The Right Way to Incorporate Self-Service into the Customer Experience (CX)

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“Do you remember when” was a common phrase I heard growing up, and I got tired of hearing it from my parents. “Back in the good old days” was another phrase where adults were going to tell me how great it used to be. Now that I am saying that to my kids, I shake my head in disbelief. When I think back “on the good old days” of getting customer service from a company, I realize that years ago, although life was slower and easier, it was relatively easy to get good customer service.

Companies used to staff call centers, and one of the metrics that the call center measured was hold time. On average, companies put an emphasis on ensuring that the hold time is as short as possible. In fact, it was one of their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) before KPI became a popular acronym. My guess is that call centers today still measure hold time as a KPI; however, they may be more focused on having the hold time be longer than X minutes instead of shorter than X minutes. The reason for this is very simple.

With all types of online support that can be made available, it is significantly cheaper to provide service to customers online. I have seen it done in a variety of ways, from the good to the very bad.

I recently purchased a walking treadmill for my office, and I had some questions about how to keep it operating properly. The directions that came with the treadmill were terrible, so I went to the website to get more information. I could not find what I was looking for, so I chose to get support via the chat feature. I like to use the chat feature because I can do something else at the same time, as I end up waiting for their response many times. In this situation, my question was very generic. However, the agent chose to ask me questions that had nothing to do with my inquiry. In the end, I was told that someone would reach out to me in 1 to 2 days. I left that 20+ minute chat session less than thrilled. I have also found that leaving a voicemail for the support team is a waste of time because they never call back.

I have always been taught that when there is a problem, the customer will always remember how you fixed it. Consumers know that problems happen and that the service component is critical to their continued business.

How to Provide a Great Customer Experience (CX) Online

When I think of how companies provide great service online, I have seen it done in some of the following ways:

  • Apple Support is outstanding. When I have an issue, I login and request service. Within 1-2 minutes, I get a call from Apple, and then an agent is on the phone with me. With Apple, you pay a premium for the product, and with that, you get outstanding service. For most companies that compete on price or don’t have a product that has differentiated itself from the competition, providing this type of support is expensive.
  • Chat is a great feature if it is implemented correctly. I have gotten service from chatbots, where the person providing the support is a computer, where the flow that they take me down is relevant to what I typed in regarding my problem. It can lead me to articles that can solve my problem. I personally prefer short articles vs. having to dig into a long document to find my answer. Regardless of the length of these articles, this knowledgebase is a great feature to have for both customers and internal call center agents. Many of my chat sessions with humans have been great as the language barrier is not as big of an issue.
  • Authenticated support requires me to login first. To me, this can be the best type of support made available because once they know who I am, I can view my past purchases, support items, new product recommendations, and other relevant information. I periodically log in to Verizon, and I can see why the bill changed last month (by phone line). This saves me so much time, as I am not a fan of being on hold or having to visit the store.

One situation recently had me log an issue with a software provider as I was having problems integrating another system with this software provider. When I submitted my support request, I was told that someone would be in touch within 24 hours, and I knew ahead of time that 24 hours was their SLA (service level agreement). I got frustrated when I received an email 2 to 3 days later to say that my case had been reassigned, which meant I had to wait for another 2 to 3 days to hear back from the new agent.

I had some basic questions about how a particular feature works, and I was told that they can’t, or won’t, talk to me about how to do it and that I need to work with the other software provider to get it implemented. I said that I just had some questions that I wanted to ask verbally, and they said, “No, we can’t help you.” I later laughed when their system sent me a survey after the situation on their end was “closed.”

Tools to Provide the Best Online CX

For firms that want to excel at online customer service experience in a long-term, cost-effective way, technology must be set up properly with the customer in mind. Doing this will have increased short-term costs, however. The following are tools that can be implemented to enhance your service:

  • Knowledge Base to be used internally and by clients
  • Chat feature with potential chatbots
  • Social media support so that you can support clients on the website and through Twitter, Facebook, and other channels. All requests come into one place to be handled. Why have these social media sites if you are not going to monitor them?
  • SMS Support – Now that people are mobile more often, I would love to request support via SMS.
  • Phone System Integration – It is terribly frustrating when I need to tell support again what my number is or who I am. If they know my phone number and I call, the screen should pop up with my information.
  • Artificial Intelligence to provide recommendations based upon the keywords that I typed into my request for support
  • Escalation Rules – If all issues of a certain type should be addressed within 8 business hours, have a rule that notifies management at the 7th hour so that people can address the open issue.
  • Field Service – If you also provide onsite support, implementing a Field Service feature is a must. I get so frustrated when they tell me a technician will be there between 8 AM – Noon, only to show up at 2 PM. With Field Service, you can have things like intelligent scheduling, automated notification updates, and inventory management so that when they show up, they are on time with the right parts.

The entire service component is changing now that more open technology is available. Make sure you don’t get left behind because your competitors are servicing the market better than you!

Have any questions about how your online customer service affects the customer experience? Please reach out to us at any time!

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.


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