systems for self service support possible. Rich visual systems like HTML5 and AJAX, powerful mobile apps and onboard systems like WalkMe make creating a system that’s as intuitive as a windows desktop and as secure as a call center, without it costing a fortune in funds or design time.

That seems like a lot of effort got put into making self service possible, when it was originally regarded as impractical and risky. Why did people so badly want it?

Well, for a couple reasons. We all know the typical issues present in normal support mediums – communications hiccups, hold times and absurd phone trees, the works. Customers hate having time spent waiting for human beings to scramble to help them, often for small things they’d rather be able to handle themselves.

At the same time, it costs a small fortune to man call centers and other mediums heavily enough to support the volume of people this brings in on a daily basis, resulting in customer service just being an unavoidable time-consuming frustration fest, even with new channels like social support and help desks to make it faster and more parallel.

Well, self service remedies these problems by allowing customers to sidestep submitting and waiting for desk tickets, spending sometimes hours on the phone, or awaiting response emails for account adjustments, or technical issues that are solved by a button being pressed anyhow. With self service, they can press the button themselves, get records and make adjustments to their accounts without arbitration, even fix some technical issues from their end.

This alleviates all the traditional channels for serious issues that aren’t appropriate for self service, thus reducing the wait for those who need to use it as well as the wait for those who are now using self service to handle routine things themselves.

This also saves your company a fortune in support.

But, above all else, the “easily handle your own problems” edge in support is a big seller with customers. While it’s easy to think customers like being waited on and catered to perpetually, consider how popular buffets are because of the lack of wait times to get your darn food.

Self service support has too many advantages to not have put the effort into developing all of those technologies to make it possible, once you step back and look at the migraines and expenses it spares your company and your customers.

Stefanie Amini
is Specialist in Customer Success and chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for Customer Service Experts. Follow her @StefWalkMe