A Good Support Website Versus a Great One

I was recently interviewed, along with Ryan Mathews, Digital Support Director at NetApp, by Al Hahn from the Association for Support Professionals. We discussed the differences between a good support website and a great support website. (Ryan and I have each won the ASP Best Web Support award with our company submissions. After winning, I became a judge for the award.) We had a great discussion covering several key traits of great support sites.

Quality Knowledge

We started out discussing how KCS was key to a great support site.  If you don’t have knowledge articles written in the customer context and published quickly after the issue is known, then your customers will not have the self-service success they are looking for–no matter how well you have designed your support site.  I drilled down on this topic in my last blog on Content Availability.

Customer Focus

The key to any great support site is a focus on the customer.  Knowing who your customers are, their various roles, their needs, and their typical journeys in resolving needs are critical to a great support site. 

There have been countless customer surveys on customer preferences in resolving an issue; customers commonly cite that they would first try self-service, then forums, and then finally log a case if not successful.  The customer’s goal is to reduce their time to resolve an issue and the corresponding effort involved, so naturally, they start with self-service.  Finding a knowledge article that solves their issue is often the quickest and lowest level of effort in resolving their issue.

Reduce Rework

A customer also never wants to have to repeat themselves along their journey to solve their issue, so great support sites have a federated search that searches the support knowledge base, forums, documentation, and other key content repositories with one search.  If customers are not successful with their self-service and forum attempts, great support sites capture the customer’s session history in their case submission, so the agent/knowledge worker knows what articles and forums the customer already viewed and the search and environment inputs they provided.  In great support sites, the customer’s environment is already part of the customer “know me” features.

Article as Support Home Page

Drilling down further on their self-service step, most customers start their journey on an external search engine, rather than a support portal search. This should have a huge impact on the portal design, as the article often becomes the customer’s entry point into the support site–not the support site home page. 

Good support sites support this common customer journey with links and widgets on the article to orient the customer to other related content.  Great support sites have a link to an Information Center related to the primary product or service the article supports.  FAQs, top issues, troubleshooting articles, top forum threads, documentation, etc. are all covered in the Information Center, allowing customers to quickly navigate to other supporting content. 

Measure for Continuous Improvement

Measurements were another area we discussed.  Great support sites have a robust set of measurements for continuous improvement.  Visibility to customer journeys and the customers’ success with those journeys are some of the key data points great support sites track.  Consortium for Service Innovation members have invested quite a bit of time this past year coming up with best practices for measuring Self-Service success and we look forward to reporting out on the results at our Virtual Member Summit in September 2020.

A great support site is critical for a successful Service Digital Transformation.  An effective KCS implementation, a focus on the customer, looking for ways to reduce rework, providing enough information at the article level to act as a support home page, and keeping an eye on continuous improvement are all important elements of making a good support website into a great one.

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