design-570.pngWhere communities, public-facing knowledge bases and other forms of self-service used to be more of a "nice to have" rather than a must-have; these channels have become among the most preferred avenues for customer service. Despite this trend, I talk to companies all the time that still drag their feet on making investments in these channels. While they understand the inherent value at a high level (deflecting tickets from the call center), they're seeking proof -- in dollars and cents.


Recently, I decided it was time to respond to these objections -- "show them the money" as it were. So, I devised a formula that companies can use to literally calculate the value of the service they provide through these channels, relative to what it would have cost had these customers called or emailed a customer service representative. This includes customers that are helped by reading an article, finding a solution in FAQs, or asking a question and receiving a response from the community. After much thought (and interviews with seven experts), here's what I came up with:

Depending on what self-service vendor you use, the “c” variable might be number of “likes” or “thumb ups” that an article receives, rather than votes for “this article helped me.” If your system uses a “star rating” method for user engagement, measure the quantity of articles with high ratings (three or more stars on a five-star scale, for example). The “.10” in the blue bracket accounts for the percent of page views that resolve a customer issue on average (on the conservative end). The remaining site visitors are likely browsing articles, doing research, or ultimately calling support.

Now, I don't mean to assume with this formula that self-service doesn't provide value to companies in other ways -- feedback for product development, for example, or providing another platform for marketing material. I just wanted to draw a direct line between these channels and the value they provide to the customer service organization, which is essentially crowdsourcing your customer service.


Creating this kind of value isn't just a matter of making these channels available. In the same way you apply KPIs in call centers, self-service channels require constant measurement to identify opportunities for improvement. Each of the variables in my formula are calculated using a performance measure. "Average percent of issues resolved by customers, rather than employees," for example, should ideally be more heavily weighted to customers. Also, the number of issues that receive "this article helped me votes," should tell you which articles are the most popular. Both of these findings are valuable for helping take actions that improve the overall customer experience.


  • What KPIs do you use to monitor and improve your self-service channels?
  • How else do you measure the value of your self-service channels?


I'd love to hear your thoughts.