Why 9 Out of 10 Self-Service Interactions Fail  | SYKES Digital Skip to main content
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With nearly 70% of customers trying self-service before picking up the phone, the impact of getting self-service right cannot be overstated. There’s just one problem.

Despite companies’ efforts to facilitate digital support, 9 out of 10 self-service interactions fail. Meanwhile, a recent Gartner study found that 20% to 40% of live call volume could easily be resolved using self-service. By understanding where the gaps lie, support leaders can rapidly improve their self-service success rate.

In our experience, there are 5 main reasons why the self-service you deliver results in support tickets and calls to your contact center.

Why leaders need to get self-service right in 2022

Independent of companies’ operating hours or agents’ availability, self-service empowers customers to solve their own issues – at their own convenience. But more importantly, effective self-service is simply what 89% of customers expect. Responding to this will prevent disappointment and negative customer experiences.

Apart from customer expectations, there are significant costs to be saved with every support interaction: About $8 per live contact, compared to just $0.10 per self-service interaction.

Still, with only 9% of customers managing to fully resolve their issues the reality is: Creating self-service that works is difficult. To turn this around, support leaders should factor in – and avoid – these five mistakes:

1. Low findability: Customers can’t find what they need

In online support, low findability is a two-fold issue: a) support is not visible in search engines, and b) answers are difficult to find on a company’s support page. Let’s break this down respectively:

1.1. With most online journeys (68%) starting in a search engine, search engine optimization (SEO) is no longer a marketing-only objective – it’s a powerful self-service enabler. While SEO is a discipline in its own right, a few SEO tips can already help your self-service support strategy:

  • Incorporating customers’ language in content (what keywords are they using? How do they phrase their queries?)
  • Understanding how search engines work (Google favors optimized pages that provide a good experience, taking into account speed, mobile responsiveness, and content relevance)
  • Minding your formatting, i.e., providing useful meta descriptions, keeping your URLs clean, tidy, and relevant, etc.

1.2. SEO aside, the right answers must also be easily found when customers directly visit the support page. A site search can be helpful, but only if it yields relevant results. Avoid large menus and ineffective search functions; these can make the customer give up more easily. Moreover, ensure content can also be read by screen readers. This way, you enable customers with impaired vision to easily find what they need.

2. Poor usability: Self-service is difficult to use

Customers must be able to use your online support with as little effort as possible.

Nothing accelerates self-service abandonment like a slow loading page that does not fit a mobile screen. When customers encounter a page that is unresponsive, over-complicated, or cluttered with text, figuring out/sorting through the support material becomes a task (and a new issue) on its own.

In our experience, improving usability can increase self-service completion rates by up to 85%. The following small adjustments can make a major difference:

  • Deconstructing walls of text into concise and categorized sections
  • Ensuring an intuitive page navigation
  • Breaking down complex information into simple, interactive, step-by-step tutorials
  • Supporting visuals complementing written instructions

Learn more on improving support usability with the Self-Service Handbook.

3. Customers are not confident in their answers – so they call to confirm

With today’s flow of information across channels, leaders must consider the sheer amount of information customers have access to. Inevitably, this sheer volume means answers are often inconsistent and even contradictory across platforms. This fuels customer insecurity.

Gartner found that these kinds of negative emotions play a foundational role in cutting the self-service a journey short. In contrast, they note that increasing customer confidence is key to reducing self-service abandonment, listing clarity, credibility, and confirmation as some of the contributing factors of self-service completion.

So – how can companies instill confidence in the self-service journey?

Having a centralized knowledge base that can easily be updated and apply changes across channels can help ensure answers remain relevant and up to date across the board. Designing support and self-service tools that provide assurance along the way also will help mitigate customers’ need for further confirmation.

4. Calling is easier

Customers are always looking for the path of least resistance.

If they have difficulties finding what they need, are met with a mountain of text, or left to navigate a maze of support FAQs, calling will seem a lot easier. And that’s what they will do.
Besides, if you purposely position live support as the path of least resistance, i.e. you front your customer service number on Google or everywhere else on the site, customers are more likely to give up and call.

Another reason for customers abandoning the self-service journey is when they are dissatisfied with an outcome. When this happens, they will call to negotiate.

Taking these potential outcomes into consideration will help you develop a clearer direction with regard to support content, which in turn will help prevent unnecessary calls and support tickets.

5. Not gathering and implementing customers’ feedback

Improving online support is not a one-time project – it’s a process.

Much like optimizing sales in e-commerce, online support needs ongoing optimization based on customer behavior and action. Having a process of continuous improvement is paramount to making self-service work.

What does this mean, practically? Allow customers to provide you with feedback – and act on it. Without this, you can’t know what or how to improve. By capturing customers’ feedback, listening, and responding to it, you show your customers you understand them. This is the much-needed proactive approach that will win customer loyalty in the long run.

Kick off 2022 with self-service success

Over the past 15 years, we’ve helped end-users help themselves. By improving digital care, we help contact centers reduce tickets, costs, and call volumes. By consolidating data from all platforms, we understand what your customers need to start – and complete – their self-service journey, without friction.

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