Self Service Support for SaaS in 2023: The Ultimate Guide
You keep hearing that self-service support in SaaS is a must. But how does it help your business and where should you start implementing it?
You’re in the right place. In this article you’ll read about:
- what implementing self-service support can help you achieve (hint: it improves customer satisfaction)
- when to mix self-service support with human interaction
- how to get started
- Use self-service customer support to capitalize on the 81% of users who try to solve their own software issues before reaching out for help.
- Implementing a self-service approach will help you scale up without spending a fortune to maintain sufficient support quality.
- Utilize in-app marketing elements to keep your self-serve onboarding process contextual.
- Rather than replacing human support with self-service options, unify the two into a hybridized strategy to get the best results.
- A knowledge base can boost your trial to paid conversion rate by flattening the learning curve.
- If the solution to a problem could be provided in a few clicks through self-service options then you shouldn’t be making customers wait in a support queue.
What is self-service support in SaaS?
The self-service methodology focuses on giving users the tools necessary to serve some problems on their own without having to reach out to support agents. This often includes elements like knowledge bases, chatbots, and interactive walkthroughs.
Why is self-service support important for SaaS?
Harvard Business Review actually found that 81% of users try to solve their software issues before seeking help, so putting the proper infrastructure in place to facilitate self-service is essential.
Here are a few reasons why self-service is just so important:
Automated self-service support is good for scaling
As your business grows so too does your customer base — meaning your support infrastructure needs to scale up accordingly. The only way to do this efficiently while maintaining high-quality support is to automate certain aspects.
Respondents to an Hiver survey ranked speed as their top criteria for evaluating how good a customer service experience is.
Relying solely on human agents means resolution time will be bound by how big your customer support team is.
At a certain point in the growth process, this will no longer be viable as hiring more representatives gets increasingly expensive and difficult to manage.
This is why diversifying your support infrastructure with bots and in-app help is the easiest way to continue growing while maintaining proper customer support.
Self-service support is contextual and timely
Context is the backbone of any self-service customer support system. Users need to get information at the moment when it matters most. This is where automation and in-app marketing comes in.
Elements like onboarding surveys, welcome screens, and widgets that pop up when a user navigates to a page for the first time can come together to form a comprehensive self-serve onboarding experience.
One example would be a microsurvey that lets users select their desired journey upon logging into your app. This will make it easier for you to keep the experience relevant to their specific use case.
Mixing self-service support with human interactions increased customer experience
It goes without saying that not every problem has an automated solution. Complicated issues should be addressed by team members to ensure customers get relevant answers rather than boilerplate responses from a bot.
Conversely, simple but repeating issues like how to use a specific feature should be left to self-service elements to help your human support agents focus on the more pressing tickets.
Results are best when self-service elements and human support work together.
A great example would be how Postfity created in-app guidance for all their key features and built up a help center to make customer self-service a breeze. This pays massive dividends in the customer satisfaction department.
Benefits of self-service support
While implementing self-service customer support may seem like a lot of work, the benefits will make the effort well worth it in the long run.
Here are a few of them.
Decrease support tickets (lower support cost)
45% of companies that implemented self-service customer support reported a decrease in phone calls and an increase in site traffic. This means they’re saving money on customer service costs while seeing growing levels of customer engagement at the same time.
Improve trial conversion rates
The free trial stage of the user journey is a make-or-break period that will mark the difference between churn and growth. Offering in-app guidance during trials will help these users understand how to use your product and as a result perceive the value on offer.
Even something as simple as a resource center can reduce the friction between signing up and reaching their “AHA moment.” Needless to say, a user that perceives value is more likely to become a paying customer after the trial ends.
Flattening the learning curve can work wonders for your trial to paid conversion rate. Miro has capitalized on the customer self-service strategy by implementing in-app guides that cover features, use cases, and technical support:
Improved customer experience
While a great customer service team can work wonders for the user experience, they shouldn’t be the first line of defense due to the inherent latency of explaining problems to another human being.
Why make customers wait in a queue when they could find the answer to their query in just a few clicks instead? If you enable customers to solve their own problems, their overall experience is bound to improve — it’s that simple.
Bear in mind that implementing an online knowledge base is a win on both sides.
The customer experience will improve because answers are readily available via self-service solutions but your customer service teams will also benefit by not having to answer the same questions time and time again.
Avoid human errors
Human error can be highly detrimental to the customer journey. We’ve all been there: you contact support only for the human agent to give you documentation that isn’t relevant to your problem.
Customer support teams aren’t perfect, which is why self-service solutions can cut down on the number of human errors on repetitive customer tickets.
The information gained through customer self-service is also more likely to be retained since the user experiences reading knowledge base articles on the matter first-hand.
When to use self-service support
Self-service support channels can help customers understand the basic functionalities of your product and provide support when no human agents are available, but what are the ideal cases to implement self-service support?
Here are a few scenarios that may make today’s customers opt for self-service channels:
If customers need a quick answer to simple questions then video tutorials and other relevant content is usually the better route to resolve issues rather than live support.
FAQ pages, blog posts, and other self-service resources can drastically reduce the number of tickets your team has to deal with.
Make sure that your help center software is mobile-friendly as platforms that function properly across multiple platforms are better equipped to keep customers happy.
Whether it’s the holidays, the middle of a pandemic, or the days following a major update, there’s no avoiding high-volume periods where calls come flooding in like there’s no tomorrow. Fortunately, self-service resources can alleviate some of the strain on your team.
It should come as no surprise that customers prefer to read in-app guides rather than waiting on hold for who knows how long. This is why knowledge bases, interactive walkthroughs, and tooltips should always be in place as a prophylactic measure against high-volume periods.
Self-service channels can help fill the gap when live customer support isn’t available. Having an online knowledge base or other self-service resources ensures customer feedback will stay positive even after hours.
Furthermore, it’s a lot cheaper than trying to run a 24/7 support team not to mention scale up with one. If you don’t implement a self-service channel then you’re playing with fire and hoping customers don’t run into any major issues in the middle of the night.
When not to use self-service support (replace with human support)
Of course, self-service support channels aren’t always the way to go. Even as technology advances, there will always come a time when human support is the most efficient way to resolve an issue.
Here are a few situations:
It also depends on what line of business you’re in. It’s easier to get away with faster solutions such as chatbots in the SaaS space but that isn’t true of all industries. If your child was sick you’d want to talk to a real doctor rather than a bot.
Would you even be comfortable providing your personal information and medical background to a bot? During high-stakes situations, we tend to favor the human approach since talking to another person can take away some of the anxiety we’re facing.
Most companies will face a high-stakes ticket at one point or another so having the infrastructure in place to accommodate these manually is crucial. A study from Harvard also found that the option of contacting a support agent directly (whether or not the customer ended up doing so) was instrumental in relieving apprehension.
Ambiguous tickets are the bane of AI. In these complicated situations, most automated responses will be inadequate and leave much to be desired for your customers. Humans, as imperfect as we may be, don’t operate on a pre-programmed script.
We’re creative, adaptive, and able to find out-of-the-box solutions. Our empathy also helps customers stay calm while we resolve an issue that has been bugging them. The last thing you want is for a bot to further agitate customers after a technical problem has already annoyed them.
Customers unable to access technology
It’s absolutely essential that you cater to all customers, not just those who own a smartphone. After all, Pew Research Center found that 15% of adults in the United States still don’t own a smartphone and 23% don’t have a computer at home.
The study doesn’t suggest that support content isn’t helping customers, it simply reminds us to be conscious of those who can’t access it. In such situations, human intervention is the only way to keep new customers before they opt out of your service.
This doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of automation, however. Integrating an automated voice system with interactive voice recognition can streamline the flow of incoming customer calls. It’s the closest you’ll get to a self-service channel on the phone.
Self-service support examples for SaaS
Help centers, interactive walkthroughs, chatbots, forums, and in-app notifications are all staples of a self-service environment. Let’s take a closer look at each one to get a better feel for how to properly implement them:
In-app help center for self-service support and guides
The main difference between a help center and a knowledge base is how customers access them. Knowledge bases are usually accessed through your website while a resource center provides immediate support from within the app itself.
A Coleman Parkes survey found that introducing a self-service knowledge base can increase retention rates by as much as 85% so there’s definitely merit to both approaches, and you can even include a link to the knowledge base inside your help center.
This redirect serves as a customer self-service portal.
Tools like Userpilot make it easy to implement a help center in an effective yet code-free manner.
In-app guidance: replace product tours with contextual interactive walkthroughs
If you’ve ever skipped through a long, boring product tour then you’ll be glad to hear that there’s a better alternative. Instead of sending a barrage of information in a single sitting, interactive walkthroughs take a contextual onboarding approach.
The next steps will only show up once the user has finished the previous step. This gradual method of familiarizing users with your product is more enjoyable and makes it more likely that the information will be retained afterward.
By providing guidance when users may need it, interactive walkthroughs can proactively eliminate the need for support. For instance, Kommunicate uses an interactive walkthrough to help new customers reach their activation point (in this case, creating their first chatbot.)
Chatbots for self-service support
Chatbots are a cornerstone of customer self-service. Defined as a computer program that simulates human conversation, these chatbots can either use predefined answers to answer common questions or tap into AI/ML technology to adapt to user queries.
NLP or natural language processing is also invaluable to chatbots since it helps them grasp the meaning of sentences similar to how a human would. Regardless of how lifelike your chatbot is, always include the option of transferring to human support when needed. Always.
Communities and company forums
Company forums are another form of customer self-service as users will be able to search through existing posts when they run into a problem rather than needing to resort to opening their own ticket immediately.
Helping someone else find solutions to their problems also cultivates customer relationships and a sense of community which can work wonders for user retention. In addition to community-led growth, the answers users give each other will also serve as helpful content for future reference.
Not only do in-app notifications improve self-service support but they can also be a driver of account expansion. Customers who prefer self-service will appreciate all the timely messages that keep them in the loop as your product continues to evolve.
They’re also extremely effective at promoting premium features in a non-sales way which can increase the number of upgrades.
Loom is a prime example of how to show off premium features in the context of fixing a problem that the user may be facing:
Miro opts for in-app notification modals that motivate users to upgrade, by showing them what they’re missing out on, and provide a frictionless path to do so all in a single popup:
Self-service doesn’t replace human interactions
No matter how sophisticated your self-service system is, it’s never a substitute for building up a skilled support team. Customer service representatives can be the guides that cement your business in the mind of new users.
Treat self-service as a potent business tool that can give your human staff more time to focus their time on what really counts and help you scale the company without worrying that customer service will suffer in the process.
Lastly, it caters to customers who prefer self-service.
If you’re ready to revolutionize the way customers interact with your product then start implementing in-app resources and self-service support with a tool like Userpilot today! Feel free to book a free demo with no strings attached.
While some customers prefer to talk to humans, other customers might be more comfortable watching video tutorials on an online knowledge base. It all comes down to preference and context which is why giving customers the choice is so important.
If you want to improve customer loyalty, customer engagement, and create an overall positive customer experience then leveraging self-service is certainly the way to go. You’d be surprised at the impact a self-service resource can have on the user journey.
To create a customer self-service portal without having to write a single line of code, book your free Userpilot demo today!