Bring on the Service Professionals? It’s Time to Supplement Mainstream Self-Service

Is it just me, or have you noticed that it’s getting harder to get ahold of a human being when you need customer service?

For example, some websites have replaced their customer service number with online forms. Other companies still provide a phone number, but when you call, you are instructed to contact the company through another method, and there is no option for leaving a voice message or callback number.

Undeniably, customers value self-service options that enable them to avoid reaching out to a person unnecessarily. However, they also value having a person available if they want or need one.

Recently Gartner conducted research that culminated in a report titled 11 Fundamental Capabilities to Build Your Customer Self-Service Portal. The headline finding from that study is:

Only 11% of search to resolution is completely resolved by self-service.

This means that rarely can customers navigate their entire brand journey alone!

So how can we strike the right balance between self-service options and assisted support?

Here are five things to consider as you balance self-service and human assistance:

1) Design a User-Friendly Self-Service Portal – In addition to your portal’s usability, pay attention to ease of access and create a look and feel that is attractive to your core customer segments.

2) Ensure Your Self-Service Portal is Filled with Understandable Content – Offer media-rich content in an easily searchable format. Conscientiously, keep that content updated and use customer-friendly language and not industry jargon.

3) Consider Using Virtual Customer Assistants (VCAs) or Bots as Entry Points for Service. The Garner report puts it this way, “Leading-edge support organizations are reimagining the digital experience by using VCAs and bots as digital front doors and are extending this front door capability across all support properties.”

4) Train Team Members to Provide Assisted Support – There are many channel options to make your team members available for customers in need (e.g., “live chat,” “click to call,” “schedule a call,” “call me now). Choose the options that work best for your business, and make sure you have selected, trained, and enabled service professionals to take care of the customers with whom they interact.

5) Assess and Continuously Improve the Effectiveness of Your Self-Service and Assisted Support Methods – Measure both your online and offline service experience using website, clickstream and portal analytics. Also, use voice-of-the-customer surveys that assess customer effort and problem resolution.

Customer experience excellence isn’t a choice between “Self-Service OR Assisted Support. Extraordinary brands find ways to do BOTH effectively and artfully.


To learn more about ways to balance self-service and assisted support, please contact me at

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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