Who knew that the ‘hands off’ approach could be so challenging?
Customers are increasingly demanding self-service customer support options. In fact, they now overwhelmingly prefer it to traditional direct channels like phone or email. For businesses that want to compete, this means providing a knowledge base and a self-support forum that’s easy to access and solves problems quickly, completely and effortlessly. The way you share product knowledge with your communities varies greatly from business to business and is determined largely by your self-service support strategy.
Building a great knowledge base that helps answer customer questions is not easy. There are a lot of moving parts that need to fit together perfectly. And anticipating every problem a customer might have is a lot more difficult than answering the ones they call you about.
Adding to the stress is the reality that the stakes are high –the only thing worse than not having a knowledge base is a poorly planned one. With that in mind, here’s what you must know about building something that will exceed expectations.
Focus on Journeys, not Problems
Customer support (CS) teams often begin work on a resource center by thinking about ‘problems’ that a customer may have. This approach has its heart in the right place but is deeply flawed; there is simply no way to effectively conceive of every problem that may arise.
A comprehensive knowledge base and support forum must begin with a complete understanding of the customers it’s designed to help. Start by mapping out every customer journey and identifying the reasons a customer may go elsewhere for answers. Break it down by stages of the sales funnel, demographics or location — anything that is a unique customer profile for your company.
This focus will not only uncover related problems but also ground them in root causes, making it easier to identify and articulate solutions.
An added benefit of this approach is that it eliminates all the guesswork. You can research past and present support tickets, customer satisfaction surveys and social media or forum chatter to make your list as expansive and current as possible.
Consider the User Experience
As we always say, Google is the second support tool that a customer uses. If it can’t be found on your website, your customer will look for it elsewhere. In contrast, a customer who is unable to determine if the answer to their question is even in the knowledge base at all is unlikely to be a customer for very long.
That said, comprehensive information is only one half of an effective resource center. The other part of the equation is ensuring it’s easy to find information.
Effective navigation like menus and subheads only just scrape the surface of what is needed. Think critically about how your support library,, your support forum and knowledge base links together. What are the likely paths through the system? If a customer has one problem, what others are they likely to face? Are your search options optimized?
Abandon the idea that the resource center must be a ‘wall of text’. Make the experience of searching for the information just as rewarding as finding it. An alternative is to provide suggested resources or discussion topics (with the help of your Community Manager) that make it easy for your customer to explore your website much more deeply. This not only helps deflect support tickets, it increases the chance for customers to be more engaged with your brand.
Customer Behavior Determines Your Strategic Actions
Integrating all self-serve support optionsmay not require the customer to interact with individual CS agents, but that doesn’t mean CS teams shouldn’t be analyzing customer behaviors.
CS department heads must have their dashboards that will give them the necessary tools to measure the effectiveness of their knowledge base, support forums and resource libraries.
Reviewing metrics such as the number of views on each piece of knowledge base content, forum discussions, the number of repeat users to the support resources or how long it has been since content pieces were updated. Once this data is generated, it can be analyzed and shared across teams.
No serious company in today’s business environment lets anything operate without collecting the necessary data to show that it’s providing ROI value. Your support process should be no different.
So what’s the secret?
In the end, it’s all about the customer. CS teams that focus on understanding what their customers’ needs are, simplify access to resources that they need and in a timely manner, while measuring effectiveness will win the game.
Your customers expect to find the information they need on their own and even to engage with their peers in your support community. When customers can find easy, accessible self-service options, they can solve basic problems quickly, and that leads to increased satisfaction.These interactions can drive loyalty, add to your support team’s learning, and help in feature improvements.