Different customers like to find a solution to their problems in different ways. Some prefer to talk over phone. Some would take emails over phone any day. But majority of them like to find answers on their own by searching for them instead of contacting support. Enabling such customers to find answers about your product/service without having to contact you is called customer self service.
Self service is enabled by creating a customer portal with a knowledge base and a community forum. Most portals also let customers submit tickets if they can’t find the answer to their problem in the knowledge base or forums.
A knowledge base is a repository of information about your product or service. Not only does it have a FAQ section but it has articles explaining some basic functionalities as well. Companies can make the kbase extensive and informative so it becomes a one-stop shop for customers to find answers. But most importantly, articles in the kbase can be optimized for search engines so customers are only a google search away from the solution.
Community forums are comparatively harder to start than a kbase because a successful forum needs customers to get actively involved in the discussion. Most forums take a long time to actually become meaningful to customers. However, if you have a varied and vast customer base, forums are the right fit for your business because customers will gain more value out of talking to other customers with similar use-cases than your generic articles.
Self service is a great idea, especially if you have enough agents to maintain it because not only does it reduce ticket volume but it also reduces customer frustration.