This post – which is equally relevant for content marketers and customer experience pros – is drawn from my brand-new book, Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers. Visit HugYourHaters.com to find out how to get exclusive bonus research not available anywhere else. ~ jay
If customers can easily and thoroughly address their problems on their own, they will seek to do so. Self-service is always the most efficient path to issue resolution, because customers don‘t have to wait on your business to respond. As Gartner‘s Michael Moaz says:
“The best phone call is the one that didn‘t happen.”
Self service increases customer satisfaction and lowers costs
According to Kate Leggett, principal analyst at Forrester Research, self-service increases customer satisfaction and lowers costs for the business. So it makes a lot of sense, on both the customer experience and cost efficiency fronts, to mine your complaints and feedback for patterns and commonalities, and then address those issues with easy-to-access online information.
Customers love this. Forrester found that 72 percent of consumers prefer using a company‘s website to answer their questions. But businesses are not universally adept at this self-service approach, as only half of customers can find the information they need online.
72% of customers prefer to find answers on a web site (highlight to tweet)
The best self-service programs are living organisms. They expand and morph to fit changing customer complaints and questions. To do so requires managers to meet often with personnel interacting with customers in other channels, to discuss what new questions and issues are emerging. Analyzing what visitors type into the “search” function of your website also provides good clues.
This is also a fantastic way to find new content marketing topics. After all, who better than your current customers to help determine what your content should be about?
One third of customer questions are repeated
Of course, many of the questions asked by customers are repeats. According to Rahul Sachdev from Get Satisfaction (now a division of Sprinklr), approximately one-third of customer questions are repeat or common issues. The objective with self-service is to determine all of those likely customer questions, and then provide answers to them, ideally in multiple online formats—text, video, audio, photographs, infographics and beyond.
These repeated questions are an absolute treasure-trove of content marketing opportunities.
Social media customer service pioneer, and author Frank Eliason praises Amazon.com for their devotion to this approach:
“Amazon has a model where they believe that if you have to contact us, our website is screwed up and we need to fix it. They try to ensure that no question is asked twice,” he says. “Two of the things that companies need to get much better at are taking feedback, and then not just addressing the customer‘s issue, but addressing it for all customers. That is where you get your greatest value. Instead, most companies have the mindset that customers are bad because they contact you.”
Of course, Amazon is a large company, and can devote considerable resources to perfecting the art of self-service information through content creation.
But small businesses can do the same. Not far from my new home in Bloomington, Indiana is Santa Claus, Indiana, home to Holiday World and Splashin‘ Safari, one of America‘s best amusement parks. This family-owned and operated business may have the best self-service approach of any small company, anywhere.
Holiday World embraces the premise that no question is unworthy of an answer and that customer experience and content marketing are two sides of the same coin.
Dozens of pages on the website are devoted to when to go, where to park, and what to expect. And for every major attraction at the park, the company provides an array of detailed data about the ride—a complete frequently asked questions section about every element of the experience.
“We want to give them as many tools as we can within the website, without being overly complicated, so that the guest has a real good working knowledge of how to have the best possible day at Holiday World when they choose their day of visit,” Dan Koch told me when I interviewed him for my book Youtility. Koch was formerly President of Holiday World and now runs Splash Adventure in Alabama.
The most important aspect of Koch‘s description of their information mission is his emphasis on creating the best possible experience on the day of the guest‘s visit. The focus of the website isn‘t on selling the attraction, or getting visitors to come back a second day, or selling T-shirts. It‘s about using content to improve the customer experience IN ADVANCE, which creates loyalty and word-of-mouth and reduces complaints. And it‘s working. Of the 1,573 reviews of Holiday World and Splashin‘ Safari on TripAdvisor, 1,481 are 4 or 5 stars.
Consumers Prefer Customer Service and Content Marketing Hybrids
Research in 2015 from the Center for Generational Kinetics and Aspect Software found two-thirds of Americans feel good about themselves and the company about which they have questions when they can solve a problem without talking to customer service.
In that study, author and consultant Jason Dorsey recommends that all companies take a Holiday World approach to self-service: “Create a self-help video library that is easy to navigate,” he advises. “Start by reviewing the most common questions or challenges that customers bring to you, and then create a simple video that shows how to solve each one. This could be how to set up an online account, how to replace a battery or how to exchange something previously bought. Use very clear names for each video so that customers can type in a specific question and get recommendations that match their query. The key is that the videos should include simple step-by-step instructions and be easily viewed on any mobile device.”
Self-service seems like a universally applicable solution to drive costs down while simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction with content marketing. Why doesn‘t every company commit to it? Why don’t you?