8 Important Features of an Online Customer Self Service Center

As the workforce has become more educated and computers with faster internet connections more ubiquitous, the more sense offering your customers an online customer self service center becomes. More people are using the internet to do research and socialize. They are beginning to expect everything to be online where they can easily find it when they want it. And since a large number of the calls to support centers are for routine issues a self service center can reduce the number of calls by deflecting them. This leaves the really hard and juicy problems for your customer support agents plus the time to resolve them.

Online Self Service Centers can be very simple with a simple FAQ section but why limit your customers to a list of questions and answers that will not cover many of their issues? Especially if the FAQ list becomes overly long and there is no efficient way to search it?

Today’s self service center applications can come with a wide array of features that give customers the ability to find information for themselves and to submit incidents when the answer cannot be found. 

Here are 8 important components of today’s self service centers:

  • Knowledgebase
  • FAQs
  • Downloads
  • Forums
  • Notices
  • Universal search
  • Guided search
  • Incident submission and status

The knowledgebase holds information about previously resolved issues, more indepth information on product usage, and anything else your customers deem of value to them. The FAQs do some of the same thing but on an abridged basis; only those questions asked most frequently need to appear here. This shouldn’t be a long list or you need to take a look at the documentation going out with your product.

Forums are another rich source of information, not only for customers but for your business. Here customers can help each other learn about your product, offer ways in which they have used it as examples, offer suggestions to improve it, and give a sense of a community around your product. Your business can learn what customers are using your product for and how, what issues they have with it, what they think would improve it or what features they would most like to see and which ones they never use. And, a big plus, it gives you a way to engage directly with the customer in a more thoughtful way.

Downloads are a handy way to deliver print documents and software upgrades (for on-premise applications). This gives the customer the flexibility to retrieve that information when he is ready for it without making a field service appointment. This saves you a field service call and the customer a disruption of their workflow. 

Offering a notice board is a great way to communicate information about your company and product to your entire customer base or to only those that require it. Perhaps there is a maintenance announcement for a particular product. Not all customers need to see that, just the users of the product. Maybe you want to post holiday hours or other information to help customers plan around changes.

The best way to tie all of the above together is by having a universal search function that combs all of the information in these features when a customer has a question. She doesn’t need to be limited to searching the knowledgebase. She should have the opportunity to look anywhere an answer might be: in the forums, the downloads, notices, and FAQs.

Finally, if the answer is not in those areas, the customer should have a way to submit incidents through the portal and check its status. To prevent submissions of incidents that have already been resolved, the self service center can offer a guided search where cues are taken from the customer’s prepared submission and offering possible answers that may have been missed during the customer’s original query. It can certainly help if the customer has not bothered to search for an answer but simply tried to log a trouble ticket. If none of the suggestions work, the customer is free to complete incident submission.

These are all features of a good self service system; one that will serve your customers in a way they prefer and expect. You may think you don’t need all of these components, and maybe you don’t…..now. But don’t limit yourself.  Enable those you want immediately and disable the rest until you need them. This prevents having multiple systems to integrate into the self service function.

Click here to see a detailed look at our self service application. It offers all of these features and can be fully integrated into the Tracker incident management solution.

And I welcome any suggestions, questions, experiences ,or comments about online self service that would help other readers and PhaseWare learn what is important to you.

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