Now that the dust has settled from a very busy week at Dreamforce, I want to share some key takeaways for customer service and support leaders.

During Dreamforce, I had the pleasure of spending time with Greg Oxton, executive director of the Consortium for Service Innovation.  Together, we hosted a dinner and were joined by colleagues and peers to discuss the trends and strategies that will shape the next decade of customer success. We had participants representing many years of experience with Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) and several new to KCS who were keen to learn more.

We had lots to talk about, but the one thing that we heard loud and clear was the importance of Self-Service in the overall customer success strategy.

Many Consortium members have achieved double-digit case deflection (or as I prefer to call it self-service success) by implementing key elements of self-service strategy. While Self-Service is nothing new, it is no longer a “nice-to-have” – it is an absolute requirement for one who is serious about delivering a positive online customer experience.

Customers want efficient and effortless service, and are turning to self-service to get there.

Positioning the Self-Service experience is important. Done well, self-service provides the opportunity to deliver on an experience that customers are after – efficient and effortless service. Done poorly, it will be perceived by customers as another barrier between them and speaking to a knowledgeable human being.

Self-service options need to be positioned carefully to provide valuable, accurate, relevant content that can be accessed at the customer’s convenience – 24x7x365, allowing for quick resolution of questions and problems in a fraction of the time they would spend waiting for an agent. The ultimate goal is customer convenience and satisfaction while simultaneously saving your company money.

This level of success doesn’t just happen. It takes careful planning and execution to achieve. Fortunately, by working together at Dreamforce and sharing our experiences over dinner, we were able to help even novices reach for this level of success.

Here are seven key take-a-ways from our conversation:

  1. Create a well defined 24 month strategy and plan for self-service, including plans for resources as well as technology and infrastructure improvements.
  2. Customer expectations are evolving and there is no magic pill for self-service. Success is about people, process and technology working together.
  3. Understand the “Know-Me” factor – personalization of the self-service experience may be important.
  4. Proven practices for managing knowledge is central for keeping content fresh, relevant and up-to-date. Consider KCS as an option.
  5. Intelligent search that indexes all of the enterprise and provides consolidated results is critical.
  6. Customers want to talk to other customers. Providing a facility to support these conversations is essential.
  7. The role of Customer Support much more than break-fix. Customers expect us to help them deliver better services to their customers.

For more on this topic: Join me along with TSIA VP of Research, Technology and Social – John Ragsdale for a Webinar on October 15th to explore the impact Intelligent Search has on Customer Support.