Web Self-Service Gone Wrong: 4 Situations to Avoid

disaster in the kitchen compared to self-service gone wrong

[Estimated read time: 4 minutes]

Seventy-five percent of consumers think working with a live service agent takes too long. Most turn to web or mobile self-service to find answers to their questions, but unfortunately, they are often disappointed with what they find.

Here are four self-service situations you should avoid at all costs:

1. Failing to give customers the resources to resolve issues

You say to your young children, “Make your own dinner.” What happens? Without further direction or help, probably something like this:


What a mess! Self-service quickly backfires when companies fail to provide customers with resources and enablement. When they cannot find accurate, relevant answers to their questions, customers become frustrated and discouraged, lessening your chances of making a sale or winning their long-term loyalty.

2. Relying on FAQs and search bars to do the heavy lifting

Many brands put an FAQ or a search bar on their website in hopes that customers will use them to find their own answers, reducing the amount of incoming phone calls to their service agents. However, just because you’ve deflected a few phone calls does not mean customers are satisfied with the experience.

Placing the burden of finding the correct answer on the customer’s shoulders can have far-reaching implications. Say that you have a specific question about a new product you just purchased. You go to their website’s FAQ page where you find dozens of questions and answers, but none of them pertain to you or your exact situation. Perhaps the company has succeeded in deflecting your call, but you are not satisfied with the answer you found and will think twice before purchasing from them again. Or worse, you might write a negative review online or tell your friends and family not to buy from them. Fewer calls to customer service simply does not equate to self-service success.

3. Providing answers that are generic and lacking context

FAQ pages and keyword-based searches often fail to provide customers with a satisfying answer because they are 1) too generic, and 2) unaware of the context of the question. Self-service tools that are connected to the rest of the customer’s journey can provide a pinpointed response to the customer, increasing their satisfaction with the entire experience.

For example, say you are shopping online for a new microwave. You have narrowed it down to two models, but have some questions about which is the best choice. You open an online chat to get more information. One of two scenarios will play out:

  • Scenario 1: The agent on the other end of the chat window has no context about what you are doing, meaning that you will have to spend several minutes explaining which microwaves you were looking at and how they are different from each other.
  • Scenario 2: The agent uses your most recent online activity to see which models you are considering and quickly supplies the information you need, without needing to spend several minutes getting up to speed.

Which scenario would you prefer? The easier it is for customers to obtain the information they seek, the better it will be for your bottom line.

4. Not optimizing self-service for the customer journey

Where are self-service options located on your website? Are they buried in the site footer, or are they integrated throughout the purchase experience for web and mobile? Forrester research has found that, if customers have to leave their online shopping cart to go looking for an answer, they are half as likely to make the purchase. Are you missing out on 50% of online sales?

A brick-and-mortar comparison would be a store associate asking you if you need assistance as you browse products in an aisle, vs. you having to seek out someone at the front counter. At that point, it’s much easier to walk out the door without making a purchase. Integrate web self-service wherever your customers are making decisions to avoid missing opportunities.


The effectiveness of self-service channels has never been more critical. To learn how to ensure your self-service experiences are meeting – and exceeding – customer expectations, read these seven tips for enhancing self-service. For more information on smart self-service technologies, check out Astute’s knowledge management software.