min read

Self-Service Support: What It Is & How To Nail It

Self-service support empowers customers to solve simple issues on their own time and terms. Here's how it works and how to do it well.
Written by
Beth Ellwood
Last updated
October 23, 2023

Self-Service Support


How do you keep customers happy when their service expectations are continually rising? With the economic downturn, hiring more support agents isn’t always an option. This leaves agents struggling to provide exceptional service while bogged down by a relentless flow of customer requests — the perfect recipe for agent burnout and attrition.

Faced with these concerns, many businesses are leaning on self-service support. With the help of intuitive and engaging digital resources, customers can help themselves solve simple challenges while freeing up the support team to handle more strategic issues.

And as we’ll see below, most customers want and expect brands to offer self-support. By catering to these expectations, businesses can actually improve their customer service experience while relieving pressure from staff. 

What is self-service support? 

Self-service support is when customers use your resources to find solutions to their problems independently instead of contacting your team. Good self-service resources let customers quickly find answers to their questions at any time. Some examples of these tools are knowledge bases, FAQs, chatbots, and community forums.

Self-support is quickly becoming an essential. Today’s tech-savvy customers are accustomed to finding answers online and reluctant to speak directly to support teams. Self-service lets customers help themselves while helping your bottom line — it’s typically far cheaper for customers to solve problems on their own than speaking to an agent.

Why should you implement self-service support?

Customers prefer it

Customers are expecting better service than ever, but it’s not a human touch they’re craving. Customers want to be self-reliant, and many will go out of their way to avoid contacting service reps.

Research suggests that 81% of customers try solving issues on their own before reaching out to live support. Modern-day customers are familiar with digital technology, and helping themselves is often the quicker, more convenient option.

Self-service can mean the difference between waiting for ages on the phone to fix a simple password error versus typing into a chatbot and finding a solution within seconds. Self-support helps customers proactively solve problems on their own timeline, so they can get back on task with little delay.

It frees up your agents to provide better service

Self-service options take a huge weight off your customer service team. These tools can take care of low-complexity queries that continually crop up, like login issues or payment questions.

Customer support agents now have more time and energy to devote to solving complex issues with more strategic clients. While chatbots and FAQs help field simple concerns, your agents can focus on improving their services, like proactively reaching out to special cases.

It lowers your support costs 

Providing customers with tools to solve issues on their own dramatically lowers your number of support tickets. This means you’ll need fewer service representatives, greatly reducing your support costs. 

And for every query that’s handled by a support tool, you’re saving more money. According to an HBR article, a self-service transaction costs pennies while a single interaction with live support costs up to $13 on average. For companies serving thousands of customers, these savings quickly add up. 

You can offer customers after-hours support (24/7)

Self-service support is there for your customers when you can’t be. At any hour of the day and any day of the week, a customer can look up solutions to their problems and find answers. 

This is particularly important for customers in different time zones who might struggle to catch your team during business hours. Not having to wait for service lines to be open or for an email to be answered means customers can get past simple setbacks with little interruption to their services.

It improves product adoption and reduces time to value for customers

Self-support provides customers with a massive pool of educational resources about your products. As customers research specific queries, they’re directed to valuable information about your product that they might not otherwise have come across.

Through this content, customers learn how to best use and enjoy your product, starting from day one. This means they’ll more quickly see the value of your product and how they can use it to accomplish their goals, increasing conversion and product adoption.

It lets you scale your support alongside your business

Self-support is especially valuable for rapidly-growing businesses. As you launch new products and take on more customers, you can scale your support without necessarily needing to hire more service agents.

Rather than employing one agent per customer, you can have thousands of users accessing the same self-support resources. This way, you can continue to offer consistent service all while growing your business.

What are the different customer self-service support channels?

Knowledge bases

A knowledge base is an online library of information and helpful resources related to your products. These support hubs are also called help centers and can include resources like articles, FAQ pages, video tutorials, how-to guides, and in-depth documentation. 

Knowledge bases are designed to answer frequently asked questions and organized so that customers can easily search and find answers to simple product issues. Customers can troubleshoot at their own pace — whether this means watching a lengthy video or scanning a quick blog post.

And if your support content is SEO optimized, a customer can land on the knowledge base after Googling a product query.

Knowledge base built with Bettermode

Customer communities

Communities are active online groups where customers can pop in at any time to find answers to their questions. Like help centers, communities offer all kinds of self-support resources for customers like FAQs and help guides. But on top of that, they enable back-and-forth conversation. 

Communities often include a discussion forum or Q&A software, where customers can post their own questions or answer questions from other users. As a result, customers can actually help each other solve common issues, while service agents monitor the discussion and jump in as needed. 

Peer-to-peer support is a key advantage because everyday customers are often aware of product issues and workarounds that agents have yet to encounter.

Community built with Bettermode
AI Chatbots 

Most of us have come across AI chatbots when visiting company websites. These messaging tools are also found within social media platforms and mobile apps and are programmed to assist customers with common questions. 

Customers type in their queries and the chatbot uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to interpret their requests and respond with relevant information. 

A chatbot serves as an excellent first line of defense, fielding repetitive questions and transferring more complex requests to live support as needed. Bots can also collect basic information from the customer so that when a ticket gets transferred, the service agent has the background info they need to quickly pick up the request.

In-app guidance

An understated form of self-support is guidance that’s integrated throughout an app or product. These resources can include interactive feature walkthroughs, tooltips, and self-help widgets that are activated as a customer uses your product.

For example, predefined messages can guide users through the onboarding process as they uncover each feature step by step. This in-app guidance prompts customers to learn more about your product, driving engagement and product adoption.

Support is also exceptionally relevant and timely, showing up exactly when the customer needs it. If a customer runs into a snag with your product, they can troubleshoot it at the source.

What are some self-support best practices?

1. Make it easy for customers to find answers

For self-service support to be successful, your resources need to be easy to navigate. If a customer connects to a help center or chatbot and can’t find what they’re looking for, not only will they not solve their problem, but they’ll grow more frustrated than they were in the first place.

Find out the most popular customer issues by consulting analytics tools, asking your support staff, and monitoring social media. Then highlight these issues so they’re what customers see first, and organize your help topics so they’re clear and distinct.

Your resources should also include intuitive search functionality that can predict queries using tags or keywords and quickly showcase relevant results.

2. Offer various types of content for different learners

Customers want to educate themselves about your products, but they all learn in different ways. Rather than relying exclusively on text-based documentation, create self-help resources in various formats to appeal to different learning styles.

For visual learners, you can incorporate product screenshots throughout your how-to guides. For auditory learners, you can repurpose a knowledge base article into a webinar or video tutorial.

3. Update your resources regularly

What good are self-serve resources if the content isn’t accurate? Building a help center or customer self-service portal isn’t a one-and-done process, but an ongoing endeavor.

As your support agents identify new customer issues, you’ll need to add these to your self-service solutions. You’ll also need to continually create resources around new product features and ensure your existing content matches these updates.

4. Always include a clear path to escalation

There’s little more irritating than going in circles with a chatbot with no option to reach a human. It’s no surprise that 30% of customers say that being unable to speak to a live agent is the most frustrating aspect of bad customer service.

To avoid these negative experiences, every resource should offer a clear pathway to escalate to live help. For example, you can include links and contact information for live support within every self-service channel. That way, customers can take advantage of self-support without feeling like it’s their only lifeline.

5. Measure your performance

How do you know if your self-support efforts are paying off? To measure the effectiveness of your self-service tools, establish clear metrics and test them regularly. 

These metrics might include customer satisfaction scores, support ticket numbers, or time-to-resolution stats. All of these insights will help you understand where customers might be experiencing setbacks or frustration with your tools, so you can improve your approach as needed.

Final thoughts on self-service support

Remember that your self-service support tools should complement your human support services — not replace them. Great self-support tools work alongside your support staff, lessening the burden by handling low-complexity queries.

This drastically cuts your support costs while freeing up agents to offer better, more proactive service. The result is an improved customer experience all around.

Beth Ellwood
Content writer

Level up your community game with our newsletter!

Get a regular dose of helpful tips, tricks, and tools for community management. Plus entertaining memes completely free!