A small business customer

3 Customer Self-Service Tools That Help Clients Help Themselves

By using self-service tools, SMBs can both increase customer satisfaction and optimize employees' time. Here are some ideas for getting started.

Small business customers

There is something innately satisfying about solving your own problems — you don't have to wait, and you feel a sense of accomplishment afterward. Your customers feel the same way when you provide them with self-service tools. According to Harvard Business Review, 81 percent of all customers try to resolve issues on their own before contacting the business. Many small businesses are now providing self-service tools to help customers solve their own issues without talking to a customer support representative. Here are a few ideas that may work for small companies:

Give Customers a Go-To Resource Center

Your customer-facing employees most likely answer the same questions over and over. You can make answers easier to get — and save time for your employees — by creating an online resource center with answers to common questions. You can build an FAQ section on your site by creating an extra page and writing a short, clear list of common questions and answers. Other, more high-powered tools are also available, however: Team Support, for example, creates a customer portal that you can include on your website. Some tools, such as Desk by Salesforce, also let you create moderated community discussions, so customers can help each other and rate content.

Free Up Your Employees With Chatbots

If a customer can't find what they need in the resource center, they can ask a chatbot their question instead of calling or emailing your business. A chatbot is simply a chat window where a customer enters questions and an artificial-intelligence engine provides answers. The main benefit of using a chatbot is that customers can get answers right from their computer without picking up the phone or waiting for reply by email. By using machine learning, chatbots can learn from each customer interaction to improve the user experience over time. Popular chatbots for small businesses include Live Person and ZenDesk. By using chatbots, your support representatives can spend more time on projects that increase customer engagement and retention, and less time answering simple questions.

Install Always-On Customer Service With Automated Voice Agents

Another approach is using automated voice agents to help customers answer their questions. Interactive voice response (IVR) systems help businesses create a voice-based self-service tool that reduces wait times and live-agent call volumes. Other benefits include the ability to provide around-the-clock service, even on holidays. IVR conversations are personalized for each customer, and some tools, like Transperfect, can even recognize multiple languages. Many tools are made for enterprises and don't suit small businesses' needs or budgets, but options like PureCloud by Genesis and Plum both offer tools for smaller businesses. Regardless of what option you choose, before committing you should always think about your typical customer and how they like to find answers, then build your solution around their needs. Even better, chat with a few customers and have them walk you through their preferred process for solving problems. Then select the self-service tool that best works for them and for you.