Providing customers with self-support is no longer optional, it is a “must-have” for product support. If you sell or support technical products that are part of a connected eco-system, delivering effective self-support that delivers customer satisfaction is hard to do. In a survey of consumers by Northbridge only 55% of customers using self-service on a company website are totally successful¹. That means 45% of consumers leave to either escalate to live interaction or go somewhere else. You want your customers trusting your site as the first stop for any question. This article shares five key learnings from our hands-on experience creating quality self-service content for technical products.

The five key criteria for building effective technical self-support are:

  1. Provide a strong search capability.
  2. Don’t overlook tribal knowledge; just make sure you create best practices for vetting it.
  3. Consider the breadth of your content; connected devices aren’t stand alone.
  4. When possible gather context to direct the path to resolution, it can reduce customer effort.
  5. Customers don’t trust content on a site that appears outdated, self-service content needs to remain current and alive to ensure consumer trust.
  1. Provide a strong search capability.
    Google changed consumer expectations for finding information fast. Flat FAQs that require customers to manually search by category aren’t enough. FAQs have a place, but aren’t designed for fast issue isolation. An FAQ structure works well for product features, shipping addresses, and things like part lists, but they are not intuitive for problem solving, when you a lot of options. Beyond speed of getting to the issues, have you thought through what you are highlighting to your customers when they scroll thru a long list of problems with your product? Providing a robust search capability lets customers quickly find the information they need. We learned that having both category lists and search capabilities, combined with an understanding of how customers search on technical questions, provides customers with the fastest approach to finding information.
  2. Don’t overlook tribal knowledge; just make sure you create best practices for vetting it.
    Tribal knowledge, the unwritten knowledge created and transferred from one individual to another within the organization, can be a powerful tool when properly reviewed and tested. Many companies are nervous about capturing tribal knowledge because it may contain new approaches that are unproven or wrong. Whether it initiates in a user community, your best call center agents, or product teams, tribal knowledge can help identify new issues quickly and offer improved approaches to problem resolution. It is, however, critical to establish a process for capturing and validating your tribal knowledge. When a new issue is identified, either through repeat calls or analytics, you need well defined processes to test and confirm the approach. Support.com has created a robust process that starts with a team of dedicated knowledge curators who look for trends and new issues. These senior technical experts validate the tribal approaches identified internally and across social networks. The team researches the issue in virtual test labs and consults with reliable on-line sources before structuring the knowledge for users. We then test the approach with the front line team, making sure the language and the approach is understood by consumers. For more than 20 years Support.com has been collecting, documenting and curating knowledge on the best approach to solving issues with connected devices. Our knowledge is used by agents handling chat and voice interactions as well as consumers looking for self-support. Our results are industry leading FCR rates and NPS scores.
  3. Consider the breadth of your content; connected devices aren’t stand alone.
    The lines that delineate the support of your product have been getting blurrier year after year. Resolving connectivity and interoperability issues, or at least supporting co-operation of your products in the most popular ecosystem of the home or office, are expected. According to MediaPost there will be 13 networked devices per person in North America by 2021². To imagine that any connected device is a stand-alone product is unrealistic. When you approach building self-help for a new connected device, consider the ecosystem in which it is used. Nothing frustrates a customer more than finger pointing when one service organization says, “our test shows our device works fine, it has to be something else creating the problem”. It isn’t good enough to support your device in isolation; it needs to interact with the other devices in the customer’s world. The connected ecosystem in which your products interact is getting bigger by the day. For most organizations, supporting your product in ever expanding eco-system can be a big problem. We offer a solution in libraries of content that covers more than 10,000 devices that may interact with your product. It allows you to expand support, without having to expand your expertise. You focus on your core competencies and we help you with support for your product in the expanding ecosystem.
  4. When possible gather context to direct the path to resolution, it can reduce customer effort.
    By the time consumers are searching for an answer to a technical issue they are already a little annoyed, if not totally frustrated. Presenting the most direct path to locating the right information makes a much better experience A good search infrastructure, as discussed above, can go a long way. But, if the customer doesn’t know exactly how to describe their issue, they may still have to scroll through pages of irrelevant information to pinpoint the right steps. Helping the customer narrow the scope with context reduces customer effort. A simple approach to gathering context can be prompting the customer with a question that directs the guidance. For example, a customer looking for help backing up their computer may have searched for ‘backup my files’. The instruction provided to a customer is dramatically different if they are using an old XP device versus Windows 10. When the first step in the troubleshooting process asks what operating system the customer is using in order to narrow the troubleshooting step, time and effort is saved. Even more powerful than directing a customer to identify context is the ability to automatically drive troubleshooting based on dynamic content. Dynamic context is initiated from backend systems, when a customer signs into a portal, or via information within a native app. Using dynamic context you can present customers with troubleshooting options that are focused on the devices they own, their status as a customer, or even the specific path to resolution if an error message is passed to the software. Support.com makes it easy to deploy solutions that deliver dynamic context or user prompted context to get to answers quickly. Using a set of APIs in combination with our decision tree guidance structure, we are able to get customers to resolution quickly.
  5. Customers don’t trust content on a site that appears outdated, self-service content needs to remain current and alive to ensure consumer trust.
    “Technology is advancing faster than the abilities of the people trying to use it” according to Barlow³, This rapid change means content yesterday may be outdated in a week or month. Knowledge goes stale quickly as new operating systems and updates are released. Consumers need to trust that content is alive and monitored as changes impact their devices. Monitoring changes in technology and mapping it through to content is critical to maintain consumer trust. Technology changes need to be watched as new updates, viruses, and operating systems appear or someone has figured out a better, faster approach. Most self-service isn’t monitored and measured. Maintaining content that remains current requires focus, communication, active monitoring and a knowledge structure that makes it easy. Support.com’s Guided Path’s were designed to simplify the work of keeping content fresh. The structure allows for troubleshooting to be broken down into steps that can be easily updated across all the places they are referenced. We keep up with major market changes. When a new operating system for a mobile device appears that has ramifications across a wide range of products and interactions, we make the change once and it automatically populates wherever that device is mentioned. Our team is constantly reviewing and changing the knowledge in our Guided Paths® as leadership products are introduced, or new issues are identified. We reduce the technical support burden by keeping up with the changes to the market to ensure we have living content so our customers have confidence with the self-support we offer.
  1. www.northridegroup.com. State of Customer Service Experience 2017
  2. ConnectedThinking: North American Consumers to have 3 Connected Devices, Chuck Martin, June 11, 2017
  3. Barlow, M 2013, Big Data Culture Gap:Technology Advancing More Quickly than People and Processes

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