A few years ago, Harvard Business Review predicted that by 2020, 85% of customers would choose self-service first. Since then, we’ve seen that statistic plastered everywhere, and for good reason: 

It turns out they were right.

In retrospect, the surging demand for customer self-service was inevitable. With so many convenient digital channels available at their fingertips, customers were already shifting towards a self-service mentality; the global pandemic has simply catalyzed this existing demand.

Now, companies that dragged their feet on self-service are scrambling to get on board in the face of spiking contact center volume, inflated wait times, and exasperated customers clamoring for a quick answer. 

6 fundamentals for quickly launching self-service 

What we mean by customer self-service is all the ways customers can resolve problems on their own without having to contact a live agent. This includes:

  • Search engine experiences
  • Help sites
  • Some chatbots
  • Suggestions on a case submission form
  • Online communities/forums 

The good news is that a viable self-service offering can be launched within a few weeks. No, that’s not a typo. But working with a knowledge management vendor to launch self-service fast requires close attention to a few key areas. Here’s the blueprint we’ve developed based on our own experiences launching for enterprise clients on compressed timelines:

1. Prioritize the content that best serves customers now

Think of all the questions your customers frequently ask your agents. Notice something? Most of them don’t actually require an agent interaction. At the bare minimum, customers have to be able to address these issues on their own using your self-service content. Content that can deliver value on day one needs to be at the front of your content migration plan.

What is cornerstone content?

This is known as your cornerstone support content—the 20% of content that’s used 80% of the time. Without it, customer experience will suffer, especially when circumstances change, call volume spikes to an uncontrollable high, and reaching a live interaction becomes nearly impossible. Ask yourself: 

  • Which topics are customers searching for and viewing most often?
  • What are the most recent high-volume, high-cost issues? Which issues historically drive the highest volume?
  • Which articles could potentially make an agent interaction or field service call unnecessary? 

2. Start with a single language configuration

Ah, the sweet competitive advantage of supporting customers in their language of choice. If you have a global customer base or expansion plans in the works, then localized support content needs to be an expectation for your self-service technology vendor. However, you’ll need to temporarily narrow the scope for the sake of getting up to speed quickly.

We recommend prioritizing documents in the language the majority of your customer base uses. This will shorten the time to launch significantly, while also leaving space to roll out additional languages later.

3. Insist on platform and concept training

Which department will be responsible for publishing content? Will agents update outdated content or publish missing articles? Who will be in charge of deploying self-service, or executing future integrations (rolling out knowledge to chatbots, for example, or community forums)? Your key players need to learn about their role, the knowledge management platform, and what best practices to follow.

A good solution provider will have an efficient onboarding experience to help speed up adoption. Make your goals clear to your vendor early on, and work out a way to organize team training sessions. Better yet, shortlist vendors who facilitate all this for you. This onboarding method will save time, prevent content consumption overload, and give you insight on how your solution provider will treat you as a customer.

4. Focus on core branding

When your customer is trying to self-serve, the environment you send them to needs to feel familiar and intuitive. This is what will create that authoritative, trustworthy connection between your main website and support channel in the eyes of your customer, all while enhancing overall ease-of-use.

These are the five main visual components needed to create this experience on your customer self-service site:

  1. Header
  2. Footer
  3. Font styles
  4. Brand colors
  5. Images/icons for products or services
Core branding checklist for self-service sites.

Though these components may vary by channel, this concept isn’t limited to any single channel. To help your knowledge management provider speed through this process, we suggest reaching out to your marketing department for a style guide and approved media.

5. Make use of your designated project manager

When a company includes a designated project manager for your  deployment, they’re telling you that they’re committed to meeting your goals. A good project manager will go to bat for you to guarantee that deliverables are completed by the set timeline.

For us, a great project manager does all of that and advocates for the success of the most important stakeholders involved: the customers relying on your self-service channel most.

6. Put in place Identity and Access Management (IAM)

An IAM system securely stores the online identity of users, allowing specific roles and restrictions to be assigned for all users that interact with a database. In other words, instead of sharing an entire support library with your customers, you can guide them straight to the information related to their product or service. With all the white noise cancelled, getting to answers becomes far easier.

This is also known as content personalization. Unlike other features, content personalization is relatively quick to implement and makes self-service easy to use for all of your internal and external users. In our experience, a Single Sign-On (SSO) solution typically fulfills this need for most businesses.

Self-service in the name of the customer

When it comes to launching a self-service initiative, technology is one thing; but strategy is wholly another. While the knowledge management software you choose will certainly be an essential part of launching self-service, building your launch plan around these six fundamentals will be what guarantees the best outcome for your team, company, and most importantly— a better experience for your customers now.

launch knowledge management fast

A free Gartner report outlining what’s needed to quickly get KM deployed.

Keep in mind: this blueprint was designed to be the foundation for a more complete self-service experience in the future; it’s not designed to be the end state. As soon as you’re launched, we recommend returning to and enhancing the areas that you deliberately held back on or de-prioritized in the name of launching as quickly as possible.