When talking about self-service, most think of a help center or a knowledge base designed to address some of the customer’s questions and issues that otherwise would be handled by customer service and support teams. However, this is not nearly the full scope of all that self-service can be. And while companies focus a lot of time and resources into creating a successful help-center to streamline their reactive measures, they lose sight of all the proactive measures they can also be taking. Self-service is not just focused on solving customer’s post-purchase issues. The successful self-service program enables customers at every step of their journey with the company—from product selection and purchasing to getting started and post-purchase education and support.
A well-designed help center is a foundation for great self-service. A help center usually contains ample content about your products and services, detailed information on how to set up, install, operate, and use products, and walks customers through some of the troubleshooting techniques. When there is a lot of great help content, customers who are familiar with it will naturally gravitate to check with the help center before contacting your support team. After all, it is a more convenient and faster way to get their answers.
So you might have poured hundreds of hours into great self-help content hoping to realize its benefits, but somehow your service teams are still getting thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of cold support calls every month. Out of the blue customers are seeking help with questions and issues that they could resolve on their own if only they checked with help the center. See, the problem is that the “if you build it they will come” type of mindset does not always work.
A few challenges to only offering self-help via the help center:
Another reason providing a help center as the only option for self-help might hold your company back is the fact that customers are expecting more now. Leading companies are moving away from this technique, utilizing more integrated self-help (which we will get to next) and it’s raising your users’ expectations.
Companies who have self-help throughout their sites and applications have set a high standard, and if your company can’t match it, customers may choose the competition for an easier and more convenient experience.
So we truly believe that building out a customer help center is an excellent starting point and a worthwhile investment, but you don’t have to stop there.
So what’s the other option? How can you move beyond the stand-alone help center toward a better self-help experience for your customer overall? The answer is integrating self-help throughout all of your site pages and applications. Think outside the standard help center, knowledgebase, guides, or articles and embed valuable experiences anywhere on the site, allowing self-help to be available during all aspects of the customer journey, before the product is even purchased. Meet your customer where they already are.
This can be done in a multitude of ways:
Apple is a prime example of integrating help throughout the website and all of their applications. All of their devices have ample pre-purchase resources, including use cases for specific features, additional resources surrounding common topics (like saving money or device upgrades), community and educational resources, compatibility functions, and searchable FAQs. And throughout their site, they consistently provide easy access to tailored self-help options.
Now, let’s say you are searching for something specific and don’t want to scroll through the endless content Apple is providing. They also offer an integrated search tool that uses smart features like suggested searches and quick links that pull information from all different resources across their site.
And, if you’re looking for some quick answers or just want to discover new features and educational material on your device, they offer the mobile app just for your self-help needs! It is also tailored to your exact device and includes ample articles, integrated search, and common topics.
While help centers are extremely valuable and relevant, it is time to start integrating that helpful content instead of isolating it. This is an important shift for the future scalability of your company. Self-service can only succeed if it is available where your customers want it. To learn more ways to help your self-service succeed, read about designing integrated search tools, building website navigation, and some best design practices. If you enjoyed the Apple example, find more inspiration in these 15 examples of powerful self-service.
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