According to a recent survey by Zendesk, only one-third of businesses offer customer self-service tools on their websites. This is despite growing evidence that upward of 60% of our buyers want to navigate the sales process themselves before making a purchasing decision — long before talking to someone at your company.
Furthermore, not only do your buyers want to research their options and make purchasing decisions on their own, but they also want to do so quickly and in a way that’s personalized and friction-free. As a result, they’re more open to using bots and artificial intelligence to answer their questions and direct them along the buyer’s journey (as long as their problems are addressed quickly and accurately).
In short, your buyers want more control over the entire sales process so they can make up their own minds about what to buy — as quickly and accurately as possible.
The question for you is, are you helping them?
If offering control of the sales process to your buyers sounds like a really frightening idea, you’re certainly not alone. We get questions all the time about whether our B2B or B2C clients should implement these tools, and our answer is always yes because using self-service tools on your website can be a game-changer for your bottom line and ROI.
If you think about it, you’d be providing your prospects with a simple way to buy from you that most of them want, yet few of your competitors are willing to provide. This means there is an opportunity to pull ahead of your competition and meet the needs of your customers better than anyone else in your industry by helping your prospects take the wheel.
The best part is, adding self-service tools to your website can be as simple or complicated as you want. You can make use of something as easy as a survey that asks prospects what they’re looking for and helps them find the products and services they need, or as complex as helping them build a customized product from the ground up. As long as you develop these tools to meet your buyers where they are in the sales process and help them have the best possible experience working with your business, winning their trust and gaining their loyalty will be easier than ever.
In this article, we’re going to share with you what self-service tools are and how they work, some of our favorite examples so you can brainstorm a few ideas for your own business, and the biggest mistake most companies make when implementing these tools.
Ready to help your prospects navigate their own buyer's journey and win more business and shorter sales cycles in the process?
Here’s what to know.
What are self-service tools and how do they work?
Self-service tools are exactly what they sound like. They’re tools or interfaces on a website that allow users to find answers to their questions and configure their own buying experience. This helps our prospects identify on their own what product, level, plan, or type of service they’ll be purchasing.
Self-service tools that B2B and B2C companies often use include:
Product or service selectors.
Custom product or service builders.
Chatbots or other conversational marketing tools.
Automated scheduling technologies.
There is a range of ways these tools work, depending on which one you’d like to provide and how. For example, if you’re adding a pricing calculator or chatbot to your website, it might be as simple as adding a plugin. If you’re looking for something more comprehensive, you might need to have someone configure the tool for you. This will all depend on what your buyers need and how you decide to give it to them.
Here are some incredible tools other businesses have put together to think about adding to your own website.
Self-service tool examples
Not only will using a self-selection tool on your website help to streamline your sales process, but it will also help to turn your website into one of your most powerful sales tools. These examples represent a range of self-service tools used on B2B and B2C business websites, and many of them might work on yours. As long as you’re helping your customer get what they need more quickly and efficiently, you really can’t go wrong.
Wix is an awesome tool that makes it super easy for you to go in and create a new website in minutes.
Let’s face it: Not everyone who wants an online presence needs something complicated right away. A lot of small businesses and sole proprietors can benefit from using a platform like Wix to get up and running online fast.
As soon as you sign up, and enter your email address and password, you start your journey by answering questions, such as, “What do you want to create a website for?” and “What kind of website does your company need?” Your answers inform decisions the software makes to recommend the right template for your needs.
Finally, you can let their software build you a site or choose from a list of their recommended templates. You can choose your favorite homepage design, input your credit card number, and in just a few steps, you could be online that same day.
It’s such a clean and frictionless process of getting your website up and running, that it can solve a huge pain point for many businesses.
Here’s another great overview of what that experience is like by our very own Marcus Sheridan on IMPACT’s Hubcast.
River Pools (founded by one of IMPACT’s principals, Marcus Sheridan) is a company that sells fiberglass swimming pools. It has an awesome pricing tool to help you find the perfect swimming pool for you.
By using their swimming pool pricing calculator, in just a few steps and clicks, you can become a more informed pool buyer and also plan ahead for hidden costs that might come with the options and add-ons the company offers.
After selecting the size of the pool that interests you, what’s included with the pool size you selected becomes visible. Each step provides extra details — such as letting you know they’ll take care of filling your pool with water — to make the experience feel more personal and well-thought-out.
Next, select the materials that’ll go into your pool and any add-ons, such as an automatic vacuum or cascade.
The tool then presents some factors you may need to plan for, such as whether or not you’ll need additional trenching or a retaining wall.
At the end of the process, you input your info and the quote gets sent right off to you in just a few minutes — no tricks or strings attached.
IMPACT client Rancilio offers an incredibly helpful comparison tool for selecting the right coffee machine. You start by selecting whether you are looking for an espresso machine or bean to cup.
Next, you choose the volume of coffee you’re planning to make each day (fewer or more than 50) and whether you want the machine to carry milk on demand.
This takes you to a screen where you can view all the different products available with the specs you chose, or you can get in touch with one of their specialists to walk you through which machine might best suit your needs.
It’s a quick and easy way to learn about the different machines they have available while guiding prospects closer to a buying decision.
If you’ve ever struggled designing or redesigning your patio, you will appreciate how fun and informative this single-page self-selection tool is.
After you land on the page, you’ll select which option you like from a group of visual pattern choices, and the page will then automatically scroll you into the next section, keeping track of your progress all the while.
Once you reach the end, you provide your contact information and immediately receive which style you’ll most likely enjoy for your patio. Mine was Rustic, and they’re spot on.
For prospects who want to ask questions on your website without the hassle of searching for your phone number or email address and waiting for a reply, chatbots, live chat, and other conversational tools are the way to go.
IMPACT client Berry Insurance is seeing great success with their fun and unique chatbot featuring the company mascot, “Shredder.”
Since Berry Insurance is a regional business, the bot first asks you where you’re located. If you choose one of their regions, it leads you further down the pipeline. If you select “other,” as we did below, the chatbot automatically weeds you out of the sales pipeline while helping you find information about their services.
This is a great example of how to kindly turn away bad-fit leads while also being a helpful, trustworthy business in the process. Want to learn more about what chatbots can do for your site? Check out our blog post on how to add a chatbot.
IMPACT client Yale Appliance is one of the premier appliance sellers, installers, distributors, and educators in the United States.
Going through their website, one can obtain information on just about any household appliance you can think of. Their extensive learning center can guide you to make the most informed decision on which appliance to buy. From pricing information to reviews and professional assessments — it’s all at your fingertips.
In just a few clicks, by selecting a range size, fuel type, burner type, burner configuration, colors, and other features, along with providing your contact information, you’ll get a free recommendation on which brands and ranges to choose from.
We love this tool because it’s a great example of how to help your prospects usher themselves through the complete buying process — start to finish. First, you select what you need help with.
Then, after you add your personal contact information and some property details, you receive a quote and can pay on the spot. If you’re already a customer, you’re good to go, but if not, someone will be in touch with you to make sure the services you purchased are set in motion.
The biggest mistake businesses make with self-service tools
The biggest mistake we see businesses make with their self-service tools is thinking their prospects understand what the company is presenting. We call this learning gap “the curse of knowledge” because we often forget that some things need a deeper explanation.
To avoid making this mistake, which can turn buyers away, remember to add explanations to everything in your self-service tools. For example, in the River Pools pool builder tool, one of the add-ons is a retaining wall. Not everyone will know what this is, so there is a link that says “What’s this?” The prospect can click to read more and learn about why they might or might not need this option.
Self-service is the future
All the tools and examples we shared here are from an award-winning inbound marketing framework we teach our clients called They Ask, You Answer. Here at IMPACT, it is our sole mission to help businesses like yours thrive with all aspects of their inbound marketing journey, including setting up your website to be the most powerful sales tool it can be.
Hundreds of our IMPACT clients have used self-service tools to help their sales teams realize incredible results using the They Ask, You Answer framework, and you can too.
To take the first step toward implementing They Ask, You Answer in your business and see incredible sales results in your company, check out these helpful resources: