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By Ashley Verrill

Recently, I called Zoho evangelist Raju Vegesna to get his advice for a research project I was working on. Self-service channels are becoming increasingly popular, and I wanted to find out the average value customer service organizations get from their self-service channels.

With the help of Raju and other experts, I identified a set of variables I would measure in combination to ultimately determine the total value of self-service. The resulting equation, calculates the issues companies solve each month through self-service channels that don’t involve an employee; then how much that same level of service would have cost had the customer called, emailed or chatted a CSR. Here’s what we came up with:


The goal was to collect the data, input into the formula and distill an industry standard. But before I began surveying the companies, I realized that those being surveyed wouldn’t know these values – but they should.

So instead of creating a survey, I decided to use this formula as a platform for describing:

  • What metrics companies can use to measure the performance of their self-service channels and how companies can use these measures to improve cost-savings (“i” in our formula).
  • What other kinds of value companies can get from self-service channels.

Let’s start with the metrics. Where call centers use KPIs such as “time-to-resolution” and “average handle time,” customer service organizations can use measures to monitor self-service performance. Here’s a few you should consider:

  • Percent of Community Questions that Receive Response. Customers will only use your self-service communities if they feel like they will actually get a response. If someone starts browsing through your discussion threads only to find most questions never receive a response, they won’t likely continue trying to the use the channel. You should always monitor the percent of questions that receive a response (ideally, you want that to be 100 percent).

  • Percent of Community Questions Answered by the Community. One of the biggest benefits of using communities is the ability to deflect tickets from channels that require an employee response. In order to monitor your success towards this goal, you need to monitor how many of your community questions receive a response from other customers. Ideally, you would want this percentage to be weighted toward higher customer engagement. If it’s not, you can look into incentivizing engagement through gamification or other measures.

  • FAQ Page Views, Time on Page, Top-Rated Articles. These measure will help you identify your most popular and helpful articles (top-rated being those rated four-and-five on a five-star scale, or the highest volume of “Did this article help you,” votes for systems that use those measures). These pages and articles should be given a prominent spot on the community homepage, listed first in FAQs, and optimized for search engines.

All of these metrics will help you maximize the value of self-service as far as deflecting tickets away from agents, but these aren’t the only values you should consider.

The formula doesn’t mean to assume that every person that was helped through self-service, would have in the absence of self-service channels called or emailed you. It simply defined how you calculate how much that level of service is worth.

So while many of these resolved issues represent cost-savings, the added value self-service brings is that it does allow you to connect with customers that might not have interacted with you otherwise. So essentially, you are able to establish connections that don’t require an employee response, and might never have existed in the first place. This value is more difficult to measure, but over time can impact customer loyalty (for the better or the worse).

Also, by providing productive self-service channels you can increase the likelihood of customers spreading positive word of mouth, which is even more important in a world where customers pay less and less attention to traditional forms of marketing.

To put it another way, self-service provides an opportunity for companies to form an open, transparent relationship with the customer. They get immediate insight into what customers are feeling and thinking.

Ashley-VerrillAshley Verrill is an analyst for Software Advice, as well as the managing editor for the Customer Service Investigator. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has been featured or cited in Inc., Forbes, Business Insider, GigaOM, CIO.com, Yahoo News, the Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal, among others.