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The WOW Guide to Self-Service Support

Customer self-service is on the rise - customers want it and support teams need it. If you are a fast-growing company, can you afford to not take customer self-service support seriously?

The Rise of Self-Service Support

In today’s world of speed, immediate solutions and interconnectivity, customers expect their questions to be resolved in a matter of hours. Fast-growing companies are feeling the brunt of these expectations as they try and meet the demand of their rapidly growing customer base with limited personnel. But there is a way to reduce incoming cases while keeping the customers happy: online self-service support.

Customers want to help themselves. They are more technically savvy with a shorter patience for customer support and have come to prefer solving their issues and answering their own questions. In fact, according to Forrester Research, 72% of customers prefer self-service to resolve their support issues over picking up the phone or sending an email.

The purpose of this WOW Guide is to help you and your organization get started with knowledge base content, cut down incoming customer interactions and provide amazing customer service through an engaging online support center.

We hope you walk away with the following insights:

  • If self-service support is right for your company
  • Steps on getting started with knowledge base content and how to keep it fresh and relevant
  • How to drive traffic to your online support center and keep it thriving
  • How to measure the success of a support center and ROI of self-service

A Look at the Customer’s Expectations In Today’s World

Customer service has dramatically changed in the last decade. Customers are no longer accepting the long waits on a support phone line or the snail mail responses. They want fast, personalized experiences otherwise they are taking their business elsewhere.

Below is a series of facts and figures that set a benchmark for customer expectations in today’s world:

  • 72% of customers prefer self-service to resolve their support issues over picking up the phone or sending an email
  • A self-service interaction costs 10 cents or less to a company
  • 41% of consumers expect an email response from customer support within 6 hours
  • 30% of consumers that tweet a customer service questions expect a response within 30 minutes

Should I Provide Self-Service Support?

Self-service is not only evolving as a cost effective customer service channel, it is also demanded by customers.

You can only imagine the stress of meeting these expectations with limited personnel and a rapidly-growing customer base. That is why fast-growing companies are investing in online support centers as they realize the cost benefit as well as the agent efficiency.

Self-service technologies offer benefits to customers and companies alike. Companies gain by providing a cost-effective alternative to live agent support and customers can solve problems on their own time.

Case deflection is also a major benefit of a successful online support center as customers can resolve their own questions before ever contacting support. As a result, repetitive customer questions are kept from ever reaching email or the phone lines - allowing agents to focus on more pressing matters.

Some Questions To Consider

What are the signs that your company needs self-service support? Here are some questions to consider when deciding on the support team’s future:

  • Your customer base is outgrowing your support team and you need a way to drive down case volume
  • Support agents are growing weary of repetitive questions from customers (ie. “I forgot my password,” “Do you ship to Maine?”)
  • Customers have asked for a way to answer their own questions rather than go to the trouble of contacting your support team
  • Your support team needs a more cost-effective way of serving the customer
  • You want to encourage relationships and engagement amongst your customers and employees - namely through a community

Cost Effective?

A support center that is well-built and maintained by a company as well as highly utilized by customers has the potential to be a huge cost-saver for support teams.

The table below is a study from Forrester that represents approximate costs of specific customer service channels per customer contact. A self-service contact from a customer is easily the most cost-efficient. To put this into a better perspective, the cost of 25 self-service contacts equals about one email contact from an agent.

Customer Service Channel Cost Per Contact
Call center support $12 and higher
Call center CSR $6 and higher
Web chat or callback $5 and higher
Email response $2.50 to $5 and higher
Web self-service $0.10 or less

How the Heroes do it: Ticketleap

Enter TicketLeap, a self-service online ticketing platform for event organizers to manage the ticketing process. Since launching in 2003, their goal has been to give event planners an easy-to-use, do-it-yourself ticketing system that also makes it a breeze for event attendees to get their tickets.

Keeping Customer Support DIY

Before Ticketleap added the Support Center with Desk.com agents spent 80% of their day on the phone helping one customer at a time. “We selected Desk.com specifically for its ability to easily build a knowledge base,” says former TicketLeap CTO Keith Fitzgerald. Today agents spend 20% of their time on the phone with complicated cases and 80% on email leveraging articles from the knowledge base.

Tips for Creating a Top-Notch Online Support Center

So how did TicketLeap turn the support center into such a useful and powerful tool? “Our knowledge base is regularly updated every two to three weeks,” says Allison Berger, TicketLeap community manager. The articles she creates are immediately available for agents and customers searching the support center.

"As a community manager, I honestly can’t imagine working for a company that doesn’t use Desk.com. It really is a great way to organize all the questions that come in — it makes it easy to really help people.” - Allison Berger, Community Manager, TicketLeap

Her tips for keeping the knowledge base in shape:

  1. After each product update, check related articles to ensure content is still relevant.
  2. If a customer asks a question and a topic doesn’t exist yet, create it. “I click ‘new article’ and I start typing,” she says.
  3. Break content into sections. TicketLeap has a section for ticket buyers, sellers, as well as for iOS and the platform
  4. Add images and use the html code — “Make things look pretty,” she advises.

Getting Started With Knowledge Base Content

A knowledge base is the most critical part of your online support center. Everyone that has experience in customer service understands that creating knowledge base content is a daunting task. Endless Excel docs, ongoing interviews and especially hours upon hours of research and documentation.

To begin, you need to decide what topics you need for your knowledge base. Start with these tips:

  • Write down common questions or issues customers are having
  • Decide if there is any material you wish your customers knew more about
  • Come up with frequently asked questions for a possible FAQ section

Next, consider the content you will write about within those topics. Consider the following ways to build your content:

Ask Your Support Agents and Customers

As always, a good best practice is to go straight to the source and ask support agents and customers what kind of content is needed for your online support center.

Label and Organize Cases Into Categories

Whether you are using Gmail or a customer service solution, make sure you are labeling and categorizing cases so that you can track their volume. From there, you can identify what topics to focus most of your content on. (ie. if your company receives a high volume of cases marked with a “shipping question” label, consider writing content about shipping information.

Review Popular Macros

If you are using Desk.com’s macros, or pre-canned responses, to answer common questions, take a look at which ones are most commonly used. If you can effectively use these macros to produce knowledge base content, you may not need to use them as much in the future!

Easily Monitor Using Desk.com’s Labels Report

Using Desk.com’s Label Reports, support managers can easily track the volume of cases tagged with specific labels.

For example, let’s say a support manager is beginning to create their knowledge base and wants an understand of cases tagged with specific labels. He/she can log into Desk.com’s Business Insights and pull a Labels Report that provides key insights of each label including: what the volume is, what the average handle time is per label and how many touches it takes to resolve a case.

Labels that typically have a larger volume or require more touches to resolve probably require some form of knowledge base content.

Maintaining Fresh, Relevant Content

Getting started with content is 50% of a self-service support strategy. The other 50% is maintaining the knowledge base content so that it is fresh and constantly relevant to your customers’ needs. If you loosen the reins and forget to update your content, customers satisfaction will immediately go down and it is much more difficult to catch up than to constantly maintain.

Below are a couple of methods to always have fresh and relevant knowledge base articles.

Keep it Simple and Press On

Building an online support center is a daunting and rather arduous task - most notably, writing articles for your knowledge base. The hardest part is getting started. What are customers looking for? Am I making sense? The questions are endless. You will initially want to provide as much information as possible in each article. But this can be time consuming and might also confuse the user. The key is to be simple and create articles that are painless and easy to understand.

Identifying New Content

Once you create the basic knowledge base articles, count on more to follow in time. A great practice is to empower your agents to recommend new support cases. When similar cases pile up, agents can “flag” the tickets as a candidate for creating a support center article. At the end of each week or month, take a look at all of the candidates and decide if any additional content needs to be added to your knowledge base. Once you implement this practice, you may notice a drop in repetitive questions and increase in agent efficiency.

Add an Expiration Date

One the easiest and most effective tips is to put an expiration date on knowledge base content. Product features change as well as interfaces - it’s easy to forget to go back and refresh articles. However, once a date is on the calendar, teams are most likely to uphold a content refresh initiative.

Easily Identify New Content with Desk.com’s Labels

By constantly evaluating new pieces of content for your knowledge base, you can further help better serve the customer and cut down on tickets.

At Desk.com, we empower agents to flag self-service content candidates using our “labels” feature. When a Customer WOW agent experiences multiple customer inquiries with the same question, they label them as “Support Center Candidate” where the ticket is then evaluated as a possible new piece of content.

Keep the Customer’s Journey in Mind

Keep in mind that user experience is incredibly important. You may do a great job of getting people onto your site but if you don’t provide a great experience, they won’t stay long and probably won’t return.

It is extremely important to provide easy navigation and escalation paths so that a customer is satisfied and will continue returning.

Use the above flow as an example of a typical journey from a customer. What you may notice is that customers have the potential to exit the self-service experience at multiple points in their journey. As you design the layout of your support center, keep this customer flow in mind to design a center that could prevent a customer from exiting prior to finding a solution. Specifically, there are three potential exit points during the customer journey:

A: No results are found and the user exits B: The article isn’t relevant and the user gives up and exits C: The article is not relevant so the user starts from the beginning

Make the Search Bar Your First Priority

Always keep Search front and center, easy to find and easy to use. 63% of customers are frustrated with the search bar within a support center.

A few clicks into the process, customers typically become frustrated, seek assisted service, or give up altogether. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, after 2-3 self-service attempt failures, customers will not try again.

To make self-service even more effective, optimize your search bar to have an automated guidance system that enables visitors to enter questions and then takes them to a specific response - all without forcing them to scan an entire database for the answer they need. This creates a simple and better self-service experience for the user.

How the Heroes do it: SoundCloud

SoundCloud, is the leading audio platform that gives users unprecedented access to the world’s largest community of music and audio creators. Desk.com enabled SoundCloud to manage a substantial increase in customer engagement after the public launch of their platform in 2010. In 2013 SoundCloud matched a 110% increase in active users with a 56% increase in support agents, which today enables the company to efficiently handle tens of thousands of support cases each month.

Cut Down Case Volumes By Letting Customers Serve Themselves

To better manage and reduce the growing volume of customer inquiries, SoundCloud needed a customer service solution that provided robust self-help features, like Desk.com’s self-service features.

How to Create Fresh, Engaging Content

SoundCloud looks very closely at their knowledge base content, most notably, what is featured on the front of their Online Support Center as well as article ratings. They monitor low-performing articles on a regular basis but try to refresh nearly all of them - no matter the rating - about once a quarter. This way, they try to have a fresh perspective with empathy to a new user who would be looking at the content for the first time.

“Moving to Desk was like moving from a horse and carriage to a ‘Back to the Future’ DeLorean.”

-David Noël, VP of Community, SoundCloud

What Are the Results SoundCloud Is Seeing from an Engaging Support Center?

In 2013, SoundCloud reduced the escalation rate from the Help Center from 3.16% to 1.49% (i.e. a reduction of 53%). SoundCloud constantly monitors and refines knowledge base content to keep it fresh and inviting – serving up a balance of information helpful to new users and seasoned veterans alike.

Custom Branding Best Practices

The home page of your online support center is like the cover of a book. If you want customers to utilize your site, they must be presented with a layout that is easy to use and fully branded. Consider the following points below to help you get started with the design of your online support center:

Design Around Your Website

Design your online support center to match your current website. It should look and feel like a continuation of your website so that your customers have a consistent online experience.

Go to the Source

When designing an online support center, ask your customers what they would like to see. Adoption rates tend to be higher when the layout is predominately by users. After creating a beta version of your center, ask customer to test it and apply the feedback to make it even better.

Get Ideas from Other Companies

This may include competitors, companies in your industry or simply other businesses that you admire.

Focus on Simplicity

If your site is designed properly to truly helps the customer, it will go unused. To avoid this mistake, focus on a layout that is simple and intuitive.

The following online support centers are straightforward, easy-to-use, and powerful:

Try Multi-Brand from Desk.com

With the Desk.com Multi-Brand Support Centers you can simplify your customers’ self-service experience by creating separate, customized support centers for each of your unique brands. Desk.com makes it easy to divide and manage content between your various brands, allowing you to stay organized and easily provide your customers the most relevant information.

Let’s say your company creates and distributes video games. With Multi-Brand from Desk.com, rather than create a massive support center with all of your video games in it, you can easily create a separate sites for each individual video game, making it simple for your customers to find the information they’re looking for.

Drive Traffic To Your Online Support Center

Online Support Centers are worthless if nobody is using them - that’s why you need to focus on driving traffic to your site. Not only that, if you’re not focusing on driving traffic to it, chances are you’re probably not thinking about self-service much to begin with. Once you have selected your customer support solution, created your content, it’s time to start driving customer there.

The best way to increase awareness and drive traffic to your knowledge base and/or community is to link to them everywhere you can - especially where your customers are. Use links within the product or application that point to self-help choices, and keep that information current

As your support agents answer tickets and interact with customers each day, they can be a huge help when driving traffic to your online support center. Most notably by linking knowledge base content to the cases that they solve. This will make customers aware that the content exists and train them to look there first next time before logging a case.

Here are some simple pointers that can help drive traffic:

Respond to Tickets with a Link to an Article

Don’t just simply respond to a case with the correct answer - add a link for further explanation. Remember the saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime!”

Add Knowledge Base Articles To Blog Posts

Allow prospects or customers to find your online support cetner throughs ome of the marketing content that you build. That way, you can combine throught leadership with product information!

Link Auto-Response Support Email Back to Online Support Center

Present a customer the option of serving themselves before moving forward with the support case, consider attaching a link to your site. Present customers with the option of serving themselves before moving forward with the support case.

Not only do customers want their issues resolved in the shortest amount of time, they also want them resolved on the go. Consumers are increasingly seeking self-serve customer service content such as knowledge base article and forums using their mobile devices. In fact, 50% of smartphone users would prefer to use a mobile customer service app to try to resolve their customer service issue before calling a contact center.

Mobile self-service support offers organizations a revolutionary opportunity to provide self-service experiences of higher quality in the wake of a less lenient and more demanding customer base. Through this form of support, companies will reduce inbound ticket volumes, unified support channels and reduced waiting times - all while serving one of the largest growing audiences: mobile customers.

What Metrics to Measure

Measuring self-service can often be difficult if you don’t know where to start or you don’t map out your metrics from the start. Like social marketing efforts, if you put together a self-service strategy without laying out success milestones or concrete metrics, your ROI case will be very difficult to prove. Below are some key metrics for measuring ROI and the success of your self-service efforts:

Percentage of Returning Visitors to Your Support Pages

As you may notice from the professionals, Google Analytics is a huge success factor. Dive into your Google Analytics and evaluate your new versus returning visitors. The more returning visitors the better - this indicates that your customers are returning to your support center for information.

Percentage of Visits from 3rd Party Search to the Online Support Site

Percentage of Visits from 3rd Party Search to the Online Support Site

The percentage of visits from 3rd party searches represents the visits that originate from search engines like Google or Bing as questions, and end up on your support center or a knowledge base article. An example would be a customer in Google searching,“How do I reset my Pandora password?” and they land on Pandora’s support center. Bets-in-class companies deploy SEO tactics when developing content to generate more traffic and a better customer experience.

Percentage of Positive Knowledge Base Responses from Customers

This metric refers to the percentage of customers that positively responded to the question of “Did you Find this Answer Helpful?” on a knowledge base article. This is a great way to gather a general consensus of how your customers feel about your content.

Use Desk.com’s Knowledge Base Rating System

Collect feedback on your knowledge base articles by allowing customers to rate the quality of them. With Desk.com, you can easily implement a rating system into your knowledge base articles. This means that customers can rate their satisfaction with the content.

By allowing customers to rate your help desk knowledge base content, your agents will know which articles are truly helpful and which of them need to be revised.

The rating system is also a great way to help identify which content needs a refresh. Customer service specialist, Greg Meyer, suggest: “Identify the top 10 highest rated and lowest rated knowledge base articles that your customers use, and rewrite them on a content calendar.”

Self-Service: The Essential for Fast-Growing Companies

According to Forrester Research, we are now in the “Age of the Customer.” Self-service support is no longer considered an advantage but a pinnacle factor in the success of a company. Today, customers are connected to more options than ever before. Being the customer’s first and remaining choice is a critical competitive advantage - and competition is fiercer than ever. To win, companies must be laser-focused on understanding their customer base and engaging with them better than anyone else.

Enabling the essential self-service support is not an easy deployment. It requires a time, money and structural changes that many fast-growing companies can not sacrifice. Meanwhile, many companies that have made the change are reaping the benefits of better customer satisfaction, smaller ticket volumes and increased revenue. Furthermore, they have in turn become more agile, performance-oriented and customer-focused.

Unfortunately, support centers are only as effective as they are designed and utilized by customers. The layout and design of a support center is crucial as customers are increasingly losing their patience and falling off at the slightest obstacles. Content is equally important as stale or confusing content can lead to customer frustrations and ultimately, loss in business. Companies must stress the importance of design and content to get the full benefits of self-service technologies.

Unfortunately, support centers are only as effective as they are designed and utilized by customers. The layout and design of a support center is crucial as customers are increasingly losing their patience and falling off at the slightest obstacles. Content is equally important as stale or confusing content can lead to customer frustrations and ultimately, loss in business. Companies must stress the importance of design and content to get the full benefits of self-service technologies.

As customer expectations continue to rise, self-service is no longer a “nice-to-have” or a “maybe” for companies on the rise. Rather, self-service technologies play an increasingly crucial role in the retention of customers and encouragement of further growth. By measuring ROI and the success of your self-service strategy, fast-growing companies will easily notice the success of their customers.

Self-Service Glossary

Self-Service

Self-service is the act of a customer resolving his or her question using product information provided by the company.

Self-Service Support

Self-service support is an organization’s efforts to supply their customer base with accurate product information in hopes that they can resolve their own questions. Self-service support tools may range from a Support Center, FAQ, instructional guides or step-by-step videos.

Online Support Center

An online support center is a self-service portal for customers to seek a knowledge base of instructional articles, FAQs, how-to videos and more. They typically contain product or service information to which allows customers to actively resolve their own questions. An Online Support Center may also be referred to as “Help Center” or “Customer Portal.”

Knowledge Base

A knowledge base is an entity within an online support center. The content of a Knowledge Base is unchanging information presented in a logical order and is written in an manner determined by the organization, rather than the user

FAQ

FAQ or “Frequently Asked Questions” are predominately found in an online support center. An FAQ is a perfect format for customers that typically have the same problems.

Community or Forum

The basic structure of a community or forum is a set of discussions written and promoted by the users or consumers. They encourage product usage as well as provide users have the opportunity to collaborate with one another and many times great product feedback is given.

Tickets or Cases

A ticket or case is an incoming inquiry from a customer.

Agents

Agents are a businesses’s team members that receive and resolve tickets or customer inquiries. They are an essential component of a customer support strategy as they are the individuals that serve the customer day in and day out.

 

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