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Making a strong first impression will help you to develop the relationship between your brand and your customers. View your store as a customer would view it, and think of your e-commerce store like a physical location.

How do customers feel when they enter? Is it clean, well-maintained and free of clutter? Is it easy to find products and information they are looking for? Is someone there to greet and help them to make them feel welcome?

Woman choosing clothes (Customer Self-Service)

As your e-commerce store doesn’t have a live person to reach out to your customers to see if they need assistance, offering customer self-service tools can help you to meet customer demands and increase customer experience. In fact, 81% of customers wish to take matters in their own hands before reaching out to a live representative, and this applies to all industries.  

Keep reading to understand what customer self-service really means, how you could benefit from implementing a self-service strategy and get some ideas of what to include in your customer self-service options.

What is customer self-service?

Customer self-service portal on giffgaff’s website

Customer self-service provides customers the option to find answers, how-to guides, and other support elements by themselves without having to reach out to a support agent.

You might have come across the term Knowledge Base. This is what all the self-service functions on a website are usually called. In simple terms, Knowledge Base is a collection of materials that can include text, video, audio, images (e.g. screenshots) and other forms of content which enable customers to easily access and find information on their own.

Most often used knowledge base consists of one or a few of the following:

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. This is where people will turn to for more information about a certain product or service. Your goal is to make your FAQ section easily readable and useful - you can add links to other content on your website in order to avoid long and difficult answers.
  • A Community Forum. If you are managing a product/service where there’s a lot of collaboration and people might be struggling with day-to-day activities or asking for feedback, community forums can come in handy. People can help out each other by providing answers and/or insight and actual employees can help to moderate topics and elaborate on answers. A great example of a community forum is seen on Shopify.
  • Automated Chatbots. A simple chatbot can assist customers and direct them in the right place to find information they are looking for. In order for chatbots to work, you have to identify keywords that customers might wish to find answers for so that the chatbot could provide as accurate information as possible.

Whichever method of self-service you provide your customers, make sure there’s still an easy option to reach out to your customer support.

Customer self-service option on Dropbox’s website

To simplify the process of setting up your customer help page, it's recommended to use a knowledge base software.

Benefits of customer self-service

Providing self-service options for customers comes with many benefits that can have a long-lasting impact for your business:

  • Customers can help themselves and continue with their purchase quickly.
  • Customer self-service portal is accessible at any time of the day. According to a research conducted a few years ago, one in every 15 purchases are made between midnight and 6 AM.
  • Easily accessible information will build trust between your brand and your customers.
  • Providing an informative FAQ page will help you shorten the time your customer support team has to put in to solve basic problems as well as reduce support costs.

But of course, in order to make your self-service work, you are required to put enough time, effort, and attention to detail into it.

Tips for building an effective self-service customer service

Your website’s self-service should not just be a boring list of answers and questions. Your self-service portal needs to be easy to use and convey useful and interesting information. Otherwise, no one will bother to use it and as it seems 55% of customers tend to find self-service portals hard to use.

How can you ensure that your store’s self customer service is easy to understand and also help to create a good impression of your brand?

Highlight the most challenging aspects

Understanding what information customers are missing and why these questions arise can help you predict what they are looking for. Here are some ideas to find out what information needs to be covered in your self-service:

  • Customer service team holds valuable information. Consult with them regularly, they know exactly what challenges customers face during their shopping journey.
  • Perform a user research. Find out how your customers use your webpage and for how long they stay in certain sections. This way you will realize where the challenges lie and can provide them with relevant solutions.

Once you have understood the most common issues your customers face, make this information a top priority and display it where it can be easily accessed. And don’t forget to keep your content up to date!

TIP: Use collapsible subheadings and include a search button to make it easier to navigate through information.

Show customers you can be trusted

Besides a thorough knowledge base on how to use your product/services you should also provide an in-depth overview of shipping and return policies. In fact, 49% of customers actively check the retailer’s return policy before making a purchase.

Return policy on Ikea’s website (customer self-service)

Writing a clear policy contributes to making a sale as well as reduces the time you have to spend on returns. Show your customers that in case they are dissatisfied with their purchase, it is your priority to quickly correct the problem.

  • Don’t hide your policy, make it easily accessible.
  • Keep it simple, don’t use complicated legal language, and maintain the voice of your brand.
  • Avoid using negative phrases like “you must…” and “you are required to…” or even worse “we are not responsible for…”

Keep in mind that a good return policy can positively influence customers’ purchase decisions.

Complement your explanations with visuals

Quite often, plain text can get boring to read. Adding visuals like screenshots and videos will help to create clarity and customers are more likely to be able to solve the problem on their own with access to engaging content.

Video explainers for customer self-service used on WhatApp’s website

  • Visuals will save a lot of your support team’s time. Without a doubt, there are a lot of questions that your customer team has to answer every day. Even if a customer hasn’t used a self-service portal to get to that information, sending them a quick overview via screenshots or a video is much easier than trying to explain everything in detail via text.
  • Customers can learn to use your products/services faster. Visually receiving an introduction on how to use your products/services or make a certain change will make it much easier to solve their problem.

TIP: If recording a tutorial video is too expensive or time consuming and a simple screenshot doesn’t seem like enough, record your screen to make an explanatory GIF. You can use applications such as LICEcap or GIPHY Capture to swap your images for a GIF.

Make it simple to get into contact

In case a customer has a unique question that cannot be solved by using a self-service portal, it is crucial they can reach out to you quickly.

Live chat on Guru’s website (customer self-service)

  1. Have a contact form below your FAQ page to provide quick help with any additional questions.
  2. Enable a Live Chat for real-time communications. In case of out of office hours, make sure you have set up an automatic response so customers would know what to expect.
  3. Create a separate “Contact Us” section to your page. A website without a contact section looks incomplete and unprofessional.

TIP: Add a section in your contact form asking if you could use customer’s contact information to inform them about future discounts, deals, updates, etc. This will help to grow your subscribers list and generate more leads.

Go an extra mile by enabling a variety of self-service options

Self-service doesn’t have to be limited to an FAQ section where customers can find information. Options for self-service can be integrated at other sections in your store providing a personalized shopping experience.

Include product details and measurements

Who of us hasn’t read about the legendary online order fails where someone has purchased a table for their kitchen and once it arrives, it turns out to be in a size that is fit for a doll?

While such an example is a bit extreme, wrong size orders do happen with furniture, clothes, electronics, etc. This is why it is important to include as many details of your products as possible.

Measure guide for clothing stores

Size and fit can be an issue for e-commerce retailers as customers are unable to try on items and wrong-size purchases can result in high number of returns. Luckily, there are some ways to tackle the problem.

Size guide on Asos product pages (self-service customer service)

  • Include measurements both in inches and centimeters. This will contribute to customer convenience and increased sales.
  • Use international sizing conversions. For example, a size 4 in the US is equal to a size 8 in the UK. Providing a convenient way to convert sizes assure your customers won’t be confused.
  • Mention the model size. Comparison with model size details will help shoppers to understand if a size will fit them or not.
  • Let customers post photos. Customers’ product photos can give a genuine idea to others what the product will look like in real life.

Provide shipment tracking

The delivery process can make the difference whether or not a customer will be willing to come back to shop with you. More than 98% of customers say that delivery impacts their brand loyalty. This is why it is important to pay attention to your customers’ post-purchase experience.

Order tracking page for customer self-service

Enabling customers to conveniently keep an eye on their order journey by integrating a tracking app to your store will help you to gain customers’ trust and reduce the number of inquiries about their order statuses.

To sum up

Giving your customers self-service tools will raise their satisfaction levels and put them in the right frame of mind for long-lasting interaction with your brand.

Find out what your customers challenges are, and then take this information and create personalized and memorable experiences out of it.