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6 reasons why self-service options fail

Customer self-service platforms free up live agents for more complicated issues, but if this software is not kept up to date, users can become frustrated.

Many companies have integrated self-service options into their business models, and when done right, these can vastly improve the customer experience.

However, self-service initiatives can fail for a variety of reasons, caused by a number of factors. The biggest and most damaging is poor customer service.

"A poorly implemented self-service customer support system can lead to frustration and irreparable damage to the brand," said Vivek Lakshman, vice president of products for Chatlets.ai.

Here are six reasons why self-service platforms can fail.

1. Confusing navigation

Self-service platforms need to be exceptionally simple and intuitive to navigate across any channel. Open-ended navigation, poor hierarchical menu structure, buried content, multiple tabs and lack of standardized document formats and inputs all lead to confusion, frustration and drop-off, said Jonathan Collins, digital program director at Mindtree, an IT consulting service. Missing, outdated or incorrect information can also create customer annoyance.

2. Lack of attention

Another reason for failure is lack of ongoing attention. Many business managers expect the platform will run on autopilot once launched, Collins said. Like any site, interactions with the self-service platform need to be continually analyzed in order to optimize and improve the experience. Stale documents and FAQs should be removed regularly to reduce clutter. Content tags should be updated based on visitor search engine queries to improve results. Machine learning should be employed to improve resolution times. And new technologies such as voice, video and augmented reality should be piloted to improve the experience.

3. Inflexibility

Self-service options also fail when they're not flexible enough to meet changing customer and business needs.

"Organizations that put platforms in place that can't be easily changed or updated are setting themselves up for failure since demands evolve constantly," said Dietmar Rietsch, CEO of Pimcore, a customer experience management software provider.

Putting a system in place that relies on cloud and open source technology, iterates with customer data and provides accurate and relevant content can reduce time spent reworking platforms to ensure they're up to speed and meet current needs.

4. Not listening to feedback

Businesses that refuse to listen to how their customers and employees actually want to interact with customer service can also find themselves in a jam, said Scott Webb, president of Avionos, a digital services integration consultancy. Ensuring that customer and employee feedback is taken into consideration as self-service projects begin is crucial to their success.

Companies must be sure to gather not only feedback at the outset of the project, but also over time as the platform is developed and used. Then, changes must be made accordingly as customer and employee preferences change.

Customer feedback not only helps the business improve the product and the processes around the product, but it also helps customers have a better experience when these improvements and changes occur, said Katrina Garza, manager of customer success at FormAssembly, an enterprise form management application provider.

5. Forcing users down the wrong path

Many self-service options attempt to force users through a long procedure without providing alternative channels, such as direct access to a live agent. When customers know they have an unusual situation, it frustrates them to be forced to use the platform first, said David Buchanan, CEO at X2Engine, a CRM software provider.

6. Creating extra work

Another point of failure for self-service platforms is sending users through a portal path that asks for information the company already knows.

"It is very frustrating for users to repeat information every time they access a portal or call a company's contact center," Buchanan said.

A customer should have a login that enables the portal to present relevant data and options that are tailored to the user.

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