Self-service customer support is table stakes in today’s 24/7 world. Digital-first customers like to find their own answers, and most would rather use self-service portals than pick up the phone and talk to someone.

Building a customer-friendly, self-service help centre is an effective and cost-efficient way to grow your business. You just have to do it right. Here’s six tips to deliver an amazing self-help centre experience. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Add CTAs throughout your website to your self-service portal
  • Have content that answers your customer questions
  • Include a search bar, and make sure every topic and article is clearly labelled and suitably tagged. 
  • Continually review your knowledge base customer content
  • Optimise your content for all devices

>>> Learn about the latest customer service trends by downloading the State of Service report.

1. Direct customers to your self-service support portal

Sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s true. Your customer support site can only be successful if customers know it exists. This can be especially challenging for established businesses needing to transition customers over to a newly launched support site.

Your support site can only be successful if customers know it exists.”

Calls-to-action throughout your website that send customers to your new self-service portal are the simplest way to do this is. And if your product is online, you should weave links into it also. You want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to find your self-service support offerings.

2. Create the right self-service customer content

What makes a self-service portal so useful? It’s full of answers to your customers' questions. To help identify what answers and content you need to create, keep and mine the records of service calls. Then use this information to create articles and other self-help content that addresses these common support requests.

Great formats to deliver self-service content include FAQs, a knowledge base with detailed product information, community bulletin boards and videos with step-by-step instructions for resolving a problem.

3. Keep your knowledge base up-to-date

Your knowledge base is never really ‘finished’. To get the most out of it, you need to continuously improve your help articles. Plan periodic reviews of all of your knowledge base customer content (including images and video), and set expiration dates that force you to revisit everything you’ve already created. This is especially important for FAQ content.

Giving customers the opportunity to rate your support content is another great way to find out what needs improvement, as is tracking changes in the topics your customers are using your other service portals for. If enquiries via other service portals drop significantly across all but one or two topics, you probably need to consider whether the information you’re providing about those help topics is as useful as it could be.

4. Make your self-service portal easy to navigate and crawlable

Once you’ve filled your customer portal with great content, make sure it’s easy for customers to find what they’re after.

Include a search bar, and make sure every topic and article is clearly labelled and suitably tagged. This will help customers find the content they need easily, whether they’re browsing or searching via the search tool. You also want to make sure your content is crawlable, so that it pops up in Google search results.

Include a search bar, and make sure every topic and article is clearly labelled and properly tagged.”

Don’t forget to add links leading back to all available customer support channels and even include a contact form in the footer of your portal. This builds trust by making it easy for customers to escalate their help request – whether it be through email, live chat or phone – if they can’t find the answers they need from searching your self-service portal alone.

Self-service should be an extra option for customers who prefer it, rather than making customers feel like it's their only option or that your business prefers it.

5. Make sure your support portal is on-brand

You want customers to feel comfortable with your service experience. Make sure your support centre uses the same header and footer as your regular website, and that the domain and subdomain are consistent (for example, ‘company.com’ and ‘support.company.com’).

Sticking to your company's style guide also ensures consistency in tone, voice and formatting across the content on your sites – after all, this is a customer touchpoint just like your marketing and sales collateral.

If your business doesn't have a style guide, find a public style guide online that suits your brand and your customers.

6. Optimise your support centre for all devices

Today, 67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative. And chances are they’re going to pick up their smartphone to kick-off the search.

67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative.”

Responsive design – meaning, no matter what size screen your site is viewed on, the content automatically reformats to fit on the screen – needs to be the standard for your product interface, your website and, of course, your self-service portal. Also be sure to integrate support into any mobile experiences directly part of your product or service.

Learn about the latest trends in service by downloading Salesforce’s latest State of Service report.