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Customer service dilemma: Human touch VS web self-service portal

Posted on 14 Aug 2017


This article will indulge in the interesting topic of human touch, regular customer service support via agents in the form of live chats, help desk applications, phone calls and more VERSUS web customer self-service. The main advantage of the latter is that, once it has been created, it can replace a number of people and improve overall service.

On the other hand, not all questions and issues can be forecasted in advance, therefore human resources should not be completely dropped off the radar.

In order to evaluate the question from both sides, it’s worth looking at studies and research that can demonstrate the actual needs of people.

An article from the Harvard Business Review says that, in 81% of cases, customers try to solve their issues or find answers to their questions on their own before “reaching out to a live representative.” The same trend was found in the Microsoft’s Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report, according to which the figure is even greater - more than 90%.

The same customer behavior trend has been noticed by other studies as well.

According to Forrester Data Consumer Technographics® North American Retail and Travel Customer Life Cycle Survey, over the half of internet users in the US (52% to be exact) abandon their cart if they cannot find the additional information they need. Given such a great variety of online stores nowadays, it’s easier to find a different one instead of contacting the help center’s staff. In this case, the business owner can only sigh OR install a web self-service center.

What’s even more surprising is the number of US adults – 72%, that are leaving websites wanting more and unable to find it themselves in a short period of time.



Apart from the plain figures, some other advantages of self-service portals include:

  • Timeliness – they function 24/7, even during hours when service agents are not available;
  • Offloading the personnel – the number of tickets for staff will be lower with self-service portals and they can focus on the more challenging cases;
  • Options – customers have multiple options for customer service;
  • Empowering customers – they will learn and engage more actively when solving tasks by themselves;
  • Cost effectiveness – self-service portals usually cost less than people.

These are pretty good arguments for adding web self-service portals to any quality service-oriented business web-site.


Effectiveness of self-service portals

Design and branding

Intuitive designs and user-friendly navigation systems can save considerable time and thereby WIN the customers by addressing their doubts quickly. Branding is another crucial element of a good marketing strategy, and having a fully customized web self-service help center is a great plus.


Apart from branding, it is important to analyze the FAQ page and develop self-service portals with that in mind. One good example of customizing possibilities is offered by an authorized Zendesk solution provider - Lotus Themes, owing to which it is possible to customize any Zendesk theme according to the individual preferences.

Fresh content

It’s important to note that the FAQ section, along with the content of the self-help portal should be updated on a regular basis. As a recent Software Advice survey shows, over 31% of people are getting easily frustrated if they cannot find what they need with keywords, actual links and requests. As a result those people see just one solution – to exit the website.


Once a new feature, especially such a big feature, like a self-service portal is added, the objective of the marketing is to present it to the customers in all possible ways. It could be as easy as widgets, pop-up notifications, email newsletters, press releases and so on.


Final words

The demand for self-service help desks can be explained by the main priorities in this fast-paced world – to save time and money. Another reason is that this offers choices to customers in regards to communication methods.

Although self-service portals can be considered a one-time investment, the importance of keeping it live, fresh and customized should not be underestimated.





Forrester Data Consumer Technographics® North American Retail and Travel Customer Life Cycle Survey, Q1 2016 (US).

Kick-Ass Customer Service; Matthew Dixon, Lara Ponomareff, Scott Turner, Rick DeLisi; Harvard Business Review, January-February 2017 issue, source:

Microsoft’s Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report, source: last accessed on 08/08/17.

The Self-Service Software Products That Keep Customers and Employees Happy, Craig Borowski, Software Advice, source: last accessed on 08/08/17.

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