How to Build Amazing Self-Service Support That’s a Win for Everyone


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Today’s hyperconnected, on-the-go customers expect fast answers to their questions anytime day or night. For growing businesses, a self-service support center is often the ideal way to meet the challenge. Self-service gives customers quick, convenient answers to their most common queries. At the same time, it provides small businesses with a huge opportunity to make a bigtime impression with their brand.

Well-designed self-service delivers an invaluable brand boost by giving users the comfortable feeling that customers come first. It makes it clear that you understand your customers’ problems and are dedicated to fixing them right away. It provides a platform to demonstrate your product expertise and establish your business as a leader in your space. And you earn loyalty and advocacy from your customers by proving you’re just as hip and mobile as they are.

Here are the three critical steps to developing amazing customer self-service that everybody loves:

Create the right content

Great self-service content provides the answers your customers actually want and need. To make sure you’re addressing all the right issues, track the cases coming in through phone, email and other channels, and flag the ones that can be addressed through self-help content. You should also use a site search solution that lets you analyze what users search for when they’re on your website.

Next, decide the best way to provide the answer for each individual problem. Questions that are asked most frequently are by definition the ideal candidates for your FAQ section. Answers that require complex or lengthy answers can be addressed in articles or documentation. Solutions that are more easily shown than told are perfect subject matter for videos.

As a growing company, another resource you can’t afford to overlook is a customer community. Customers seeking opinions or experience-based input will often get the most useful answers from a community of their peers. By empowering that community, you not only create a better service experience, you also increase engagement, amplify social media buzz, and create more durable customer relationships.

Keep in mind that an effective support center is always a work in progress. You need to continuously monitor your site searches to fill in any gaps in subject matter. Enable users to rate your individual pieces of content so you know if they’re actually useful. Set scheduled review dates to ensure all content remains current and complete. And when you release new products or features, you should always make self-service support content one of the required deliverables.

Put self-service front and center

It takes a lot of hard work to build an awesome support site, so you want as many customers as possible to use it. To get the word out, add a self-service call-to-action anyplace customers might go looking for help. This is especially important if your support site is new and your customers are accustomed to going through other support channels.

The first place customers go when they have a problem is your website. So place a support link on every page, either in your top navigation or somewhere else just as obvious. You should also include self-service information in or on your products themselves – if your product is used on a computer, then embed a direct link. And, if you have a customer support app, employ a case-deflection feature that gives users the option to go directly to help content suggested by the key terms they typed or selected.

For customers searching on their own, it’s critical that your content is crawlable so it shows up in Google searches. For customers already on your support site, have your own search bar so they can directly explore all your support materials. Title, tag and categorize all your content carefully so anyone browsing or searching can efficiently find the most relevant results. And for your customers who just can’t find the answer they need, always make it obvious how they can contact support through email, chat, phone or any other channels you have available.

Optimize for all devices

Your support center is all about creating the very best experience for your customers, so get their input before you begin. Find out what device or devices most customers will use for self-service, then design for that channel first.

Don’t be surprised if your customer research tells you that “mobile first” is the way to go. As our phones get smarter, more and more people use them to manage both their personal and business lives. Nearly 80% of U.S. adults now own a smartphone, and 50% say they would prefer to use a mobile service app before they resort to calling customer service. If your product or service includes a mobile experience, then directly integrate your support there as well.

To ensure that you don’t give any customer a sub-par experience, build your support site using responsive design. That way the interface will resize and rearrange its components to provide the optimal experience on every screen.

A comprehensive and efficient self-service center shows customers that you respect their time and value their business even after the sale. It helps your business operate more smoothly and grow faster. But, best of all, it makes people want to use your products and services – and that’s how you win customers for life.

Marie Rosecrans
As senior vice president of SMB marketing at Salesforce, Marie Rosecrans focuses on empowering small and medium businesses with the tools and resources they need to grow. Before joining Salesforce in 2008, she held positions in customer support, professional services, product marketing, and program management at Oracle, Peoplesoft, Evolve, and Primavera. Marie lives in the San Francisco Bay area and enjoys hiking and traveling with her husband, teen, and tween.


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