Article | 6 min read

What you didn’t know about self-service: 5 departments that benefit, too

By Tara Ramroop

Last updated November 27, 2017

Self-service can have a positive impact on every department within an organization—not just your team of agents or the customers they’re working hard to serve. When content and metrics from your help center cascade beyond your support team, that info is a powerful tool as your business scales up.

Direct-customer engagement metrics provide actionable insights for all departments which, in some way, are all responsible for optimizing your customers’ experience. For example:

  • Marketing can understand which features and functions are most important. Improved customer understanding can inform highly relevant topic clusters to plan and build marketing campaigns, sales assets, and customer success support materials.
  • Sales can understand which pain points to address when courting customers, share assets to back up their claims, and become knowledgeable about the product through their own self-service experience. Managers can run reports on which articles were shared and in what order that led to a closed deal, for example.
  • Product can understand which features are working, failing, or need to be expanded upon, effectively tailoring their product roadmap to their customer’s needs.
  • Support can circumvent easily solved questions, thereby reducing ticket response time and, depending on the robustness of your knowledge base, deflect them altogether. When they do interact with customers, a knowledge base ensures both parties are speaking the same language, which instills confidence in your customer.
  • Success can quickly deliver value, scale up their ability to serve, and engage at a deeper level with their customers to increase renewals and expansion.

Let’s start by describing the impact on the customer, then consider how that positive impact cascades across your business.


Consider a high-end camera, on which a company has spent millions to create. They account for everything: ergonomics, appearance, light sensors, and lenses.

This same company spends millions on advertising the product. As such, everyone is convinced that their kids will look like supermodels in every photograph, their hair will always blow perfectly in the wind while they use it, and the ghost of Ansel Adams will start following their Instagram account.

Let’s say you decide to buy it. Excited to start getting a return on your investment, you take it out of the beautifully designed box. You grab the 350-page, 7-language pamphlet that’s tucked underneath the camera and flip through it. Overwhelmed by the content, you immediately toss it or add it to your junk drawer. Next, you hop online and find a random person on YouTube telling you how to use your camera. This experience has become the norm, whether the product is a camera, a piece of clothing, or a B2B software solution.

This company spent millions acquiring you as a customer and, just like that, they’ve handed the conversation over to a random vlogger, blog, forum, or even worse—a competitor. Now frustrated with the lack of control over the conversation, the camera company attempts to gain back control by publishing that same user manual online. Now you have to scroll through hundreds of pages to find what you’re looking for. Likely overwhelmed, you head right back to Google.

The worst part is that the camera company didn’t consider or track what was important to you as a customer. Even after putting the manual PDF online, they can only track whether it’s been clicked on. From the company’s perspective, wouldn’t it be nice to know which section, paragraph, camera feature you clicked on? As a business, these are valuable consumer insights. Without them, it’s impossible to best serve customers at scale.


Let’s say that same camera manual was broken down into a web-ready format, highly searchable, and parsed into easy-to-consume topic clusters. Do you think the customer experience would improve? Yes, and even better—it is a win-win-win. Not only do you gain insight into what they are searching for, you can see where they are going next, how they are getting there (searching vs. clicking through), and which pages and topics are being viewed multiple times, shared, or collecting feedback.

Even if the camera company spent more money surveying their customers, asking directly what was most important to support them after purchasing the product, companies may still have a diluted understanding of their needs. Not everyone takes a survey, firstly. And it puts the onus on the customer to think about what they want and then report it, vs. them showing you what they want through their trackable actions within your knowledge base.

That’s the customer, though. Like we said earlier, insights and understanding can positively influence several departments in the company. Here’s how.

The cascade across the business

self-service zendesk guide

Perhaps a survey says customers want a quick start guide. You therefore put quick start content on your support portal. But this approach was reasoned on survey results, which only serve certain post-sale customers (the ones who took the survey). This, for the company, means fairly weak insights moving forward.

On the other hand, if your user manual is broken out of PDF format and repurposed as web-ready micro-content, you can see what customers actually want without asking. You might learn that customers are searching for and clicking on articles about taking pictures in low light. Customers are finding it, sharing it, providing upvotes and downvotes, comments, and ranking it as valuable. Going way beyond a survey, these are incredible insights on which your company can act on and optimize for. Consider the cross-functional impact:

  • Marketing can now create customer-focused campaigns around how amazing their low-light sensors are, create sales assets to leverage during the research-and-buy phase, and provide customer success teams with content to retain and upsell existing customers.
  • Sales can now speak to these amazing night photo features (which they were previously never able to get), how easy it is to capture the precious details that create emotional connection to the memory, and more. They have the documentation on hand, and it is easy to consume, accelerating the process to purchase.
  • Product might say, “$#!&, our low-light sensor really isn’t that good!” and can now adapt their product roadmap to fit the consumer needs.
  • Support knows what information to have top-of-mind when answering low-light capture questions, deepening customer confidence and reducing customer effort.
  • Success can now guide customers through their brand development, new features, and have deeper conversations around maximizing the use of their products. Great pictures turn them into brand advocates, which means they’re telling their networks about this amazing camera that takes phenomenal night shots. Furthermore, the accompanying support and service is best-in-class, further feeding inbound lead generation.

Picture your team, wherever it sits in the organization, delivering great customer experiences with the aid of a knowledge base.

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