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Put a Friendly Face on Self-Service Documentation

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Put a Friendly Face on Self-Service Documentation

June 08, 2016

  By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

While self-service is a valuable and necessary alternative to live customer support, not all self-service channels are created equally. Customers actually like self-service, but only if the interactions are easy, intuitive and yields results. Too many companies use poorly designed self-service as a barrier to expensive live-agent support in the vain hopes that customers simply won’t call them. Self-service shouldn’t be a barrier: it should be a well-designed “front end” to the company’s overall customer support strategy.

One of the biggest problems with self-service is that it’s often designed by people with deep technical knowledge and strong familiarity with the company. While those designers may be able to easily navigate the IVR system, the Web site or the mobile app, customers may find them frustrating and give up on them, leading to an escalation of live calls to the help desk or contact center. That costs money AND customer goodwill. Remember that your customers may not be technical, they may be distracted by other things, or they may simply not know how to solve their problem.

“It's important that self-service entries are written less like a computer manual and more like an introductory textbook, taking complicated information and introducing it in a manner that is engaging and easy to grasp,” according to customer support software solutions provider TeamSupport in a recent blog post. “Not only does this maximize satisfaction, but it also further emphasizes the fact that your business puts customers first.”

For more technical customer self-service scenarios – such as those in a business-to-business environment – there may be a lot of material for customers to sort through. Written documents may be in order, in which case, they should be properly written taking into account that customers will find disparate, duplicated or randomized material confusing.

“Short sentences organized in clearly defined sections are easier to read than long paragraphs,” wrote TeamSupport. “Make good use of headlines to summarize each section so your customers have an idea of what they're reading at first glance. Also, break detailed tutorials down into bulleted or numbered step-by-step lists to make the elaborate instructions simple to understand. B2B customer support software that provides self-service options helps your agents arrange, manage and maintain entries so they remain up to date.”

Check your existing self-service support documents for problems. Are they using too much undefined technical jargon? Are they up-to-date? (Nothing puts a customer off faster than seeking advice from a seven-year-old entry.) Do they include information on new products and services? Are they daunting in their length? All of these factors will cause customers to hang up and initiative a telephone call.

You may also want to consider using case studies, which can help “humanize” common problems and lead to better comprehension by customers. Anecdotes or short case studies can take abstract concepts and turn them into relatable, easy-to-understand answers to real questions. Break the material into easily absorbed “bites,” and use graphics and callouts to highlight the most important concepts. No one wants to seek self-service only to be presented with a 37-page PDF with unrelieved text in eight-point type. So when you design self-service materials, do it from the customer’s perspective.

“Your business needs self-service support options that help customers, not ones that leave them even more confused,” wrote TeamSupport. “Making the right choices in terms of style, tone, content and organization ensures your FAQ section, wikis, knowledge bases or other options are written to meet your customer's needs.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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