The last three months have seen self-service searches spike across almost all major European countries: Spain, for example, saw an increase of 21 % more searches and there has been an increase of 16% across EMEA from the end of February 2020 to the beginning of May. Despite this, less than 30% of companies offer self-service, live chat, social messaging, bots or peer-to-peer communities according to Zendesk’s Benchmark data.
But simply posting a bunch of static Frequently Asked Questions on your website and hoping it will keep those customers searching for help happy just isn’t going to work. It won’t enhance your customer’s service journey and it certainly won’t enable you to use self service as a channel. For your end customers to be able to truly self-serve, you need to create a proper help centre. It’s not that difficult – here are 6 tips for creating that extra channel and making it successful.
1. Make it relevant
One of the most important things to consider when it comes to online customer service is making the help content as relevant as it can be. There’s nothing worse than when you try to immediately find the answer to your question without having to contact a customer service agent and then discovering as a customer you know more than the website. Relevant doesn’t just mean an easily accessible, correct answer though. It means that the answer is written for the customer and in the customer’s language not just a ‘brandless’ grey answer.
This relevancy isn’t static though. Articles need to be agile. There should be an internal workflow that allows knowledge to iterate and helps you to determine quickly which articles are working, which ones aren’t and how to update the latter. Even those articles that are relevant and fresh need to be reviewed regularly to keep them on brand as the messages evolve and to prevent them from becoming stale.
When the articles, help and guidance are up to date, relevant and in the right volume and voice, customers will come back again to help themselves before engaging in one or more of your higher cost channels.This will go some way to giving the customers what they want and will begin to build a successful help centre. But who has the time and bandwidth to curate this content on their own?
2. Use the experts you have around you
Truly great content is an enormous benefit to your customers (and in most cases would be to your internal agents, too). It can go a long way to drive costs out of the business, but who has the time to create and curate all of that knowledge content?
The answer is closer than you might think. Much of the required types of content, and more specifically, the answers, already exist. They exist in everyday interactions between your customers and the agents currently managing higher cost service channels such as webchat, voice and email. These true experts not only know the top types of query and the answers to those queries, they also know exactly the right language to communicate those answers back to the customers in. That’s not saying they should be doing the knowledge creation in isolation. Best practice here would be to set up workflow and approval flows that allow agents, brand teams, creative resources plus customer service and knowledge managers to collaborate and approve articles on a regular cycle.
Whether it is the agents themselves or the heads of departments there will be a one-off cost in removing agents from meeting their contact centred KPIs and having them extract and record the knowledge in the form of FAQs and articles. Together with that cost there will also be an ongoing requirement for them to re-visit, assess and refresh knowledge. This agile approach allows the knowledge to be current and fresh on an ongoing basis. This investment in time is certainly worth it. With customers achieving an increase in web self-service by 7%, business can see increases in first call resolution by 5% and reduced average handling time by 20 seconds on approximately 30% of contacts – it’s easy to see that it’s more than worth it.
The regularity of those cycles is important too. It’s key to automate the knowledge creation and updates based on real demand and usage data. But they’re not the only metrics that will help supercharge your help centre.
3. Make it measurable
It’s difficult to settle on meaningful customer service metrics and the truth is, digging deep into every single knowledge and content KPI metric is a luxury for most. However, it’s important to establish what you would like the help centre to achieve and how you measure its success. It’s equally important to understand this from the start and set a baseline to show the progress over time. You need to be asking the right questions:
How many customers are using the help centre?
This can be measured broadly by looking at unique visitors, page views and when it’s happening but it doesn’t give enough context to the usage.
Are the customers servicing themselves successfully?
This is more like it – by creating a ‘self-service score’ (SSS) you can measure how many users are consuming the knowledge, but still submitting tickets. A typical SSS is calculated by dividing the total number of unique visitors that interacted with help content by the total number of unique users with tickets. Content interaction is more than just visiting the help centre landing page or navigating straight to a new ticket form. The score gives you a better idea of how many visitors are actually trying to self-serve. The average SSS according to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report is 4:1.
How engaging is the content?
This is more complex to measure but starts to give you an idea of how long your users are spending in the help centre, which content works and which content doesn’t. Insight into how much of the articles are being read and which content was referenced more than others can inform your iterative article creation process.
Are users finding what they’re searching for?
Search health is critical for measuring engagement and self-service success. Users who utilise search are engaged and want to serve themselves. Analysing what is being searched for is key. What search terms are being used most often and which, if any, results are being returned (and are they relevant?). These results should drive the content creation cycle. They are what keeps the help centre dynamic and demand driven.
4. Context is everything
Providing the right answer to the right question at the right time is the aim of any self-service channel. Nothing has changed there but it has just got more complex with the advent of multi-channel customer service. You should present your customers with the help relevant to where they are in their journey with you. If a customer reaches out for help on a checkout page the potential solution could be very different from a query on a sign in page. For this reason, you should tailor what help is available in different locations on your help centre. Do authenticated members get given the same level of help as those just browsing? Context also plays a part once the customer has attempted to self-serve and reaches out to an agent. If they need more help the worst thing that an agent can do is to offer them the same help they’ve already been given. Giving the call centre agents context into the customer’s journey is one way of preventing that.
5. It should be collaborative
Empowering your customers to be able to get the help they need effortlessly. That’s the aim and that’s the way to keep contacts away from the more expensive channels and keep the cost to serve down. But if customers need more than a simple answer the process should be collaborative. That means making both synchronous and asynchronous messaging channels available so the customer can reach out and stay in contact in the channel of their choice whilst the solution is worked on. Give them access to the ticket, give them access to more information and give them access to the right people by way of automatic business rules that route their query quickly to where an answer or resolution is being worked on.
Empower your agents too, allow them to involve other secondary teams that bring in different skills and knowledge. These other teams within the business are normally experts in their own right – not agents. So, giving agents a simple process to reach out and get help or approval reduces the number of touches on a case and reduces the time to close. KPIs that increase both customer and agent satisfaction.
6. Automate with AI to make it cost effective
Automation doesn’t just mean routing to the right team, agent or next step – although that’s one way of streamlining your customer service experience. Being able to tag, route and prioritise tasks will save you money and time.
The other way that automation (and also AI) can help reduce costs is to simulate an agent conversation and handle different service scenarios with ease. Chatbots can also be a great way to focus on promoting personalised experiences for your business. An AI powered chatbot can automatically resolve low-touch and high frequency tickets. They can learn from each customer interaction and train themselves to deliver more relevant and customised content with each solved ticket. It’s a great way to engage customers and improve your brand image.
AI can really be the secret weapon in supercharging your knowledge-based help centre. With help from artificial intelligence, a support team can spot self-service trends that individual agents might miss. Those insights can help them take a more agile approach to creating and optimising help content, as well as understand the knowledge gaps between their help articles and customers’ needs. Use AI to help improve your knowledge base by making recommendations for building what the customers are looking for but isn’t being served. Automation can help you optimise articles to be more relevant and push content creation, publishing and approval tasks to the right teams or individuals. AI can learn from existing support tickets and auto populate search labels inside knowledge articles. This makes the articles more easily searchable and means your customers can find the content they need more easily.
Following these steps can transform your static FAQs into an efficient self-service channel. You can enable your customers to truly help themselves whilst bringing down the cost to serve and helping you to give your customers the experience they deserve.