Probably a vast majority of the visits to company Web sites are to find the answer to a question. For the most basic questions, often a standard FAQ will work fine.
But when the questions move from the common variety to complex queries about specific issues (such as technical support or integration issues), most FAQs come up short. Typically, the next step is to either submit a question through e-mail or pick up a phone and call customer support—but neither option is completely satisfactory.
Many organizations attempted to find a middle ground by making the knowledge bases that the support staff used accessible to customers through a standard search interface on the Web. This was more cost-effective and informative than telephone or e-mail solutions but was still imperfect, especially given the regular failings of standard search technology.
These shortcomings have led to the development of what are now called self-service support solutions. These solutions combine search engines, knowledge management technologies and standard help desk procedures to make it possible for users to find answers to even complex questions without having to pick up the phone. In many ways, these systems give customers and end users many of the same tools and data access that support staffs themselves use to answer questions.
In this package, eWEEK Labs takes a look at two of these self-service solutions: We looked at DoubleClick Inc.s implementation of KnowledgeBase Solutions Inc.s KnowledgeBase.net and RightNow Technologies Inc.s eService Center. We tested eService Center by combining standard Labs testing with actual use of the product.
We found that although neither of these products will replace your support staff, they can make a big difference both in how your customers get answers and in the quality of those answers.
Best Practices for Self
Best Practices for Self-Service Support
Keep content fresh and up-to-date
Customers shouldnt find outdated solutions when they look for help.
Configure your Web site so customers can easily find the self-service option
Dont bury it in a “contact us” page or even just on the support page. Put links to it anywhere that customers might look for information.
Track both customers and employees use of the system
Its important to know how customers are using the self-service options. (Do they mostly search? Do they browse?) Its also important to know which support personnel are adding to the knowledge base and answering questions.
Whenever possible, keep content in HTML
Sometimes content will need to stay in its native format (streaming media, presentation, PDF), but, whenever appropriate, it should be in HTML to make it as accessible as possible.
Make sure customers can easily escalate from self-service to real support
For many customers, self-service wont always work. Make it simple for them to have options such as mailing questions or real-time access to a support person.