How to get customers to use self-service

Exceptional customer service is the lifeline of your business. This includes self-service, where the customer helps themselves instead of working with an actual other person.

The key to successful self-service is making it accessible to your customers. It has to be easy and efficient. Here’s how.

How To Get Cusotmers To Use Self Service

What exactly is self service?

Customer self-service refers to any activity that the customer does on their own behalf without the assistance of company staff.

The term refers to a wide range of activities, from searching online help centres to answer questions, to picking out groceries online.

How does self-service benefit your business?

It goes without saying that customer self-service allows your business to do more, with less manpower. Check out what else self-service can mean to your business:

  • More satisfied customers. According to research people prefer to answer their own questions without having to contact support.
    “Across industries, 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative.”
  • Increased sales. Customers do not want to call anyone for support, and they would rather just abandon the transaction.
    “53% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question.”
  • Having self-service options available costs you considerably less than in-person service.
  • Greater support availability. Personal assistance can’t be available to your customers at all times. But, if they can help themselves, they can do this at any time of any day.
  • Life becomes a bit easier for support staff. Studies showed that support staff find 40% of customer tickets to be ‘mind-numbing’ and ‘repetitive’.
    Self-service reduces the number of repetitive questions in your queue, freeing up your support staff for more complex and stimulating requests. 
5 examples of self-service in the world’s leading companies

Unsure where to start? Have a look at what these companies are doing to optimise customer self-service.
AmazonThis American e-commerce giant offers a help centre that is easy to navigate and which offers answers to most of the problems a customer might have.

AppleApple’s support page opens with an integrated search tool and personalised flow options for customers to click through based on their question.

Following this even more resources are available via links to their support community, Youtube channel and their Twitter handle, all of which offer help.

If you need more, just follow the ‘get support’ prompt, which will take you to a page where you can narrow down your specific issue, and Apple will provide you with the most personalised way to find an answer.

SpotifyThe music streaming provider offers such extensive self-service options that there isn’t even an option to make contact. Odds are you will be easily able to help yourself.

To start with, you can search for an answer to your questions, or quickly access some of the most frequently asked questions and knowledge articles.

Learning how to use Spotify is also made very easy:

And there is even more. The help centre links to their Vimeo page that offers educational podcasts. There is also the Spotify Community where thousands of live community members actively contribute to resources.

NetflixOn the Help Centre home page you will find an option to search, a large variety of knowledge base articles, and quick links to often used processes, such as reset password.

All of these are conveniently found on the same page.

FacebookFacebook’s Help Centre does exactly what the brand itself is doing – helping people to connect with others. While it does supply plenty of educational resources, what makes them unique is their help community.
Here you will find other Facebook members joining conversations and helping each other solve common problems they are experiencing.


How to get your customers to switch to self-service

Despite the benefits, many businesses still rely solely on phone and email to resolve any issues. If this sounds like you, you might be tempted to up your game and provide your customers with self-service options.

If this is the plan, it needs to be implemented strategically. You will need to plan very carefully how you will introduce self-service technologies to your customer.

Clarify to yourself how you will promote your new channels to your customers, as well as how you will encourage them to make use of it. If you don’t implement your new tools correctly, customers will simply avoid them.

Here are a few strategies to guide you through the process.

Understand your customers’ needs

So here’s the thing: if you don’t know which questions your customers are going to ask, you won’t be able to have the answers ready for them.

If the self-service options you have available aren’t answering your customers’ questions, they simply won’t use it. 

Avoid this problem by examining your support ticket issues to identify the most common reasons why customers contact support. 

These can be used to compile your Frequently Asked Questions page, or a list of articles/videos if the solutions require more explanation.

Ensure your information is easy to understand

The writers at TeamSupport very tactfully state that not all customers are created equal. Therefore you need to make sure your information is written in a way that anyone can understand.

Steer clear of too much jargon or technical language. People also don’t want to read lengthy pieces of text. Step-by-step tutorials or instructions are great to break a lot of info down into digestible bites.

Another way to do it is by using headers and lists, and by bringing in video and images.

In cases where one topic leads to another, make it easy for your customer to find information by including relevant links within your knowledge base articles. 

Don’t forget about marketing

Quietly adding some self-service options will not work. You have to let your customers know that fantastic new things are available, and you have to let them know more than once.

Make use of your existing channels to promote your self-service additions. For example, remind callers on hold that they can access your resources online, and include links in your outgoing support emails.

When promoting self-service, emphasise the speed at which customers can solve their problems. Studies show that 75% of customers value speed of response over any other customer service attribute. 

Promoting your self-service content on social media is another way of exposing it. 

Also never underestimate the importance of having your self-service content show up in search engines when customers search for solutions online.

Keep working at it

Once your customer self-service options are set up, your job is not yet done. You will have to monitor usage on an ongoing basis, and keep examining content for relevancy and recency.

Be careful of overwhelming your customers

Don’t give your customers too many options to choose from, as this typically causes them to get discouraged and not do anything at all. 

Ever spent a whole evening scrolling through Netflix without finding something to watch? 

Research showed that more options have a demotivating effect on people – it’s harder to choose between 10 options than it is to choose between two.

Motivate your customers with incentives

Something like a discount voucher might be just the thing to make a customer forget their fear of change and dive straight into your new self-service content.

Mistakes to avoid in customer self-service

Plan your self-service content in advance, and use your planning as a roadmap to keep your focus and avoid common mistakes such as the following:

  • Forcing customers to do work that would be more quickly or easily done by the company.
  • Having customers perform tasks that are workarounds for problems in your product or processes.
  • Frustrating customers with complicated technology.
  • Not allowing customers to get human help when needed.


Getting self service right boils down to one thing: it has to be done in such a way that your customers will prefer going that route, rather than to pick up the phone or send an email.

They need to be able to easily control the experience without having to make a call, freeing up your customer service staff to answer more complex questions. 

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