“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar, author and motivational speaker

Changing habits in your customer base can be difficult. Many are used to heading straight to your support team to resolve issues, or relying on your Customer Success Managers to guide them through their onboarding and adoption journey. But these kinds of high-touch strategies can quickly turn your success organization from a revenue center into a cost center.

The key to driving efficiency, customer satisfaction and reduced support costs lies in strengthening your self-service offering. So how, exactly, do you go about creating a self-service-first culture for your customers?  We’ve asked a few thought leaders in B2B customer experience to share their thoughts on how to strengthen the self-service culture among your customers.

Tip #1: Keep It Simple

Not all of your end users are as familiar with your product and platform as you are.  Founder and Chief Experience Officer at CXChronicles, Adrian Brady-Cesana, says that, "Modern consumers are self-proclaimed ‘search experts’, who think they can find any answer under the sun in a few clicks. Reports suggest that nearly 40% of customers prefer self-service over human contact, but comically, 55% of customers find self-service portals difficult to use.”

Customers crave the convenience of self-service opportunities, yet struggle to navigate complex systems geared towards the knowledge of the creator rather than the user.  

Tip #2: Create Consistency Across Channels

Where in their journey do customers want to self-serve?  “Customers will seek self-service in multiple places, so you need to have self-service opportunities at each entry point,” says Megan Gilhooly, VP of Customer Experience at Zoomin. “Put extra time and energy into finding solutions that ensure they get the same answer no matter which door they come through. Self-service doesn't have to be a fancy bot that takes months to develop. Customers can self-serve effectively using technical product content your tech docs team already creates. The secret is to know your customers, understand their needs, and serve up content in the right places and in the right way to answer their needs.”

When improving any customer experience, consider different content preferences your end users may have. And don’t forget to harness an often overlooked asset: employees who directly interact with your customers.  Brady-Cesana suggests, “Utilize content across written, audio, and visual channels to speak to the end-user. Involve your customer-facing teams – they already have all of the answers on where to start.”

Tip #3: Bring the Experience to the Customer

Make sure self-service opportunities are presented clearly to the customer. When self-service options are difficult for the customer to find and command, the customer naturally won’t be as likely to adopt them. Reflecting on his own experience, Mike Sasaki, VP of Customer Success and Support at Mitek Systems, explains, “When I first started off on creating a self-service experience, I believed that if you build it, they will come. Meaning, if we built a self-service experience, customers would automatically begin using it at a high level. This was simply not true. Not only do you need to build it, but you also need to present it to your customers in an organic way throughout the customer lifecycle."

"In fact, you are rewarded with high usage of self-service if you are able to bring elements of self-service to the customer, instead of waiting for the customer to find self-service. The customer experience you deliver trumps everything when it comes to self-service, so do not overlook this key piece, which is often underleveraged and is an afterthought.”

Tip #4: Understand Your Customer

American novelist, Leslie Jamison, wrote, ”Empathy requires knowing that you know nothing.”  It can sometimes be hard for business leaders to actualize the true mentality of all of their customers. Yet, building a successful self-service culture lies in the people who will actually be using it.

“Most companies make the mistake of creating self-service options to reduce their own workload,” says Founder and CEO of Heart of the Customer, Jim Tincher.  “But great companies – those that have done the work to develop a deep understanding of customer needs – target their interventions toward areas where customers are comfortable with self-service.”

“It’s important to start with the customer in mind and maintain the customer at the center of all self-service offerings. Starting with understanding the persona of all individuals that will interact with self-service throughout the customer lifecycle is the key to success,” Sasaki reminds us. “Once you define the personas, you can create a self-service offering that will provide a ton of value in the manner each persona would like to interact with a self-service engagement.”

Don’t forget to stay connected with your customers throughout the process.  Discover the common answers they are seeking from you. Brady-Cesana says, “Spend time with your customers pitching and pivoting towards your goals!  Start with the most common questions & FAQs.”  

It’s not difficult to take your self-service culture to the next level if you put your time and energy in the right place.  Customers know what they want: service and solutions in the most easy and efficient way possible.  Are you ready to be the next self-service cultural icon?

Tip #5: Just Do It

Most companies know they need to invest in their self-service experience. Yet companies give their competitors an advantage when they take too long to think through their self-service strategy.  Mike Sasaki advises, “Don’t make the mistake of trying to make self-service perfect from the beginning. Get started and iterate based on usage data and customer feedback. These days, reporting is so robust, making it much easier to understand where and how to iterate.”

Want to learn more about leveraging self-service to drive adoption and improve the customer experience? Then watch our virtual panel, "From Ugh To Aha! Driving Product Adoption Through Effortless Self-Service Experiences."

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