Self-service portals are an essential part of our everyday lives, a service that can save time and money and free up service employees to take on more complicated issues. Customers are more likely to discover additional content related to the inquiry, or even navigate towards other products or services. Recently, there has been a rise in self-service customer portals, so the question is, why transition to this model now and why?

Why the rise?

It all starts with the challenge of call centres. Whether it’s insurance, a new mobile contract or the sofa you bought last week, handling a query through a call centre can have its struggles, especially if the call centre has no cultural alignment with the customer. Ironically, the simpler problems can have the most challenges as easy flow-based questions can be managed by the user if the right system is in place on the company’s end.

There is also the element of cost. It can be a lot of money to run a large and high-quality customer service team. Many companies choose to outsource this and as a result, pay the price in poor experiences. Combine using something that is convenient and cost effective, and you get to the solution of using self-service portals. It eliminates the need for customers to speak to a human about their problems as little as possible through a web-based system. The goal is to move as much of the interaction as possible into a secure, accessible and user-friendly platform.

For example, a company acquires another company and suddenly, their customer base is tripled as they onboard the new customer base into the existing one. This is great for growth, but how do you ensure these customers have a good experience? Usually, the simpler problems can be solved using automation.

Account management features such as ‘update my details’ and ‘pay a bill’ is automatable 9/10 times. Although you can’t automate everything, even automating 50% of it creates a huge impact and cost savings. It’s also a case that customers want automation.

There is a general shift towards a ‘self-service world’ as we see businesses expanding their self-service offerings, a shift that has risen since the start of the pandemic and an overall growth of the internet, with people wanting to find things out for themselves. In daily activities, you’ve now got self-service check outs and ‘pay at the pump’, it’s everywhere. The challenge, however, is to keep up with the surge in demand.

How to build a good portal

It’s human nature to want simplicity. Even if the backend is legacy, building a user friendly and accessible front end can work as an effective solution. You need to make sure it’s got the right responses ready as you don’t want to send customers in a feedback loop or chasing their tail looking for an answer. Making sure the backend is set up for gathering the right data, ensures it is in order correctly. Building a good portal is also about knowing when to bring humans in. Some questions can’t be answered by the system, so accepting this and having a team of people ready to help when the system is unable to will improve efficiency. In addition to this, it’s also an opportunity to train and grow a better customer service team that can focus on the more complex requests.

What’s the value?

Here are some examples and benefits to explain the rise in self-service portals.

  1. Reduction in customer service costs – There is no need to have a large call centre with people managing simple customer requests, if they are managed out of the self-service portal.
  2. Deliver a better customer experience faster – If a customer buys an electrical component from a website, a self-service portal can offer a full order history, user guides, links to support forums and an easy refund process.
  3. Encourage repeat custom – Automating recurring direct debits and reducing the number of interactions customers have with the company, results in less friction and less consideration of switching to a competitor.
  4. Reduction in human error – There is less need for employees to input data in systems manually if the self-service portal does it, reducing room for error.
  5. Gather better and more data on customers –Building a more complete single customer view and understanding your customers better increases adoption and retention. For example, if refunds are managed via a self-service portal, you can easily gather why products are being refunded and spot patterns etc.

The future of self-service

The future of self-service portals all lies in data quality and interpretation methods, the better the data the cleverer the system. For some industries, for example retail, there is a finite number of possible customer requests. With solid data, it is possible to handle more complex requests in a self-service portal.

It’s predicted there will be a pivot from customer relationship management to customer acquisition. This is because data will be used to predict customer behaviour, improve product recommendations, suggest retention levels, and even propose new markets. Machine learning can be beneficial here, but it needs to have the right data in place to solve the more complex problems.

Godel’s work with RS Components has helped them re-engineer their ‘My Account’ area, which looks into user behaviour, orders, personal and company details etc. From a business perspective, the portal has helped to increase efficiency. If you were to give an example, the Amazon Profile page is similar to what the user could find on the RS Components ‘My Account’. With ‘My Account’, you can track your order, be notified when it’s been dispatched and manage your account. Godel Engineers have also worked on progressing and establishing a B2B ‘My Account’ model, enabling you to manage multiple accounts and find invoices. For example, a business with different addresses in different locations can choose which address they use. A large amount of work has gone into making and establishing these improvements, designed for the customer of the future.