Many companies now strive to create self-service products that enable customers to adopt independently with very little hand holding. Yet hiccups in the onboarding process or overcomplexities in the product continue to deter some customers from fully adopting on their own. That means frustrated customers are still, reluctantly, reaching out to live support. That’s a missed opportunity since self-service is supposed to be a total win-win situation for both your company and your customers.

In Zoomin’s latest Customer Experience panel, our thought leaders discussed how you can enable your customers to succeed through effortless self-service product adoption. Guided by customer success evangelist Sue Nabeth Moore (Co-Founder of Success Chain), our Customer Success aficionados ‒ Megan Gilhooly (VP Customer Experience, Zoomin), Mike Sasaki (VP Global Head of Customer Success & Support, Mitek Systems), and Peter Armaly (Senior Director of Customer Success Enablement, Oracle) ‒ discussed in-depth how to change frustrating “ugh” moments into successful “aha” moments for customers.

Why is customer self-service essential for driving product adoption?

Quite simply, customers expect it. Sue Nabeth Moore shared some interesting research which found that 70% of customers now expect a company's website to include a self-service application. Vendors who meet these expectations and provide quality self-service experiences are seeing greater rewards than those working with traditional customer-success models.

To illustrate the bottom-line impact of great self-service models, Megan Gilhooly shared an example of one company that invested in improved self-service access to their product content. They started tracking all incoming cases that should have been able to be independently resolved using the available content. When the results came in, they saw that by improving the findability of their content and the quality of their overall self-service experience, they were able to reduce 40% of support cases simply by eliminating those sort of tier 1 cases. “When agents are spending less time on tier 1 cases, they have more time to spend on tier 2, tier 3, and tier 4 cases – so you're providing a better customer experience.”

Another benefit to vendors is scalability. According to Peter Armaly, “The ability to provide self-service really well allows you to scale in a big way, especially if you focus on refining it all the time. The data that surfaces through all those interactions should fuel an effort to improve the overall customer experience. You learn lessons through all those interactions.”

What's the impact of better self-service for customers?

“From a customer's point of view,” says Armaly, “self-service gives them the control that they may not have realized they needed – but wanted.” And in Oracle’s case, “the more they used it – the more they wanted it.”

By creating better self-service options, companies can build a more customer-centric and positive experience with their product. “I think the biggest benefit to customers is that the experience puts them in control,” says Mike Sasaki. “When a customer is reliant on a vendor, it often doesn't match up with their timeline and work hours. As a result, they lose hours, days, even weeks, and end up frustrated. You're giving control back to the customer so they can control their future and their success.”

How do you drive greater self-service adoption of products?

According to Sasaki, expectations need to be set early so customers will embrace a self-service approach. “There's the obvious [approach] where you can explain the value proposition to them during the onboarding process – that if you want your answer faster, if you want more control over your experience and time to value, then this is the way to go.”

Armaly suggests interviewing customers for input when launching a new self-service product, and Gilhooly agrees: “I did that same thing, reaching out to customers, talking to them, having them be a part of the process. So by the time we launched, they were over the moon because they felt like they were a part of the process. And even if they weren't, they knew what was coming.”

Customers need to trust your self-service product. Inconsistent information across multiple channels is annoying for customers and bad for brand confidence. Reflecting on a study which found that product inconsistencies can greatly reduce customer trust, Megan Gilhooly says, “I think it's so important to bring in all of the content that customers need from one place, no matter where it is, and push the exact same content out – so you have one place to publish it, one place where it gets edited, and it goes out any door your customer comes through.”

Meanwhile, Sasaki touches on the importance of cross-functional partnerships: “I thought we could just build it, roll it out, and it'd be great. But that’s not true. You need marketing, you need product, you need support, you need services, and you need executives. You need all of that to make it work.”

So, what are our panelists' key takeaways?

Mike Sasaki:

“Understand the personas. It's super important! It's not “set it and forget it”. Continually look at the data and iterate where you need to. It's probably the lowest thing on [other teams’] priority list, but you need that buy-in early on and throughout in order to make it work.”

Megan Gilhooly:

“Make sure everything is consistent across all of your channels. Also, be cross-functional [with your teams] about it. Don't try to just do yours and have them do theirs, because the customer will lose in the end”.

Peter Armaly:

“I know it can lengthen the project, but I think that it'll be well worth it to check with the customers. Create a focus group as you're doing this to gauge their opinions on what they're seeing, because there needs to be a bit of a design element and you want the experience to be good. If you're not going to hire an outside consultant who is going to help design it, then check with the customers and they'll give you ideas.”

“Secondly, I would just say that without leadership endorsement, like the executive leadership, this is going to fail. You’ve gotta get that in place.

We’d like to extend a big thank-you to all of our panel participants, as well as our amazing moderator, Sue Nabeth Moore. Sue and Peter made SmartKarrot’s list of the Top 50 Customer Success Influencers of 2021.

Check out the full panel discussion to catch more insights from these top-notch thought leaders.

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