helpThere is no right answer to creating a good online self-service environment, but there are some strong best practice pointers that will help guide the way. Not everything will be suitable for every business.

Here are some pointers though!

  • Ensure you have joined up web analytics and reporting, including contact centre, voice of the customer and web data.
  • Use simple classifications to help people filter quickly and easily.
  • Don’t have long lists of FAQs. Have a clear list of top questions, and then have a clear path for other users to filter to the right answer.
  • Make sure your search engine is capable of using natural language queries, and that it provides a small handful of relevant results. Implement a “did you mean” feature for clear filtering, and include either automatically corrected spellings or corrections.
  • Not all content has to be provided by you. Other sites might be better able to answer the question.
  • Have a user forum/community. Your engaged base will help out other customers in need of help. It’s also good for SEO, helps with appropriate escalation and is good for the brand. Ensure the community is fully integrated into your online help solution, including search.
  • Consider using video for your high traffic solutions. But also consider using your engaged base to help make those videos, and reward them for doing it.
  • Add a full customer satisfaction survey, and if possible include session replay.
  • Identify areas where contact is required, and ensure escalation points are clearly signposted. Finding an answer should be easy, even if that means the customer has to make a phone call rather than spend time searching the website. Consider web chat for help.
  • Ensure content is accessible on mobile.
  • Allow people to rate every answer on the website. This helps compliment web analytics with a partial voice of the customer. It also helps to weed out potentially poor answers for continual optimisation.

Ensure you use consistent language across your digital touchpoints, from purchase to account management to online help, store and the contact centre. Create a language bible that is shared across the business. For example, a talk plan should be referred to consistently across the brand.

Don’t work in silos. Some lessons from the US:

“A lack of coherence can damage brand image, and because of the confusion caused by the variance in navigation systems, could lead to frustration on the part of the customer and to increased calls to the telephone help desks.…support has a different look and feel and uses a different menu system. This can also slow the customer down when looking for help. Customer confusion poses a significant challenge, as visitors’ patience levels are low”[i].

Furthermore “…best practices demand that businesses be equipped to manage the customer experience via the preferred channel of the customer – whether it’s online via self-service, online via assisted service, or offline through a phone or in person. For some businesses, this process can be hindered by silos of informational hierarchies – with marketing owning the web site, contact centre owning many of the customer interactions and with neither communicating effectively with the other.”[ii]

[i] Verizon report, Customer Respect Group, 2010

[ii] IntelliResponse, Web Self-Service: The Cornerstone of Multi-Channel Customer  Experience Management