Let’s start here: if customers are calling you, it’s only because you’re making them. People don’t want to call support if they don’t have to. This is the new norm, and there are a few customer self-service trends contributing to this paradigm, trends that are reshaping the way companies execute post-sale customer support.

5 customer self-service trends

It’s not just that customers want to take care of things themselves—and 71% of people prefer to self-serve—it’s that they expect to be able to do so with minimal effort, where and when they choose.

Here’s why:

1. Emails and phone calls still take the most effort

Picture this: you just bought a shiny new something-or-other and you run into an error code.

Rats!

Do you prefer to call a contact center straightaway? Of course not! You’ll have to track down the right phone number, “wait for the next available representative,” get transferred and have to repeat yourself. Will you use a contact form to open a ticket and email the support team? Maybe. But who knows when you’ll get a response?

Today, people seek support in the channels that will be the easiest and fastest. If they’re forced to interact with chatbots, live support agents, or email support, their perceived level of effort tends to increase (as does their frustration).

5 Layers of Self-Service Graphic Powered by MindTouch
A visual representation of how customers move through the five layers of self-service.

2. It’s easier just to Google it

It’s estimated that 77% of people use Google three times a day to search for something online. As members of that cohort, we suspect the reason is simple: ease of use. As a channel for self-service, the Google search engine has a couple things going for it.

First of all, Google is probably three feet away from you—all you need to do is pick up your phone, input your question, and voila. If you use a voice assistant such as Siri or Alexa, you can just say your question aloud.

77% of people use Google at least three times a day

The Google search experience itself has evolved to make it so customers often get complete answers without having to click through to a website. This is thanks to things like rich featured snippets and knowledge graphs, which can surface all the information a customer needs based on their search intent (how-to, break/fix, etc.).

3. Channels for customer self-service are multiplying

There’s so many ways to get help today that people are almost insulted when they have to pick up the phone and call a contact center. Stop and think about that for a second: in a population where almost everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, almost nobody wants to use that smartphone to make a call.

71% of people prefer to self-serve

Why call when you can ask a conversational interface, such as Alexa, Siri, and Cortana? Many companies now offer customer self-service chatbots on their websites as a lower-effort alternative to call or email. Heck, with IoT devices like internet-connected thermostats or kitchen appliances, you don’t even need your mobile phone!

The point is, customers have choices now as to how they will go about seeking self-service. And increasingly, they expect you to come to them.

4. Self-service can be automated

Did someone say chatbots? This brings us to the topic of automation. Thanks to the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the race to automate certain aspects of customer support is already underway. Technology vendors are building intelligent automation for human-powered support channels, chatbots principle among them.

IBM suggests that 85% of customer support interactions will be automated by 2020. Given the proliferation of self-service automation, organizations will need to find ways to make those experiences as timely, seamless, and successful as possible.

5. Content has evolved

Most customer self-service trends you can think of are fueled, at least in part, by good content. Yes, content still owns the throne when it comes to effortless customer journeys. But just publishing flat knowledge base articles, or burying information in random PDF documents, doesn’t cut it anymore.

Approximately 85% of customer support interactions will be automated by 2020

Instead, customer-centric companies are changing the way they do support content. They’re finding ways to bring all of their important content into a single source of truth, then writing, structuring, and organizing it so it can be extended out to all the self-service channels that customers prefer today.

Why? Well, as the demand for customer self-service continues to grow, companies know they must go to customers where customers want to self-serve with the least amount of effort. And rich, timely, and valuable content is the best vehicle to get them there.

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Additional categories: Customer Experience, Customer Support, Industry Trends