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Where do customers go when they need help from a company? These days, more often than not, they either go directly to the company’s online help center, or they go to Google to search for an answer… which will likely lead them to the help center (assuming it has been set up). In fact, customers have become increasingly averse to direct contact methods like phone and email to ask questions, preferring instead to first look for answers themselves- in a recent survey, 91% of customers said they would use a company’s online knowledge base to meet their customer service needs.

Salesforce self service infographic
Source: SalesForce

Organizations recognize this, and seek to avoid unnecessary support issues by building a comprehensive help center. The advantage of running an online help center packed with tutorials and informative articles, is that it both provides an additional service to your customer base, as well as allowing your team to focus on more complex tasks.

Access to a help center is essential, and organizations spend a huge amount of time and resources building them out, often using software like Zendesk, yet customers often find these experiences frustrating in practice, and have difficulty finding articles that are relevant to the exact issue they are facing. Since 89% of businesses are soon expected to compete mainly on customer experience, this is a major problem.

Building a better self-service experience

Ideally, a help center equips your customers with valuable information that they can use to answer their own customer service and support questions. A study by Accenture found that 89% of customers get frustrated because they need to repeat their issues to multiple customer service representatives- and frustration often leads to churn. But the ability to self-service from a robust help center can significantly reduce that risk if done right.

Consider a help center as your first line of defense against annoyed customers and time-consuming support tickets. Without it, your customers will be lost looking for immediate answers as they stay busy filling your inboxes with pressing questions. On the other hand, a fully-loaded help center can effectively maintain a line of communication with your customers through articles and videos that speak directly to their support issues. If they can find them.

The problem with help centers, especially for large companies or complex products, is not the amount of content available, but the ability to rapidly parse through that content to find relevant answers. It’s not that the answers to most queries don’t exist on the site- it’s that people can’t find them.

Which brings us to our best tips for optimizing your help center…

The best (and easiest) way you can improve overall customer satisfaction via your help center, is to install a robust site search and analytics solution on it. The aim of this initiative is two-fold: to guide customers to the most relevant content for each of their queries, as well as to deliver insightful analytics on user behavior to the marketing team.

These two goals are inextricably linked. You want to ensure that the answers to questions from your customer base are both easily accessible, as well as adequately addressed. To meet those goals, the key is to pay attention to community analytics.

The first step to properly implementing a search tool for your help center is to prioritize your articles to be easily found through a page ranking feature. Page ranking is a search feature that lets you prioritize the most relevant content in your search results. Certain keywords will populate specific pages, articles, or training videos that pertain to an individual’s query. This allows you to shape results you want your customers to see first to answer their questions.

Some articles in your help center may deserve more attention than others, especially if you have more than one article on the same subject. Boosting content is beneficial for your help center as you decide areas of your center that are of greater interest to your customers. “Boosting” within a site search engine simply means that subject matter that visitors search for can be found according to your preference, and irrelevant content can be hidden.

Identifying the right content is important

Identifying what your customers are searching for on your website is an excellent way to supplement your help center. Determining search queries on your site will give you a fuller picture of your customers’ needs. It will further drive content creation that directly addresses the requests of customers that visit your website. A comprehensive search tool that incorporates a ‘most used search terms’ feature will capture customer search queries to gain insights into your customers’ needs. You can then create content that speaks directly to them.

Tying in offline sources to your search analytics is also highly useful. For instance, take note of support issues that have received an aggressive number of requests to resolve. If customers continuously contact your support line over a specific issue, consider developing an article or two on this subject matter. If it’s an issue that involves a step-by-step process, consider creating a video that informs and instructs them. Create value for your organization through articles that address the needs of your customers.

Use ineffective search analytics to identify pain-points

Ineffective SearchesProperly implemented search resources are key to finding requested articles, but what if customers can’t find what they need at all? Utilizing an ineffective search analysis will reveal search queries that fail to produce results that are interesting to the visitor i.e. none of the results get clicked on. This will alert you to articles on your help center that don’t cover the topics that visitors to your help center were looking for.

This differs from queries that don’t bring up any results, because in those cases, it’s a clear lack of content. With ineffective searches on the other hand, you may feel the topic area has been covered (when it hasn’t), but it’s most likely an indication that your search engine is not functioning the way it should, and is delivering irrelevant results to the customer’s query.  Or the customer is using the wrong keywords to search for the topic.

Luckily, you can utilize intelligent site search features to combat this…

If customer drop-off from ineffective searches and searches without results scares you, it doesn’t have to- there are now a number of search features that can effectively address these issues.

The best way to combat ineffective searches on your help center is via an intelligent autocomplete feature. An intelligent search function that provides autocomplete can answer a customer’s questions before they are even done asking, assuming you have content to support their query. An intelligent autocomplete feature will present keyword suggestions before a user finishes typing. Basically, visitors are searching as they’re typing, to discover relevant content on your site. Autocomplete is an efficient way to avoid ineffective searches on your website and ensure that users immediately find what they’re looking for in your help center.

Intelligent autocomplete is usually a feature of site search engines that have a machine learning capability. The search engine uses artificial intelligence to learn from customer behavior and suggest the correct terms- it should have the ability to handle single words, multi-word phrases, and typos/misspellings. This functionality also goes hand-in-hand with an intelligent spell-check- especially useful in ensuring that technical terms can be found on certain sites.

Another feature that would benefit users is the use of synonyms. Synonyms when used in a site search engine can overcome differences in vocabulary as customers find precisely what they need in your help center. Especially in the case off technical terms and abbreviations, setting up the right synonyms can be a life-saver. For instance, if a customer uses the abbreviation “GSA” instead of searching for “Google Search Appliance”, or searches for “spider” instead of “web crawler”, having these terms set up as synonyms for each other can come in very handy.

At the end of the day, it’s about creating a great customer experience.

poor-customer-service-spread
Source: aircall

When left to resolve your customers’ problems, you may find yourself with a multitude of options that will eventually speak directly to their needs, but may leave your support team drained in the process.

Here’s the thing- taking care of your customers shouldn’t be a hassle- it should be considered an opportunity to create closer relationships.

The use of a help center that enables customers to quickly find answers and resolve their own issues, reduces the load on your customer experience and technical support teams, which leaves them free to really focus on the more complex issues your customers may be experiencing, and service them with a focus that builds loyalty. Equipping your customers and internal teams with the tools to quickly and easily help themselves adds value to your organization, and helps solidify a trusted relationship between you and your customer base.