How to Create Solid Self-Help Options for Customers

woman on phone

By 2020, 85% of the customer relationship will be managed without ever speaking to a person. Why is that? Well, it’s at least in part due to the fact that businesses are recognizing how much their customers hate dealing with customer service. In fact, 1/3 of people would rather scrub a toilet than talk on the phone to an agent. While that means agents need to be available on other channels, like live chat, email, and social media, it also suggests customers are interested in self-help options that allow them to solve their problems without dealing without customer service at all.

And why should your company embrace it? Customers who can help themselves 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year will reduce the load on your customer support team, which helps bring down your overall costs. While a service phone call costs about $33, an email dealing with the same issue costs you about $10. Great savings, right? But when a customer helps themselves? The cost to you is about $1.

But, customers can’t help themselves unless you give them everything they need to do it, and make it easy for them to find and understand. You do this by creating a series of self-help options, in a variety of formats.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Adding a FAQ page can save you time and money, when it’s properly written and organized. When your site visitors can read it and get the answers to their questions, they’re not bugging you about getting a solution, which frees up more of your time to focus on other aspects of your business.

If you’re dealing with a brand new product or service, start with the questions you think will be most common among your customers. It does not have to be an extensive effort at first, because you can adjust – adding, removing, and changing questions and answers as you see patterns from your customers, and make improvements to your offerings.

If you’ve been in business a while, you no doubt have a fairly decent idea of the most common issues that customers are asking about. Use that information to develop your initial round of FAQs and answers, or if you already have a dedicated page on your website, review the content for accuracy. Add more questions if necessary. Edit questions and answers for clarity when possible.

Watch and see how customer service requests are changing. If people stop asking those questions, then your FAQ page is doing a good job. But just because they’ve stopped asking those questions doesn’t mean they won’t have more. Keep track of all the questions they’re asking. And if you’ve got the answer somewhere else on your website – in a video, in technical documentation, in the manual, and so on – use the FAQ space to point them to the resource where they will find the most comprehensive solution.

Include a disclaimer in your FAQ, to show that as far as you know, the information presented in the FAQ is accurate, or was at the time of the posting, but that you won’t be held liable for any inconvenience as as result of following the instructions or using the information. Consult with an an attorney for more information, because surprise – here’s my disclaimer – I’m not a lawyer and can’t give you official legal advice.

 

Community Forums

While this isn’t necessarily an option for all niches, if you’ve considered including a community forum on your website, dedicate a section of it to help and support. This way, other users can help each other out, and you can keep a close eye on the common issues. This allows you to make improvements to your documentation, knowledgebase, and FAQs.

Community forums are a common occurrence in the tech, and web design and development niches, especially. Look at WordPress.org, Theme.co, and Dell for examples of robust and active community support forums.

To boost activity in the forum, you’ll want to spend time there yourself – especially in the beginning. Your users need to feel like they get something valuable for spending their time in your community. Until you get top contributors, and gain enough traction to bring on moderators, you must be present to answer questions, or you’ll lose the community before you even build it. You can’t scale this approach effectively, but it’s a necessary part of boostrapping.

Leave part of the community dedicated to chit-chat – so users can get to know one another without clogging the support threads.

When you find highly dedicated users in your community, promote them to special positions, like moderators, so you can reward their behavior and loyalty with community recognition.

 

Knowledgebase

A knowledgebase, or collection of support and help articles, needs to contain a lot of information. But, before you start writing content for it, you must first understand what your customers need from you. Think about the questions they’re most frequently asking, and where there are issues your customers can take care of themselves without needing help from one of your customer support agents. Then, place a priority on these topics over others.

Instead of writing a bunch of articles aimed at solving customer issues and manually attempting to organize them in the most logical manner, it’s best for you to use some kind of knowledgebase software solution on your website to handle that for you. Many platforms will allow you to create articles right from your help desk’s support ticket, with the help of other assets you’ve created, like technical guides and documentation, instruction manuals, and demonstration videos.

Some common knowledgebase/help center solutions include:

You’ll need to decide what to document, and then work to create that documentation. It’s going to take a tremendous amount of time and effort to get the documentation perfected, but this one-time major effort will build a solid foundation for efficiency with customers and staff over the overall course of business operations.   

      

Videos

Videos can help demonstrate exactly how to do something, which is highly helpful when people are looking to solve a problem. If you can’t afford to hire a professional to film it for you, at least make sure you’re using professional quality recording and sound equipment. You can get away with using a DSLR on a tripod, if you have proper lighting, and can ensure the video looks professional. You may be able to pull off a smartphone video for your friends, but your brand image is at stake here.

Keep the message clear and simple. If you’re explaining a complex or lengthy process, break it down into multiple videos. You can create a playlist or otherwise link the videos together to keep everyone on the right track. It’s much easier to keep a person’s attention through multiple short videos than it is through one long one.

Start your support video with a script. Writing out your script ahead of time will ensure you explain the process clearly and concisely, without skipping over anything that you need to cover.

If you’re recording a screencast, rather than a physical demonstration, then it’s a good idea to record your voice over before you shoot the screencast. It will make it easier to follow your audio cues.

When you record the voiceover, split the script into manageable chunks to make it easier to move through the recording session and keep track of your time along the way. Before recording the screencast, listen to it a few times, so you can learn the timing of the steps.

Don’t neglect your SEO. Adding keywords in the title and description, along with uploading a transcript can help users find you from your videos.

And, don’t forget branding. Though you’ll embed these videos on your website, a little branding never hurts.

 

Manuals

Manuals can be fairly complex, so it’s important to invest the appropriate amount of time into getting them right. First, you’ll need to create the appropriate user documentation, which means going back to make sure you’ve decided everything you need to document, and made a plan for how and when to get it done.

Before you can write a user manual, you need a clear picture of who the user is, and where users will be when they are using the guide. This helps determine the content and the style of the manual. You’ll also need to consider how much experience they have with the product and others like it.

Write the content in a manner your users will understand. If they’re not a highly technical audience, then it’s obvious you should skip the highly technical industry jargon.

Make sure you have a place to reference any related documents… such as a “How to Use This Guide” in the preface. If your manual is longer than 10 pages, include a table of contents so it’s easier for people to find the information they are looking for. Use appropriate graphics to support your points and instructions as needed throughout the manual.

Pay attention to layout and typography for easy reading.

 

Tutorials

You can do tutorials in several formats – blog posts, videos, and even an eBook with a series of tutorials. When you write tutorials, include screenshots where appropriate so your readers can make sure they are in the right place.

Just like with your videos, you want to define the topic and scope so you don’t try to do too much at once. You can always create additional tutorials and link them together.

Tutorials can be used for everything from how to install your product or service, to how to use certain features. Think about Adobe’s Creative Suite. There are countless things you can do with these programs, and the learning curve is quite steep. Not only are there countless books published on each of the programs, there are a number of independent websites dedicated to tutorials. And of course, Adobe does their own right. You can search their tutorial library to find what you’re looking for, and you can sort them by beginner or experienced. Learn how to do everything from finding and buying stock photos with Adobe Stock, to retouch photos and more.

 

Self-Help Should Never Be the Only Option

No matter how comprehensive your self-service options are, customers should always have the choice to escalate their issue to a customer service agent. If they can’t find the answer to their problems, but they still can’t get the help they need from your website, they should have the option to go elsewhere. Whether they want to start with an email, go to social media, or make a telephone call is up to them, but the option has to be there. If it’s not, you’ll just frustrate your customers and potentially send them running to the competition. It’s never safe to assume that you’ve covered every possible question or issue that a customer could run into while using your product or service – so always leave another door open for them.

What kinds of self-service options do you have in place for your customers?

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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