Are You Getting the Most Value Out of Your Self-Service Channels?

In today’s world of digital natives, Google is often the first point of reference for customers when they have a question. Some might track down your contact information if they can’t immediately find the answer, but an increasing number will just avoid reaching out all together. Consider, for example, that 25 percent more people used communities for support in the last three years, while a decreasing percentage actually called support.

If you don’t offer these self-service options, you could be missing opportunities to connect with customers; and over time, impact customer retention and satisfaction. While this loss is difficult to measure directly, it is possible to calculate the value of the support you provide through these channels.

FAQs, public knowledge bases, communities and other forms of digital self-service support provide a means for customers to solve issues without having to contact an agent. While there are still costs associated with creating the right content and optimizing the experience, these channels are by far much less labor-intensive. Consider, for example, that one article can help hundreds or even thousands of customers with the same question.

Recently, I devised a mathematic formula designed to figure out exactly how many issues a company can solve through self-service; as well as how much that same level of support would have cost had the customer called, emailed or chatted a customer service agent for support.

Self-Service Monetary Value

The individual metrics in this formula can also be used to measure and improve the performance of your self-service channels. Many systems, such as goMoxie’s Web self-service offerings, can pull these statistics into a report or dashboard. But it’s up to your team to actually dig into the data and identify opportunities for improvement. Here’s a few metrics your team should keep an eye on:

Percent of Response in Communities

This is likely one of the most important measures for identifying lost opportunities in the community.  If a question never receives a response, you increase the chances of that customer contacting you through a more labor intensive channel. Also, if other customers come to the community and see that questions don’t receive a response, they also in turn, are more likely to call or email an agent.

Ideally, you’d want your response rate to be 100 percent. This might require increasing the percent of employee involvement, at least at the outset. As your community becomes more active, customers will start to come back and become more engaged themselves. Then as more questions receive a response, customers can start to answer their questions with existing content. They won’t have to create a new discussion thread every time.

Content Ratings and Page Views

In order for customers to really want to use your self-service channels, you need to make sure that they find the content they are looking for.

To do this, make sure your support  team consistently monitors page views and ratings on content. This will help your team start to identify which articles, discussion threads and other content is the most popular. These pages should then be optimized with keywords (so they are easily indexed and found by Google and other search engines). First, use a tool like Google Analytics, or another similar site traffic reporting tool, to find out which keywords customers searched when they found your article. Once you have those, you can plug them into Google Adwords and see what other relevant keywords generate traffic. You should add a few of the most relevant terms to the article, where it makes sense.

This content should have a prominent spot on the front page of the community, or at the top of FAQ page. Or, if you organize articles by topic area and have a list of tags or sections, you might move the most popular ones to the top of the list. You might even create a new section based on the kinds of questions that you receive the most.

Finally, your team should proactively create more content around your most popular topics. If a particular article or response is still getting a lot of questions, create another article that addresses those queries and link to it from the original thread.

Self Service Engagement

Ideally, your self-service traffic, pages views, community user sign-ups and other engagement metrics should consistently increase. If these numbers aren’t moving, it means customers aren’t finding what they need immediately, or otherwise aren’t having a good customer experience.

To address this problem, you should make sure that you have content around the most common reasons people end up calling or emailing support. Many support systems enable users to associate trouble tickets with a query type, or tag. This allows managers to pull reports that show which issues are requested most through phone, email and chat.

These are just a few self-service metrics your team should measure consistently to optimize usage. What performance measures do you find most successful? Join the conversation with a comment here.

Guest author Ashley Verrill is an Analyst for Software Advice and the Managing Editor for the Customer Service Investigator. She is also a contributor to TechCrunch, GigaOM and