Today’s online consumers want to go from point A to point B as quickly as possible whenever visiting a brand’s site. To do this, they need easy access to whatever information will help them move faster along the customer journey. And knowing that 81% of customers would rather take matters into their own hands before having to contact customer service for help, brands have no choice but to create a more autonomous customer experience at every turn.
Customer self-service solutions are the keys to achieving this. However, because no two brands nor two websites are truly alike, how you weave customer self-service into your site experience can vary significantly. Even so, there are a few best practices to follow. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the 10 questions you should ask to determine just how customer self-service-friendly your site is and what you can do now to optimise that experience.
Online shopping habits are growing
Over the last decade, consumers have shifted more of their attention to online shopping. Part of this is the result of consumer life, more generally speaking, becoming more connected across multiple devices and platforms. The other part is attributed to the speed, simplicity, and convenience that it brings to shoppers. After all, why take the time to go to the store when, after only a few simple clicks, you can have your purchases shipped or emailed to you?
But then there’s this thing called COVID-19 that took these online shopping habits up a notch. In fact, after clearing the pandemic’s first peak, a study conducted by PYMNTS found that 36% of consumers in the U.S. were buying retail goods online (vs. 29% in April 2020, when many stores were still closed as a result of lockdown measures). Similarly, in another study by Qubit, it was found that 25% of consumers in the U.S. and the U.K. currently do more than 90% of their shopping online, with two-thirds of those consumers saying that their shopping habits have changed specifically as a result of the coronavirus leaving too much uncertainty in the air.
Mind you, these trends aren’t unique to the English-speaking world only. A global study conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) pointed to trends in both developed and emerging countries showing that online shopping habits are most likely here to stay for some time:
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards e-commerce around the world
Source: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
These trends have sent a clear message to businesses: Digital transformation is no longer nice-to-have; it’s now absolutely critical for handling the influx of digital shoppers today. This is the key to creating a better online brand experience that will make customers a lot happier.
Avoid an influx in customer service requests
Anecdotally, it only makes sense that with a growing number of online shoppers comes a growing number of requests into your customer service team. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Customer self-service solutions were designed specifically to avoid this.
From dynamic FAQs to chatbots to help widgets—and so much more—there are multiple ways that brands can make their websites much more shopper-friendly by putting more useful and relevant information up, front, and centre across the entire customer journey. In fact, Smart Tribune’s customers have seen both a decrease in tier-1 support requests by as much as 49% and a boost in on-site conversion rates by 20%.
Depending on where you are in your brand’s own digital transformation journey, implementing customer self-service solutions might seem daunting. You might not even know where to start. Fortunately, we’ve got a list of questions you can ask to put yourself on track for making your brand’s website customer self-service-friendly in no time.
1. How easy it is to find our FAQ page?
This is a quick and easy fix—and doesn’t require much heavy lifting at all. If your site is like the majority of sites out there, you probably have a link to your FAQs hidden somewhere in the footer of your site. While that may be standard practice for one reason or another, it’s not all that user-friendly. So why not consider putting a link in your header or main navigation to make it super easy for your site visitors to get answers to their questions without having to look far?
2. Is your FAQ content surfacing high up in Google search results?
As counterintuitive as this might sound—within an article about making your website more customer self-service-friendly—the reality is that many consumers today rely heavily on Google and other search platforms to get quick answers to their questions. Therefore, to ensure that your FAQ content surfaces high up on the search results page, it needs to be created through the lens of SEO. Failing to do this basically gives your competitors the upper hand in capturing and converting your shoppers that may have tried to get answers purely via their search bar.
3. How simple is it to access relevant information along the customer journey?
This is where solutions like chatbots and pop-up help widgets really come into play. As customers go through your website experience, there’s a good chance they’ll have a few questions along the way. Without these solutions embedded throughout their journey with your brand—making it easy for them to get on-the-spot answers whenever and wherever they need it—you essentially force them to back-track on their journey and get them further away from making a purchase.
By making it possible for shoppers to access this information anywhere on your site—and in-context of the information on the page—you’re actually helping them convert in a much more efficient way.
4. Is FAQ content integrated into your on-site search?
Again, a relatively easy fix depending on how your site is set up. The key benefit here is simple: Why sequester your FAQ content away in its own corner when it can be an organic part of your website’s search experience, allowing you to anticipate customer needs before they even arise? While it’s most likely that customers will search your site for specific products and services, there’s a very good chance they’ll want or need information beyond that. There’s really no downside to letting your website’s search functionality serve multiple purposes.
5. Does your site offer a frictionless customer experience?
Admittedly, this is a combination of art and science. Every brand expresses itself in its own way—and as a “window” into your brand, your website needs to embody what makes your brand experience so special.
Even so, there are some best practices that can improve the customer experience overnight. For example, does your site have an endlessly loading scroll feature that makes it hard—or even impossible—for customers to get to the FAQ link in your footer? Have you created content in huge blocks of text that make customers do extra work to find the information they’re looking for? Is the shopping experience fluid, or do you have to keep hitting the “back” button to continue shopping? The list of questions literally goes on. But the most important to ask is: Is it easy for people to find what they need and then checkout? If the answer is “no,” smooth out the bumps immediately.
6. Does an FAQ article truly answer the question being asked?
From a customer’s perspective, there’s nothing more frustrating than thinking you may have found an answer to a question only to realise that the “help” article provided sends you down a rabbit hole that leads you around and around in circles. To avoid this, be sure to review your FAQ content regularly to make sure it’s not only up-to-date, but also that it answers the specific question(s) being asked.
And while you’re at it, add features that allow your customers to rate how helpful the content was in addressing their questions—also giving them a space to provide feedback on how to make the content better. This kind of feedback will allow you to improve your FAQ content over time while also alerting you to subpar content early on.
Even more, with solutions like our own Smart Dashboard, you can track which pieces of content are driving more customer service inquiries versus those leading customers further along the shopping journey. These kinds of insights are invaluable for ensuring that every piece of “help” content you create works hard to avoid an inquiry into customer service.
7. Is your FAQ content clear and easy to understand?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but unfortunately, there’s quite a lot of bad FAQ content floating around. As noted above, your customers don’t want to wade through blocks and blocks of text to get the information they need. Keep your answers simple, clear, and to-the-point. If necessary, be sure to add images or videos to support customers along their information-finding journey.
And most importantly, make sure that the voice and tone used for your “help” content aligns with the rest of the content on your website. You should have one brand voice across the board. Your FAQ content shouldn’t be an exception to this rule. This is absolutely critical for creating a unified brand experience across all customer touch points on your site.
8. Is your customer self-service experience personalised?
Many studies have shown that a personalised customer experience offers a number of benefits, with brand loyalty being right at the top of that list. As you begin to weave customer self-service solutions into your site, consider pulling in information from a customer’s profile (if they are authenticated onto your site) or from wherever they are on your site to create a more relevant customer service experience.
Not only does this show that you’re more tuned into your customers’ unique needs, but it will also help shoppers see the value and utility of your customer self-service solutions, who will most likely use them more over the long-term.
9. Is it too easy to call or email customer service?
Remember, the purpose of customer self-service solutions is to avoid your customer service team from having to answer simple questions that ordinarily should be easily accessible on your website. This includes things like store hours, return policies, shipping details, and other simple things that shouldn’t distract customer service agents from helping customers tackle much more complex issues.
However, by making it too easy to contact customer service, without first encouraging customers to take advantage of the self-service options available, you’re inadvertently doing these solutions a disservice.
For example, if a customer has started up a chat, let the chatbot first attempt to provide self-service content before passing them over to a living, breathing human being for help.And knowing that chatbots have the power to tackle up to 70% of common customer questions effortlessly, it’s a win-win for you and your customers.
10. Has your customer service team been trained on your self-service options?
While we’d like to think that customers will always look into self-service content as a first line of defence before reaching out to customer support, there are still those out there who don’t have the patience to search for themselves—no matter how easy you make it. But this doesn’t mean all of that great customer self-service content goes to waste.
Quite to the contrary, it is an added resource that your customer service team can keep in its arsenal to help answer questions, quickly and correctly. Not only can they use it as a reference—to ensure they are always providing the most up-to-date responses—but they can send links to content online, when helping customers via chat or email, to get them back into the self-service journey.
So although these solutions are, first and foremost, targeted to your customers, they can amplify your customer support team’s ability to be more efficient and effective with each inquiry.
11. In ‘on hold’ messaging, are you telling customers about self-service options?
Knowing that today’s customers are more instant gratification-oriented than ever before—meaning, when they want answers, they expect an immediate response—if they are faced with a long hold time while on the phone or in a chat, why not use this opportunity to kindly suggest your customer self-service options?
For those who didn’t know that they could get answers elsewhere, this is a great way to move them out of the queue and free up agent time to deal with customers who really need human assistance.
Easy fixes to create a more autonomous customer experience
There you have it—a few questions to ask yourself now to assess where you might have gaps in your customer experience. And while this list isn’t exhaustive by any means, it covers off on the primary bases for building an experience across your website that funnels customers down the self-service path whenever possible.
Today’s customers want to be able to find information on their own. If they can avoid contacting customer service—which should be your goal, too—they will. So take the time to assess how customer self-service-friendly your brand’s website is today, so you can determine what changes you can make now to create a better overall experience for your customers. And if you need a few more expert pointers, our team is always happy to help!
To learn more about what customer self-service solutions can do for your e-commerce business, check out this case study from French retailer Nature et Découvertes.