CRM Insight Podcast: The Business Case for Self-Service

I recently recorded a podcast with the always fun and insightful Laura Hoyt of Here is a link to listen to the podcast; registration is required. I thought I would pass along some highlights from our interview.

Q: Is self-service a strong investment in today’s economy? Do you expect this market to grow over the next few years?

A:  Absolutely. Even in a down economy I’m seeing strong spending for knowledgebase tools and self-service technology, because of the bullet-proof ROI. According to my 2009 technology survey of over 300 technology companies, technology budgets allocated to KB, self-service and multi-channels tools represents 30% of the total budget, compared to 22% last year. And, even though spending has slowed, we still are seeing companies investing in 2009 and 2010 in KB and self-service. It’s not just about call deflection, today it is about being competitive and offering an exceptional customer experience.

Q: What’s the best way to get upper management on board with a self-service initiative?

A: I recommend three steps.

1. Build the business case. Check out my report from last year, “The ROI of Knowledge Management: Building a Business Case for KM Investments.”
2. Analyze customer demographics. There are lots of studies out there, including some of my own, showing channel preferences by demographic. If you still think phone is everyone’s preferred channel, you are hopelessly outdated. If customers are demanding self-service, you have to offer it.
3. Survey survey survey. The Voice of the Customer can be very compelling for executives. Ask customers what they like and don’t like about your self-service site, and what features they would like to see.

Q: Can self-service help improve customer satisfaction? How can companies keep an eye on that?
A: The STAR Award applications for Best Online Support clearly show an increase to overall customer satisfaction when a new self-service implementation goes live. To track this:
1. Be sure you are tracking customer satisfaction with both transactional and periodic surveys.
2. Closely monitor every metric for changes when self-service or new knowledge tools go live: Satisfaction, FCR, talk time/handling time, hold time, abandon rate, etc.

Q: For companies that are using self service, how can they determine their self-service success rate — or how many customers had their expectations met via self-service?

A: This is a very controversial topic because vendors make ridiculous claims about 100% success. I was on a webcast last Thursday and heard a KB vendor claim at least an 80% success rate. Let’s be real: According to the SSPA benchmark, the overall industry average for self-service success is 40%, down from 48% in 2003. Here’s how I recommend tracking it:
1. Useful/not useful clicks on KB articles. However, with only a 3% response rate this should only be one avenue for data collection.
2. Post interaction surveys (did you find what you needed?) are the next step.
3. For accurate success numbers, you also need to do some click stream analysis. Did the customer call/chat/email/open an online ticket in the hours after attempting self-service?

Q: Can you end with some tips for being successful with self-service technology?

A: The three top trends I see from STAR Award Winners to boost self-service success are:
1. Use case analysis. Who is using self-service, why are they using it, what tools do they need? You need multiple tools to meet the needs of customers with different interests and skill levels. Think search, decision tree, avatar, etc.
2. Incorporate rich media. I will be publishing a case study in the next week or so about how Adobe has incorporated videos into KB articles with excellent results.
3. Federated search. Now that 57% of SSPA members have a customer discussion forum, you need tight integration across self-service resources, including community, downloads, calibration tools, user manuals, release notes, etc.

Thanks for reading!

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4 Comments on “CRM Insight Podcast: The Business Case for Self-Service”

  1. Anand Chopra Says:


    Great summary of success parameters for self service implementations. Question for you, at what point do you think self service sites will need to start incorporating feedback from social media apps? Furthermore, what is a good methodology to incorporate customer comments and their respective responses from support departments on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Forums, etc.?


  2. Hi John,

    could you mail me a copy of your article “Building a Business Case for KM” from last year, the one you mentioned in your interview?

    Best regards,

  3. […] fact, self-service success rates are declining. According to John Ragsdale, research director with the Service and Support Professionals Association (SSPA), which conducts a […]

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