Good content self-service options can provide your organization with significant benefits. Online users can get answers and receive the services they need quickly and efficiently, while your organization can be responsive and efficient in assisting them when they need it.
Since online self-service is a fraction of the cost of assisted support channels, it is by far the least expensive. If it is done well, it can help to ease customer effort, reduce operating costs, and even differentiate your business through superior service delivery.
Many factors drive effective customer self-service, including technology, the user interface, and personalization. However, one of the most powerful things your organization can do to drive effective self-service is developing truly user friendly content that is both quick and easy to find.
The trick to providing excellent customer service in a self-service content management world is describing the product in the words of the customer.
Getting the taxonomy right means understanding the customer—and recognizing that customers don’t necessarily agree on the terms. Describing content isn’t as easy as it looks. Acronyms can be a problem, since they can mean different things.
Meet the Expectations of Online Users
Self-service systems are only as good as the quality and usability of the information they deliver. The long-standing knowledge management statement “content is king” is particularly true in today’s self-service world, especially when you consider online users’ general self-service expectations:
They may not necessarily know exactly what they need to ask or do, just what they are trying to accomplish. Likewise, they may not always know your organization’s terminology or taxonomy.
They don’t want to spend time looking through lots of information or understanding the details of the self-service environment. They expect very little interaction—the two word “Google query” approach is the standard amount of information that is typically provided initially. Users generally consider performing additional clicks to deepen the context of their inquiry (such as scoping searches by specific categories or refining queries) if/when there’s a clear payoff trail to the answer.
Given the quick, concise nature of the self-service environment, it’s critical that customer facing content be written and structured to meet these expectations. This doesn’t mean you need only to provide a few short FAQs. Once the audience is understood, the principles of effective authoring can be employed to structure many information sources in a consumable way.
Start With the End in Mind
When developing self-service content, focus on the information that customers need, as opposed to the information that you have. For service and support content, here are some techniques that can help you gain insight into information that can be useful online:
- Ask your support and service staff: People who communicate with customers every day know the types of issues customer ask about, the terminology they use, and how much information they can easily absorb. Since support staff also knows what the top questions are, they are an excellent source of customer-facing insights.
- Examine your self-service content: Look carefully at the information that is most used online and what might be moved online based on what internal staff recommend. Flag the key information that would most quickly and clearly respond to common queries. Restructure supporting and related information into the background, and link it to the core knowledge objects. Create an easy-to-navigate path to success for common issues.
- Test search queries and carefully review the results: Take the journey with your online users. Enter the top queries and questions, and navigate them in the self-service system. See what results come back, and whether the titles, content scope, and information format provide the best response. Try variations of queries and browse topics to confirm consistent, predictable results. Query testing is a tried-and-true method of assessing relevancy and defining where to make specific improvements (to technology, the user interface, and/or content tagging and structure).
Design Effective Experiences Around Useful Scenarios
While a self-service experience must be clear, simple, and intuitive, it does not have to be shallow or overly simplistic. Many resources and knowledge objects can be melded into the self-service experience. The key is to help users identify the main information pathways they should start on and relate other resources from there. This can be accomplished through a variety of methods:
- Implement task-focused taxonomy: This can help users narrow their domain of interest intuitively by matching classification terminology and hierarchy to the most common support tasks.
- Make clear visual distinctions between primary and secondary information—Using featured markers, icons, starting/landing pages, and clear titling standards can help users see what information is likely to be most relevant and what might be useful as they investigate certain questions further.
- Organize content types for specific tasks: Most types of information can benefit from standard structuring that makes it clear what type of content users are looking at and how they should expect to use it (e.g., FAQs, How-To’s, Procedures, Diagnostics, Specifications, Promotions).
- Provide natural transitions to other locations, information, or assisted channels: Leverage technology, where possible, to carry the context of a self-service interaction (the query, categorization scope, and relevant details about the user) forward into the next channel, such as chat, email, or a call into the contact center. This can accelerate the user’s path to the answer by helping route the request effectively.
Ultimately, users are apt to like and use self-service when it’s fast, instinctive, and provides the information or services they need. Given the potential benefits of self-service, it’s well worth the investment to assess, structure, tag, and deliver knowledge in the most intuitive way possible. It really still is all about the content!
Galaxy Consulting has 20 years experience in content management and content self-service. Please call us today for a free consultation!