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Online Service Portals, When Made Well, Can Offer Many Benefits

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Online Service Portals, When Made Well, Can Offer Many Benefits

August 12, 2016

  By Casey Houser, Contributing Writer

One of the growing trends in customer service is that businesses are allowing customers to work through their own issues through online portals. Businesses provide the necessary information on their websites to answer common questions; then customers make use of that information any time they need assistance with a product or service.

Although online portals cannot solve every issue customers will face, they can offer a number of benefits for customers and brands as they both use and create new products. The blog at TeamSupport, a company that develops customer management and help desk software for enterprises, recently discussed the top four reasons businesses should consider online support as a supplement to their existing customer service options.

First it notes, as many in the business world now know, that customers actually want to be able to solve their own problems. TMC (News - Alert) noted in a recent article that as many as 70 percent of customers prefer finding answers on a business’s website rather than calling the help desk or sending an email. TMC cites Forrester (News - Alert) data that even shows growth of self-service portal use from 67 percent in 2012 to 76 percent in 2014.

There is a distinction to be made here. Some customers may feel forced into online portals because they do not trust calling or emailing to resolve their problems without frustration. In fact, TMC also reported, many people enter customer service calls already frustrated because their attempt at online self help was disappointing. Although TeamSupport notes that online service portals can allow for more than just self service (they can also act as conduits for online texting and voice or video chat), it is only correct in part when it says that self service can give customers a sense of control over their issues.

In order to feel in control, customers must be able to solve problems on their own. Therefore, the information available to them must be good and must be easy to use. TeamSupport continues its positive statement about the benefits of online service by also pointing out that websites can offer information in a logical manner. That is true, and businesses must take advantage of that ability. Online articles and service guides should be structured in such a way that customers do not feel compelled to seek the text or video chat route to a live representative, an action which would take more time and, as TMC has said, could add to the frustration of an already heated situation.

With all that in mind, it is important to jump back to the idea that self-service portals are not good for everything. Online outlets allow for multiple forms of communication, and they can offer text and video chat for any customer that wants or needs it. However, for all the individuals who want to help themselves, they should only need to jump to text or video as a last resort. When this order of operations is done correctly, the online portal can actually free agents from responsibility. It can leave them able to tackle the most complicated of issues while assets on a business’s website take care of everything else.

Brands must keep in mind that online self-help webpages and online text and video are meant to compliment one another and that they can only work well when each side is built and used properly.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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