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Ecommerce | Self-Service

Set Up Your Web Self-Service for Success

A selection of customer care website screen grabs
From FAQs to virtual agents, what you need to know

Many online marketers view web self-service as a way to reduce contact-center costs. If more customers can track their orders and find the answers to questions about delivery, returns, and the like without having to speak to a customer care agent, fewer customer service agents need to be employed. But if difficult-to-use or otherwise unsatisfactory self-service tools lead customers to stop buying from your business, then the cost savings is a false one—and potentially damaging to your company to boot.

 

Customer-engagement solutions provider eGain, in a white paper titled "Five Web Self-Service Pitfalls," points out a few things to consider before implementing or expanding self-service.

 

• Self-service should be attractive to customers. Customers aren't going to default to self-service because you want them to. They'll use it only because they see it as a time-saving or value-added alternative. So make your website's FAQ page easy to find and to use. Provide plenty of product information on each product page. If you don't already have customer ratings and reviews on your site, consider adding them; ditto filters for price, size, color, material, age range, and any other criteria common to your merchandise offering. Ensure that your on-site search function goes above and beyond, accounting for common misspellings and synonyms. Be sure that any virtual assistants are adept in natural language and not just polite but friendly as well.

 

Not only does ASOS have a link to its FAQs on the top of its home page, but the FAQs page itself is searchable and broken out into subsections.

Not only does ASOS have a link to its FAQs on the top of its home page, but the FAQs page itself is searchable and broken out into subsections.

 

 

• Consider using agents to walk customers through their self-service options. Let's say a customer calls your contact center to ask when his order will arrive. If that information is available on your website, train the agent to not only answer the question but also to show the customer how he can find that information himself the next time he asks a question. This is the customer service equivalent of "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you've fed him for a lifetime."

 

• Self-service should be just one tool in your customer-care toolbox. Some customers would be delighted if they never had to interact with a live agent again. Others get frustrated if they have to drill down more than two web pages to find an answer to their question. That's why you should provide multiple options to provide customers with the help they need. Don't assume, however, that because your target audience consists of mature adults they'll prefer speaking on the phone to a service rep or that because your customers are largely Millennials they'll want all their interactions to be virtual. Do some research to determine which they prefer and what barriers, if any, prevent them from turning first to self-service.

 

Also consider emphasizing different service options for each stage of the customer journey. In its white paper, eGain suggests having a virtual assistant—aka chatbot—greet first-time visitors to your website. "When customers visit a company's website for the first time with a view to learning more about the company, they want to get a thumbnail sketch of the company quickly," according to eGain. "A virtual assistant that provides personalized self-service through a natural-language conversation and guides the customer through the website, pushing relevant content, can be a great tool to implement." Once a visitor is preparing to make a purchase, web chat or co-browsing can help reduce cart abandonment rates. And for problem resolution, "best implementations are the ones that offer multiple access methods (FAQ, search, browse, guided Q&A) to the same underlying knowledge base. They let customers decide what access method they want to use. A successful strategy is to provide fewer options to novice customers and direct them to more structured forms of problem resolution like guided Q&A."

 

• A decline in calls to your contact center should not be your sole metric for success. As alluded to earlier, if your customer service costs decrease but customer dissatisfaction increases, you have not implemented self-service correctly. Before visitors leave your FAQ page, serve a pop-up asking if their questions were answered and how the experience could be improved. At the end of a chat session or a phone call, ask the same thing. Such customer touchpoints have the benefit of obtaining customers' immediate responses, which are typically more truthful and detailed than responses garnered by follow-up surveys days or weeks later. Also monitor whether there is an increase or a decrease in site exits following visits to the FAQs or sessions with a virtual agent.

 

On its product pages, John Lewis (and numerous other online retailers) recommends several related items to add to a purchase. Virtual and live agents can provide the same sort of cross-selling.

On its product pages, John Lewis (and numerous other online retailers) recommends several related items to add to a purchase. Virtual and live agents can provide the same sort of cross-selling.

 

 

• Self-service can gain you incremental sales. "Industry statistics show that cross-selling is most effective when you have just helped a customer solve their problem," notes eGain. "They are receptive to your suggestions at that time because you have earned their trust by helping them." A thoughtful suggestion of a relevant add-on item at the end of a successful chat session or phone call is simply another iteration of a shop salesperson recommending a scarf to go with a dress or a website product page offering additional merchandise suggestions under the headline "You might also like..."

 

 

author: Zilan Yuan

Zilan Yuan

Zilan Yuan is a freelance writer specializing in marketing and design and editorial assistant of Your Commerce.

 

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