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Across industries, 81% of customers attempt to solve their own questions first before reaching out to a live representative, according to Harvard Business Review. What these customers are met with when they go out trying to resolve their challenges will largely impact their overall experience.

With effective digital self-service, businesses can meet their customers’ needs faster while reducing the cost-to-serve. 

However, self-service is not just as simple as adding chatbots or including an FAQ on your site; rather, it will be most effective when implemented as part of a strategy that fits into your overall customer service initiative through a self-service customer portal.

4 Ways You Can Use Self-Service Customer Portals

The implementation of self-service should be based on organizational goals and customer needs. Before haphazardly adopting individual tactics, businesses must first determine the purpose of self-service and how it will impact the overall customer experience. 

Here are four key strategies customer experience teams can utilize for their self-service customer portals:

1. Turn a Cost-Center into a Profit Center

According to Hubspot, 31% of customer service professionals say that their department is viewed as a cost center, and this figure has been increasing over the past few years.

However, customer service can be turned into a profit center by leveraging self-service to establish a competitive advantage and to generate new revenue streams

For example, Panamax, a global leader in telecommunications, was able to bring in 4x more website traffic, which led to 5x increase in new customer sign-ups and 7x more increase in monthly revenue through their self-service customer portal. 

Additionally, businesses can leverage self-service as a way to increase revenue by offering new products and services through contextual suggestions based on machine learning. 

Buyers should be able to easily access a company’s website, quickly find what they need, and feel confident about their purchase. This streamlined process is all the more important for B2B buyers, for whom buying is only a small fraction of their jobs.

2. Create a Single Support Hub 

Self-service portals can be used to streamline the customer experience by centralizing knowledge in one location for all customer issues, account information, and tasks. By creating a self-service customer portal with FAQs, knowledge bases, chatbots, and virtual assistants, customers can go to a single digital destination to find the information they need. 

Verb Energy, a B2C energy bar company, does a majority of their communication, ordering, and question asking/answering through SMS text message. They are able to meet customers where they are, on their mobile devices, while also providing the support that the modern-day consumer requires.

Or, look at Airbus Helicopters, a manufacturer that was able to serve its more than 24,000 users more efficiently through a self-service portal. Now, their customers can manage their claims, view requests, submit questions, and purchase spare parts all through their unified customer portal.

3. Build Communities 

In some cases, self-service can be the development of a digital location where customers can help one another. In this strategy, companies create communities where customers can voluntarily answer one another's questions and share knowledge. This leads to increased engagement and loyalty across channels.

We’ve seen this first hand with Liferay Community Edition (CE), our open-source project. Here you are able to ask questions, view answers, and leave comments accessible by all community members. Here you have access to the knowledge of community members through their self-authored blogs. And here, you can view and download Liferay Docs to assist in the development process. 

Additionally, businesses can consider how they provide self-service on external channels like social media in order to engage customers where they are. Common digital self-service tactics like automated responses, message chatbots, and FAQs can be executed through these external channels as well.

4. Drive Proactive Responses 

With data, businesses can use self-service as an active strategy rather than being reactive. 

Instead of waiting for customers to bring up their questions, use self-service to proactively respond to and address customer issues. Businesses can do this either through predictive customer analytics, gathering insights into customer behavior and modeling potential customer behavior, or using data gathered from IoT technologies in order to have real-time situational and contextual awareness. 

For example, manufacturer Caterpillar is able to use IoT to monitor their products and notify machine operations when air filters, or other parts, need to be replaced. Once a filter expires, Caterpillar is even able to send instructions on how to replace the part using their app.

Help Your Customers Help Themselves

Most companies already have the knowledge and services in place to support self-service. What they need is a focused strategy that brings everything together in a customer-friendly way. By taking what already exists and integrating it into a unified customer portal, customers can launch an effective self-service experience faster while setting themselves for future growth.

Syndicated blog post by Liferay, Inc.

For original content, click here.

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