The customer support landscape is evolving rapidly. Today, more and more customers would rather find solutions to their problems single-handedly than spend many minutes or even hours trying to reach live agents who are not guaranteed to hold the needed answers. Against this backdrop, the business world is now actively implementing self-service customer support features, from tried-and-true knowledge bases to top-of-the-line virtual assistants.

Nevertheless, a sufficient number of people still opt for interactions with support agents. Some seek personalized problem resolution and value a human touch, while others may be not so tech-savvy or too distressed to make efficient use of self-service options. Thus, enterprises shouldn’t fully drop human customer service in favor of self-service without driving customers away.

Client assistance is one of the intended purposes of B2C portals, so the “self-service vs assisted customer support” problem is particularly acute for business owners who have a customer-facing portal or aim to develop one. However, as an IT company specializing in customer portal development, Iflexion admits that this shouldn’t be an either-or choice. The two options can be smartly balanced in a B2C portal without raising the costs or increasing the workload.

Here is how business owners can work out their hybrid customer support strategy that combines self-service with personal contact.

Rely on Solid Data

When drawing the line between human support and self-service, one can be enticed by cost-efficiency or ease of maintenance. While these considerations are not without reason, the arrangements influenced by them are likely to turn out unfavorable for your customers. In the long run, the cost of their dissatisfaction, poor loyalty and retention may overbear. Thus, the key to formulating a winning hybrid support strategy is in a data-based approach.

Begin with a thorough qualitative and quantitative analysis of your recent support data and metrics. Every interaction with a support agent or knowledge base page view is a valuable data point, allowing you to understand customer experience and preferences. To better tap into your customers’ needs and expectations and evaluate their tolerance to different support options, run a voluntary survey.

Mapping out your customer journey is another way to gain an insight into how users interact with your portal, where they experience difficulties that make them turn to support, and how they proceed when choosing servicing options. The information will help you identify what customer support option is needed and at what point, leveling up your ability to provide relevant assistance.

Such a hybrid service roadmap, however, should not be based on customer opinions alone (and sometimes it is simply impossible, for example when the business is new and the customer base is only forming). It is also advisable to take into account available customer analytics. A person’s age, gender, income, marital status, educational background, and a plethora of other demographic factors determine their service preferences. Drawing on this knowledge, you can refine your customer support strategy to match the expectations of your future buyer persona.

Do not expect the arrangement based on the initial customer data to remain relevant in the long run. A wealth of factors, from web portal redesign to product offering expansion to foreign market entry, can alter users’ support needs and attitudes. To keep your hybrid support strategy viable and efficient, make sure to regularly gather your customers’ opinions on self-service and human support balance and timely react to their complaints and suggestions.

Ensure Seamless Transition

No matter how much you invested in the creation of well-crafted FAQs, elaborate knowledge bases, and detailed video tutorials for your B2C portal, they might end up unhelpful or insufficient to resolve each and every customer’s issues. To this end, when establishing a hybrid support system, you also need to consider a workflow for smooth escalation from self-servicing to human support agents.

Begin with making human support options visible. While your regular clients may already know how to contact a live service agent, newly registered customers can easily be confused, thinking that self-servicing is all you offer. According to the 2019 Invoca research, 52% of the 2,000 US citizens interviewed admitted feeling frustrated when not offered an opportunity to speak to a human support agent, while 18% felt downright angry. Good news is that you do not need sophisticated solutions to mitigate this dissatisfaction: a live chat integrated into every portal page, even containing self-help materials, or a customer service phone number added to the header will do the job.

A person who fails to solve their issue tends to get irritated, and the labor that goes into explaining all their struggle to a support agent only threatens to exacerbate their discontent. To provide service agents with necessary context about the customer’s self-service journey, employ a real-time interaction management tool. This type of software tracks down a customer’s journey up to the minute, allowing the service agent to see which self-servicing page or pages the person visited and quickly get around the issue the customer is experiencing.

Offer Equally Good Options

Human behavior is inconsistent and hard to predict in full measure. Data may indicate that the majority of your customers prefer human customer support, so you bank on it and choose not to pay due attention to self-servicing options on your B2C portal. And indeed, nine times out of ten a client communicates with support agents via email, phone, or chat. But the tenth time he or she may try to resolve the issue themselves only to become disappointed with your brand when self-help materials turn out to be inconsistent and unhelpful.

To assert your customers they are indeed at the center of your business, ensure that all servicing options are provided on a high level, regardless of their priority. Quality and consistency are more important than quantity here. When you lack human resources to offer a call center that would operate 24/7, then it is better to supply a less demanding alternative, such as email or online contact forms.

The same applies to self-service, which seems a low-cost option only on the face of it. In the meantime, written materials need to be regularly updated and expanded, while an AI chatbot requires continuous refinement. Sticking to a single self-service option and maintaining it up to par will prove more sustainable and score higher among your portal users.

To Sum Up

Self-service and assisted customer support both have their pros and cons at the moment: the former is gaining traction but hasn’t yet won the majority’s trust, while the latter increasingly proves unsatisfactory but nevertheless remains in demand.

Until this dichotomy is resolved, the combination of human support and self-service turns out to be the most optimal solution for a B2C portal. By employing both options, business owners will ensure their solutions not only deliver personalized service but are also reactive and resilient to the shifting customer needs.

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