Help yourself: Self-service CRM questions answered

Is self-service CRM the opposite of customer service? Read this Q&A with Amanda Kleha to learn why some think it gets a bad rap.

Self-service CRM is a relatively new approach to customer service, enabling your customers to help themselves rather than calling in and speaking to a customer service representative. One might think this is the opposite of customer service -- but that's not so, says Amanda Kleha, vice president of product marketing at Zendesk Inc., a help desk software and cloud CRM company with headquarters in San Francisco.

Amanda Kleha, Vice President, Product Marketing at ZendeskAmanda Kleha

"We've found that 67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a rep," Kleha said. In the age of the Internet and being able to look up information from anywhere, at any time, the growing popularity of self-service is understandable. But is it as satisfying to get your facts from a FAQ page as talking to a rep? Zendesk's Kleha talked to SearchCRM about the good and bad of self-service -- and what it could mean for the future of CRM.

What are some unexpected advantages to self-service that companies may not have considered?

Amanda Kleha: One of the advantages of self-service CRM is that it helps your brand look better developed than it is, [and that] can be a huge advantage if you're a small company. Your website is up 24/7, even if you're not. It also helps save money, so you can hire fewer reps. Additionally, we have found that consumers want customer service on their own terms. If you can set up ways for them to get service on their own, they will get their faster answers and will go away satisfied.

If companies don't provide self-service options, they'll be hearing about it in louder and louder ways.

Amanda Kleha

Could you talk about some of the disadvantages of self-service CRM?

Kleha: I suppose if you push the community side of a self-service help desk, you have a little less control, since you have users helping each other rather than reps -- but that's a business decision. A self-service help desk is also not something you can set up and forget about. It takes time to set up a knowledge base and FAQs.

What kinds of trends do you see regarding self-service in the next few years?

Kleha: Companies are going to get savvier about how to do self-service in a way that their customers really respond to, and it will propel them to do more and more of it. With outspoken Millennials joining the workforce who are accustomed to searching for information online themselves, well, if companies don't provide self-service options, they'll be hearing about it in louder and louder ways.

Do you think self-service CRM will ever eliminate the need for customer service departments?

For more on
self-service CRM

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Selecting the right self-service CRM tools

Kleha: I think it depends on the business. We do have customers who come to us who want to start their CRM departments as self-service only. Maybe you can get away with it if you have simple questions and answers, but if you have any more complex issues, you're not setting yourself or your customers up for a positive experience if you're exclusively offering self-service.

This was first published in August 2013

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