Self-Help and What It Means to the Future of Customer Service

Self-help–it’s the sort of thing that everyone wants to be able to do in order to be the most efficient they can be without having to bug someone else or take more time out of their already busy day to track down assistance.  Self-help is becoming the norm in everyday customer service, across many different technology platforms.  But, the question that has yet to be answered is, will the general public accept the self help model of service?  The answer is, if implemented correctly, yes, because it will increase productivity and make customers feel empowered–able to assist themselves without having to ask anyone else for guidance and without having to wait around for answers or instructions.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people complain about having to speak to a Help Desk representative because they often sound like they’re just reading from a script, giving no real advice and providing no real insight. Experiences like these offer very little to instill confidence in a customer about the level of service they’re receive.  By giving customers the option of self-help, we’re putting them in the driver’s seat. They can resolve issues for themselves and feel the pride that’s inherent in fixing something on their own.

Support professionals need to be creative in identifying and creating opportunities for customers to embrace the self-help style of customer service, though, in order to encourage the mainstream adoption of the model. Successful self-help relies on detailed and well-informed knowledge base articles, how-to videos, and tutorials. Compiling lists of frequently asked questions is a great place to start–

If we approach development projects with consideration for where we can build self-help options into the software we’re building, we can make it easier for our customers to use and experience the benefits of our solutions. Finding opportunities to place a link or a button that provides immediate access to knowledge base articles that offer step-by-step procedures on how to fix issues are a great example: tutorials and how-to videos make it much easier for users to “see” the application in use, instead of having to read through steps which might be confusing to some. Identifying ways to incorporate both options, like the use of new “multiscreen” software built into many new Samsung phones and tablets, is fantastic because it gives the user the ability to view the help documentation while walking through the necessary steps in the app at the same time.

As developers and support representatives, we need to keep in mind that, the more we can successfully integrate self-help features into the software we build, the more value we’ll provide to the customers using our solutions and the easier it will be for our customers to stay on task without getting waylaid or frustrated. In a society where time is money and instant gratification is expected, this value can’t be overlooked.

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Encouraging Great Customer Support

Just last night I had to call the support line for a service I recently cancelled but still had a few questions about. The call was frustrating and I didn’t get all the answers I needed before I finally gave up and ended the call, dissatisfied and unlikely to ever work with the company in question again. While the call was painful, the experience got me thinking about the support we here at Algonquin Studios offer and take pride in. As a Support Representative, I genuinely strive to be helpful to our clients and hope that their experiences with us are good ones.

My colleagues and I have written blog posts in the past about how to make your support experience the best it can be and how to ensure you get the most out of the time spent on the phone with us. This week, I wanted to switch things up a bit, though, and share some ways we can all encourage the customer service people we talk to on a daily basis, helping them continue to do a good job for us:

Smile
Support reps can tell when you’re smiling, even through the phone lines. We know you’re likely calling because something is wrong or you’re experiencing some sort of difficulty but smiling helps your voice to sound friendly, warm, and open-minded and puts both of us in a better frame of mind to tackle the issue head-on.

Give Us Details
If you’re calling about an error message you received when using our software, take note of what the actual error message says. The fact that you’ve done a little work on your own, prior to calling us, can make us feel like we’re in this together and that solving your problem is a team effort. Plus, extra effort on the front end will save us both time, help us get to the root of your problem (and it’s solution) more easily, and get you off the phone and back to your real life more quickly.

Don’t Be Afraid To Joke Around
Humor is one of our “Four H’s” here at Algonquin, so we’re definitely not afraid of cracking a joke or two, even at our own expense! In reality, most of us love jokes as much as the next guy and humor can be a great way to de-stress a situation, so my coworkers and I love talking to clients who know that, even in the face of a problem, they can make the best of the situation and crack a joke. It’s another great way to foster a team spirit and show that we’re all in this problem-solving experience together!

Say “Thank You”
Yes, they’re just two little words, but believe me, those two words are powerful! Never underestimate the power of “thank you,” even in the face of a difficult situation or issue that requires additional follow-up. It makes me smile when a client says “thank you” and helps me feel like I’m truly appreciated for the job I’m doing.

So, those are some of the ways our clients can help me feel better about my job. What insights do you wish you could share with people that could make you much happier in your work life?