Self-Service Solutions: Making or Breaking the CX?

An exploration of whether self-service solutions are good for your B2B business with a focus on the functional experience and emotional experience as drivers of customer satisfaction.

What do you do when something doesn’t work? How does it make you feel? 

I (Tracey, author of this post) have pretty much grown up with rapidly evolving technology and trends, but there have been times where I’ve stopped and thought, “Wow, how much easier has our life become with some of these self-service technologies?” For example, when I was in South Africa and used to go to the cinema, I always headed straight for the self-service machines to buy tickets—there was no way I was going to wait in the queue to get tickets from the human behind the glass. 

And I know my mind was blown when I first encountered self-checkouts in the shops. I was overseas when I first experienced them, and I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing at first. Yet despite how cool and efficient the self-checkout seemed to be, I immediately ran into problems when the one barcode wouldn’t scan and I managed to mess something else up. I eventually had to call someone for help, and I realized at that point that it would’ve been quicker and less painful going to the cashier in the first place.

I’m sure this is all familiar to you—this love-hate relationship with self-service technologies. When they work, they are brilliant, but when you encounter some problems, they can leave you incredibly frustrated and with a poor impression of the business. 

And that’s what our next blog post is about: The power of self-service solutions to make or break the customer experience. This post is part one of three and is based on our latest white paper, Cutting Customer Service Costs While Improving Experience With Digital Adoption Platforms

Below, we’ll explore the roles of the functional experience and emotional experience as drivers of customer satisfaction and give a quick discussion on whether self-service solutions are a yay or a nay for your B2B business! 

Self-Service and Customer Satisfaction: Breaking It Down Into the Functional and Emotional Experience

We all know about the customer experience and what it entails, but what about the functional and emotional experience? 

Well, when it comes to customer support and the support process, a customer’s overall satisfaction can be determined by the functional experience and emotional experience. Let’s take a look at an example of a customer looking for technical support. We’ll call him Elon (because I, Tracey, am obsessed with SpaceX).  

Elon is working with a SaaS product. He encounters a problem, which prevents him from performing a task seamlessly. As a result, he will accumulate two types of costs as he begins the support process, namely:

  1. The physical cost, which is connected to the functional experience. It refers to how much time Elon spends on getting help to solve his problem. 
  2. The mental cost, which is connected to the emotional experience. It refers to the cognitive effort Elon requires to tackle the issue.  

In the best-case scenario, Elon solves the problem successfully with a self-service solution. The quicker and easier he solves the issue, the less physical and mental costs he accumulates. Adding to this, Elon might even experience mental benefits, such as feeling empowered and accomplished after having solved his problem autonomously without the need for a human customer support agent. 

Conversely, in the worst-case scenario, Elon tries, without success, to solve his problem with self-service solutions that are poorly executed. For example, he first searches through the company’s knowledge base for help but soon finds that it has broken links, is disorganized, and lacks important information. He then turns to a chatbot for support, but he finds that it has also been poorly implemented by the business. As a result, Elon isn’t able to get the help he needs and now has seek help from a human customer support agent. All of this leads to the accumulation of physical and mental costs, which leaves Elon frustrated, annoyed, and feeling as though he has wasted valuable time. 

In practice, self-service solutions are designed to be accessible and discourage customers from immediately seeking one-on-one support from an agent. For this reason, self-service solutions can be a valuable supplement to customer support agents because solutions like chatbots can deal with redundant or simpler queries from customers. This gives support agents more time to deal with complex problems that require one-on-one human interaction.

But … when poorly executed and maintained, self-service solutions will simply add to the workload of customer support agents, and they’ll become more of a hindrance than anything else. In this case, both the customer and the support agent experience a poor functional (physical cost) and emotional (mental cost) experience. 

flow chart of the customer support process.
Sneak peek of what you can find in our white paper, Cutting Customer Service Costs While Improving Experience With Digital Adoption Platforms.

So, What’s the Verdict With Self-Service Solutions?

Here’s the deal:

Based on the research we conducted for our white paper, global consumers are increasingly coming to rely on, and even prefer, working with self-service solutions. But they mean working with self-service solutions that are user-centric, well-implemented, well-executed, and well-maintained (sorry, that was a lot of wells 😉)

According to Oracle, “too many companies are failing to execute self-service in a manner that actually serves customers and prospects … organizations primarily focus self-service on customer acquisition over customer support and retention.” This means that self-service solutions will damage the customer experience when businesses purely use them to either reduce overhead costs or focus more on acquisition than retention. 

It’s easy to implement a self-service solution in your business. Let’s take the chatbot as an example. There are several cheap chatbots out there that you can implement, but using a cheap chatbot will cause more harm than good. You shouldn’t be implementing a self-service solution for the sake of it. When you opt for a self-service solution, you need to invest completely in it, and this includes maintaining it and updating it as often as possible. 

In part two of this post, we’ll take a look at three self-service solutions in more detail and offer a side-by-side comparison of them in terms of their functional and emotional experience, cost, and ROI. 

But for now, here’s the verdict:

Poorly implemented and badly executed self-service solutions will damage the customer experience by adding to the physical and mental cost experienced by the customer. But, when done right, self-service solutions will enhance the customer experience significantly by:

  • giving customers immediate access to support, thus saving the customer time (reducing the physical costs);
  • solving redundant problems efficiently, thus reducing the cognitive effort required by the customer to address the problem; and
  • giving rise to pleasant sensations (mental benefits), such as heightened feelings of accomplishment and feeling in control of the problem-solving process. 

In the age of the digital customer, you simply have to have self-service solutions—you can’t afford not to! The digital customer, or the so-called “digital-do-it-yourselfer,” wants to be in control of the problem-solving process, and they want to have fast access to exceptional customer service. The right self-service solutions implemented correctly, combined with a holistic support process, will leave your customers highly satisfied!

Self-Service: Let’s Sum It Up!

Customer service expert Shep Hyken sums it up perfectly:

A self-service option may be able to improve your customer’s experience of working with your company, but note that not all self-service options do.

So, whether you’ve already implemented a self-service solution in your business or still need to (have to!) do so, remember these key points:

  1. It’s about the functional and emotional experience. Your self-service solution should reduce the physical as well as mental cost accumulated by your customers as much as possible. 
  2. Don’t just have a self-service solution for the sake of having one. Invest time and resources into building an excellent knowledge base or chatbot, for example, and be sure to continually optimize your support process. 
  3. Provide a holistic process that is hybrid: Don’t simply rely on self-service solutions or support agents, it shouldn’t be a one or the other approach. Self-service solutions and agents should work alongside each other to provide optimal support. 

Our latest white paper explores the content of this blog post in more detail (particularly regarding the functional and emotional experience). It also answers the question, how can you cut support costs without compromising on the customer experience? While this blog post focuses more on why you need self-service solutions, our white paper dives into the most effective way to save on support costs while significantly enhancing the customer experience at the same time. Be sure to get your free download, no-opt in required!

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