The customer preference for self-service using online platforms and service portals is without doubt. These days, 88% of us - as a global average - expect a brand or organisation to have an online self-service support portal.
Further research shows more than 50% of millennials consider self-service to be a minimum requirement as part of a brand’s promise, and that 77% of us have experience using a self-service portal.
Gartner predicts that within two years, 85% of all customer service interactions will begin with self-service and that customer self-service will make up 64% of all customer engagement. So when it comes to improving the customer experience, it’s clear that providing online self-service has become a critical component for all organisations which hope to compete effectively in the market.
What’s driving this customer preference? It’s simply because a self-service portal gives more power, choice, and convenience to your customers and improves their digital experience with your business.
Let’s define exactly what a self-service portal is and how it functions, before diving deeper into some of the benefits they offer to customers and businesses alike.
What is a Self-Service Portal? The Core Elements.
Put simply, a self-service portal is a customer (or employee) facing website or app that helps people to get things done more easily in a service sense. It’s all about improving the customer experience and one of our recent blogs can give you further tips on this subject.
This might be to do with finding product information or stock levels, accessing vital support information without having to wait in line to speak to a person, logging issues, or simply purchasing more goods and services with ease and convenience.
The key element is resolving issues or questions with speed and convenience. Customers want to be able to get important service assistance through solution or product information, or well-written and comprehensive FAQs. They might also be interested in online discussion forums which could feature “super user” customers as well as accessible company technicians or subject matter experts to help resolve issues.
Other elements of a customer self-service portal may include the ability to log in and amend account details, change passwords, and download software or updates. One key takeaway from all this is that self-service is 24/7, 365 days a year - in other words, it’s at a time that suits the user, not the organisation.
Another key takeaway is around the importance of good design. The best self-service portals are built with the user experience mapped out well in advance to ensure ease of access to the right information, with the minimum amount of steps taken to resolve the issue at hand. Speaking of benefits…
Benefits of a Best Practice Self-Service Portal
User Benefits of a Self-Service Portal
This article has already touched on some of the major benefits for the customer or employee when using a self-service portal, and they revolve around speed, control, and convenience.
When a user can log in and personalise their own online environment, the relevance of the user experience increases dramatically. A record can be kept of their information consumption, tickets logged, products or services purchased, and so on. All of this helps predispose the user more favourably toward the organisation given that they’re providing such convenient tools.
As mentioned, a self-service portal that's always-on allows the user to interact with your organisation at the time that’s most convenient for them. 24-hour customer service is an attractive option that portals allow, even when the business is technically closed.
Many self-service portals include the use of an online forum which facilitates the exchange of information, solutions to issues, and new ideas. This provides an environment which not only enhances your overall brand experience, but also builds a sense of community which helps customers feel they’ve made the right choice by choosing your offerings.
Business Benefits of a Self-Service Portal
While self-service portals accelerate the exchange of information and focus on customer convenience, it’s always important to note - especially in the B2B sphere - that customers and prospects will usually always want to have some degree of live interaction with a real company representative.
But that being said, the relationship can always be enhanced with a portal, resulting in several business benefits. One of the key benefits is the ability to reduce costs. Storing product and service information online allows users to download in digital formats, reducing the costs to print and mail catalogues. Similarly, a portal can reduce support costs with fewer people required to solve common, everyday issues in person or on the phone as users are equipped to help themselves to solutions.
Improving customer satisfaction is a major business benefit from self-service portals. Customers know that self-service is faster, more efficient, and convenient - ultimately empowering them and providing additional flexibility. Put another way, it’s interacting with your business on their terms. This creates a positive association with your brand which can lead to greater customer loyalty, and naturally, sales.
Another major business benefit is staff utilisation. When a self-service platform is available and functioning well, sales and service representatives have more time to focus on tasks of greater value. For service staff, that could mean more time dedicated to more complicated issues or important customers. For sales representatives, it can mean more time dedicated to nurturing new opportunities.
Steps Toward Creating Your Own Self-Service Portal
If your organisation has been considering putting a self-service portal to work, now is a great time to get the ball rolling. The first step is assessing whether a self-service portal is right for you. This article from Liferay reveals a number of key criteria which should help you decide if it's the right step for you and your team.
Ultimately, the organisations that are able to provide relevant and agile customer experiences will be the ones best positioned to differentiate themselves from competitors.
If you’re ready to check out a self-service portal in action, you can request a live demo today. We’d be happy to show you how Liferay can help your business reduce costs and boost the user experience by launching an effective self-service portal.