10 Effective Ways to Get Honest Feedback About Your Self-service Strategy

Self-service is a growing industry trend and with good reason. Self-service options provide a lot of benefits for both customers and businesses when they work well.

Unfortunately, a self-service strategy can also easily go horribly wrong.

Sometimes even the most well-thought-out strategy can have flaws. And when these tools end up causing customers more frustration and hassle, customers could abandon the tools and your business.

So, it’s important to make sure that your strategy is smoothly deployed and optimized for the greatest customer satisfaction.  

And the only way to do that is through conversations with customers. You need to collect valuable feedback on what’s working and what isn’t.

That’s why any self-service strategy needs to incorporate ways to gather honest feedback as early as possible.

The Challenge of Gaining Feedback

We all know that unhappy customers can hurt our business. When a customer has a bad experience, they don’t just leave, they try to take others with them.

In fact, 13% of unhappy customers1 will tell 15 or more people about it. And those people will tell other people.

The tricky part is that it can be difficult to know when a customer has had a bad experience.

Too many customers don’t bother to complain; they just leave. For every customer2 that complains, another 25 say nothing and just abandon your business.

The absence of negative feedback is not a sign of positive news. Silence doesn’t mean happy customers. So the only way to identify and improve any flaws in your strategy is to get feedback. But how do you get it from those 25 people who don’t want to say anything?

These ten methods can help you solve that problem.  

#1 A Self-service Feedback Loop

The first method is injecting a feedback loop directly into your self-service portal. You can do this by programming your self-service portal with a final screen prompting feedback. It might be asking for a rating on a point-scale or requesting that they answer some open-ended questions.

The biggest strength of this option is that it’s simple; a feedback loop is an easy prompt. The drawback is that customers may find it annoying or may be unwilling to answer.

If you want to use this method, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep it short, simple, and to the point. Stick to no more than five short questions and one comment box.
  • Use a 5-point or 10-point rating scale for your questions.  
  • Ask questions that are relevant; they should only be about their experience with your self-service platform.

#2 A Customer Survey

A separate customer survey is another useful feedback method. With this option, you’re still requesting a survey be filled out, but it’s not tied into your platform. This means that customers can fill it out at their own convenience.

The struggle is that as few as 2% of consumers3 will bother to complete a survey when it’s not mandatory. You can do the following to improve your response rate:

  • Keep your survey short; no more than five questions.
  • Avoid leading, loaded questions.
  • Tell customers up front that it will be a short survey. They are more likely to complete it if you do so.
  • Don’t ask the customer to provide information you should already know, such as their name or their contact details.  
  • Make the survey format mobile friendly.
  • Offer an incentive for completing the survey. Incentives can increase survey response rates by up to 20%4

#3 An Email Follow-up

Email is one of the most efficient methods of gathering valuable customer feedback.

You can use an email as a means of delivering a link to a third-party survey. Or you can ask for people to respond directly to the email.

However, a poorly crafted email can all too easily end up in the spam folder.

Here are a few points you should focus on to boost both your open and response rates:

First, consider the overall design and delivery of the email.

  • The subject line directly impacts the open rate, so make sure it’s a good one. A/B testing your subject line can boost your open rates by 49%5.
  • Send your email on either Mondays, Fridays, or Sundays. These days see the highest open and click-through rates.
  • Create a visual and responsive email. It will improve your click-through rates by up to 15%.
  • Personalize your emails to boost your open rate by up to 10%6.
  • Send at least three follow up emails. Campaigns with 4–7 emails have 3x higher response rates than those with only 1–3 emails.

The next step is to consider the actual content of your email. Keep your survey short and to the point, and consider offering an incentive for responses.

#4 A Call Center Contact

Both inbound and outbound call centers can be useful ways of gathering customer feedback.

If you already have inbound call centers available for resolving issues and problems, they can easily gather feedback at the same time. Some of the questions they may ask are:

  • Have you tried our self-service option?
  • If yes, what did you think of it? Did you encounter any problems? How do you think we can improve it?
  • If not, why did you choose not to try it?

Outbound service agents can also be used to collect valuable feedback, using similar questions. In this case, you have control over who you want to reach out to.

You can select an array of customers, or you can focus on a niche group, such as people who initiated a self-service interaction but abandoned it before completion.

This data can then be compiled and presented to the senior leadership to review trends and problems.

#5 One-on-one Interviews

While similar to an outbound call center approach, this method focuses more on quality over quantity. In other words, it requires longer discussions with fewer people.

The benefit is an opportunity to gain deeper insights into potential self-service flaws.  

To get the most from one-on-one interviews7, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Focus on customer attitudes toward your self-service platform. It’s important to identify their overall impression and then dig into what may be causing it. Is it a feature issue, or a communication problem?
  • Ask users to recall a specific instance when they used your self-service platform. They will be able to provide specific answers if they have a clear memory in mind.
  • Include some broad questions. Find out if they use self-service regularly, and if they commonly use it with other service providers? A few big-picture questions can identify trends and larger issues. For example, do they only use self-service when they’re in a rush?

#6 Group Sessions

Hosting group interviews can be more efficient than one-on-one interviews. While this feedback method used to be limited to physically colocated groups, it’s not the case anymore. Video and web-conferencing platforms can be used to bring together users located anywhere in the world.  

Group sessions provide people the opportunity to build off each other. People may be prompted to recall important points by hearing what others are contributing.

The risk, however, is that shy or quiet members may be unwilling to contribute, especially if their experience is significantly different from the majority of the group.   

Another group feedback option is to become involved in a social media group that already exists around your product or brand.

The benefit is that this forum isn’t run by the company and your self-service feedback is not the primary goal of the conversation. In such cases, people may be more laid back and willing to speak frankly.

#7 A Mystery Shopper

Hiring people to act as mystery shoppers can help identify potential self-service problems. It’s important to select people who are already familiar with the platform.

Also, if it’s an in-person walk-through at a physical location, don’t select anyone the staff will easily recognize. You don’t want them to receive any special treatment that a normal customer would not experience.

The goal is to get someone unfamiliar with your self-service strategy to use your service in a real-life environment. They can then help identify aspects that work well and any areas they struggled with.

#8 Social Media Monitoring

Social media is a powerful channel to collect honest feedback. The greatest advantage is that people will often be more open and candid when discussing a situation with friends, as opposed to filling out a formal survey.

The biggest drawback, however, is that you have no control over what questions are asked or what feedback is provided. People can be vague, or overly negative on social media, particularly if they’re venting about a bad experience.

However, by monitoring direct mentions of your company or brand, you can gain knowledge about how customers view your business and what they’re struggling with.

You can also choose to engage with people who’ve mentioned your business to delve further into their experience. For example, if someone complained about a long wait, you can ask why they chose not to try the self-service option.

Another social media tool is making use of polls that some of the platforms offer. Do you have a Facebook page with a decent amount of followers? If so, you can publish a poll on it, asking questions about your self-service strategy.

#9 User Analytics

Customer Feedback

User analytics can often be gathered through your own platform or from a third-party tool. This data is a great way to monitor your self-service offerings.

For example, you can track overall user analytics to identify trends such as how popular your self-service options are compared with ‘full-service.’ If you expect 60% of people to use self-serve and only 30% are then you know there is an issue somewhere.

You can also dig into individual customer analytics to find people who did not use your self-service offering, or who abandoned it before completion. Once you’ve identified these individuals, you have contact points for examining the issue further. For instance, this may be how you compile your list of people to interview.  

#10 Usability Tests

A usability test can highlight areas within your self-service process that users struggle with.

This type of testing allows you to see the actual actions of customers, as they use your service. You can track their steps and progress to see what part of your service goes smoothly and what they struggle with.

Software can easily be integrated with your platform to record user actions. If you provide an in-person self-service option, you can also install a camera to record live video of the user transaction.


One way to make customers and your team’s lives easier is to offer self-serve support. But they only work when they provide a smooth and positive customer experience. Which is why it’s so important to make sure that we’ve created a sound self-service strategy and that our team has successfully implemented it.

1 – http://www.slideshare.net/ekolsky/cx-for-executives
2 – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vala-afshar/50-important-customer-exp_b_8295772.html
3 – https://www.feedbackferret.com/news/6-facts-re-think-customer-survey-strategy/
4 – https://www.surveymonkey.com/curiosity/academic-research-on-incentives/
5 – https://www.leadgenius.com/cold-email-open-rate-5-iterations/
6 – https://blog.woodpecker.co/cold-email/sales-email-statistics/
7 – http://www.nngroup.com/articles/interviewing-users/

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