Decision-makers in the support world understand that online self-service is no longer an item on the to-do list—it’s a must. This helps explain why the web self-service portal has emerged as an effective way to improve the customer experience and defray customer support costs.

Done right, this is one of the best channels customers can use to solve problems on their own.

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What is web self-service?

So, what exactly is a web self-service portal? The definition is in the word: self-service. The term brings to mind traditional examples like pumping your own gas (sorry, New Jersey), or vending machines that sell beer (sorry, bartenders).

Web self-service refers to the different ways that people—customers, support agents, etc.—search for information, find answers to questions, and perform simple transactions online without human assistance.

A web self-service portal is a central place online that brands use to make their support content available digitally so that customers, employees, and partners can easily access it. 

At their root, most web self-service portals are powered by content. This can include knowledge base articles, help content, and other product documentation.

Examples of web self-service portals

Here are a few real-life, bonafide web self-service portals to take a look at. There are a couple of things you’ll notice about these examples:

  • Simple design and layout
  • The ability to self-identify through click navigation
  • A prominent search bar
  • The ability to log in (authenticate)

Consortium™ for Service Innovation

Consortium™ for Service Innovation Web Self-Service Portal
A look at the Consortium™ for Service Innovation web self-service portal

Sumo Logic Support

Sumo Logic Support Web Self-Service Portal
A look at the Sumo Logic Support web self-service portal

Common web self-service uses interactions that can be handled by a portal

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it speaks to a common theme: self-service enables users to handle certain “low impact” activities themselves, without the help of another human. Common examples include:

  • Username lookup
  • Password reset
  • Updates to account information
  • Bill payments
  • Check order status
  • Software setup/installation
  • Product troubleshooting

Again, the examples are many; but this should give you an idea of how web self-service can be deployed.

4 benefits of an easy self-service portal

The ability of web self-service portals to simultaneously serve a variety of different users, with a variety of different needs, is what makes them so powerful.

This helps explain why consumer preference is shifting toward self-service: according to one report by Software Advice, 73% of people search online when they have a question; and self-service portals have the potential to provide the very content those customers are looking for.

But the benefits of a comprehensive self-service portal go beyond consumer preference.

1. Agent productivity 

The ability to access, capture, and improve knowledge can help support agents be more efficient, improving customer support KPIs like mean time to resolution (especially if it integrates with your CRM). In this way, self-service can also support ticket deflection.

2. Personalization

As we see in the examples above, a self-service portal can be configured to deliver personalized content to specific users, either using click navigation, search, or authentication services like single sign-on (SSO).

3. Extendability

Optimized properly, self-service content can be extended into other channels, including social media, email, and chatbots. This helps extend the reach of the self-service portal to meet customers where and when they are seeking content.

4. Search optimization

Because your customers probably aren’t searching your website, at least not before they try Google Search first. By optimizing your self-service content for search, you can make sure it’s your branded, authoritative content that users find using search engines.

Perhaps the best thing about a web self-service portal is its operating hours: 24/7, 365 days a year. Even though a call center might be closed, a customer can still find help on their own no matter where they are or what time of day.

Web self-service is about effort and experience

A seamless self-service experience, powered by a well-structured, user-friendly portal can vastly improve the customer experience. How? By putting the agency in the hands of the consumer.

Because the fact is, people don’t really want to call into customer support—71% of consumers prefer to solve customer service issues on their own. Keep this in mind, and the benefits of a scalable web self-service portal can be immediate and significant.

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Use this infographic as you consider and evaluate knowledge management solutions for your business