Best Practices for Support Web Site Design

Best Practices for Support Web Site Design

Best Practices for Support Web Site Design

Well-designed support web sites encourage customers to invest their time to explore and discover the information they need.

Elements of Effective Web Support Design

The primary objective of a support web site is to help customers find the information and resources they need quickly and intuitively.   Page layout, navigational aids and clear and aesthetically pleasing presentation of content encourages customers to invest their time to explore and discover the information they need.  Well-designed support web sites offer the proper balance of form and function to engage visitors, encourage repeat use, and ensure that each self-service transaction is successful.

Site design elements include:

  • Look and Feel
  • Convenience
  • Navigation

Look & Feel

The look and feel of the support web site are critical, as it sets the tone and first impression for customers and others that visit the site.  Typical support web site users are looking for information to help them complete a task, solve a problem, or answer a question. They are usually in a hurry and are more likely to scan and skim pages, rather than read them in full.  Sites that have a good look and feel are much more likely to grab and keep the attention of visitors, by providing a clear and intuitive path to the content they are looking for.

Convenience

Convenience represents the ease by which common resources and frequently requested content are easy to identify, access and use.  Design elements focused on convenience may include the options offered within a menu, lists of frequently requested information, or other visual aides to suggest how a customer can find what they need (e.g. search, browse lists, images, etc.). 

When customers struggle to find the resources they are looking for, or visual cues to suggest an approach to find what they need, they are more likely to give up on the attempt to help themselves and request assisted support, or worse, go away dissatisfied and still in need of assistance.

Navigation

While convenience provides the visual cues to help visitors determine what they may need, navigation provides the path to a successful self-service transaction.  Navigation takes many forms including menus, lists for browsing, and the option to search.  Once a visitor embarks on a journey to find the information they need, well-designed sites will offer intuitive navigational aids to help the customer determine the next logical course of action.

Best Practices for Support Web Site Design

ServiceXRG presents the following best practices for support web site design. 

  • Audience Aware – Basic web support site design requires that the site is optimized to meet the needs of the typical Advanced design features such as personalization are used to offer tailored experiences to user types that fall outside of the definition of typical.
  • Clearly Defined Transactions Supported – No site can be all things to all people so the site design must set clear expectations about what types of service transactions can be performed. Transaction types that are not supported must also be identified with alternative service options suggested.
  • Start Pages – Start Pages provide clearly defined entry points into the site’s resources. Start pages most often include the home page but may also include alternative entry points into the site (e.g. links from product pages). Start pages must clearly identify the transactions a customer can perform.
  • Alternative Navigation Paths – Sites with a minimum of two navigation options – search and browse – provide the greatest flexibility to help visitors find the information and resources they need. Additional navigation options such as expert systems/decisions trees, automated diagnostic tools, chat bots, and personal profiles add even greater flexibility.
  • Navigation Aids – The use of descriptions and tips significantly help users to determine the best path to the desired destination. Navigational aids include balloon texts to describe menu choices, display of sub-menu options, page position indication or breadcrumbs to highlight where a visor is within the site, search tips enhance site navigation.
  • Destination Pages – Destination pages clearly indicate that the user has reached the end of a navigation path. A destination may include a form used to request support or repair service or execute a commerce transaction; a search results list; a specific page of information; a discussion thread, or option to escalate to assisted support, etc.
  • Feedback – Optimal support web site design provides the means to collect feedback about visitor interactions. Feedback may include automatic tracking of a session click streams and/or recording of specific page views. Feedback may also include user provided input such as document or author rating, and comments specific to the document’s usefulness.
  • Escalation Paths – Alternative service options are provided during the navigation and at each destination page to suggest other methods customers can use to request assistance including click-to-talk or chat, e-mail and phone access methods (don’t hide your phone number).

Recommendations

  • Contemporary and Aesthetic – Make sure that the look and feel of the site reflects an up-to-date design and reflects the overall image of the company.
  • Set the Tone – Use the site design to reflect the commitment to service and the quality of the company brand.
  • Service Types – Define the specific service transactions supported by the services web site. Customers should know if they can accomplish a specific task and not have to waste time only to find they cannot. Consider the following transaction types:
    • TroubleshootingAccess to tools, resources, and expertise to identify and resolve questions and issues with a product.
    • RepairRequest repair services, order a part, find an authorized repair facility, or check the status of a repair request.
    • UpdatesGet access to the latest software updates.
    • Learn How to Use ProductsDiscover tips, videos, training, techniques, and other helpful resources to use products more effectively.
    • Get Help Request assistance from experts including contact information and hours, entitlement requirements, and even links to provide immediate assistance through chat, click to call, etc.

Entry Points – Define the entry points/start pages for the site.  Determine what if any additional pages will be used to start a service transaction, including links from other parts of the company web site.  Consider the following entry points:

  • Services Home Page – Primary support page.
  • Intelligent Recommendation – A page or list of relevant articles presented based on customer entry of date (e.g. entering data to open an online case) or in response to a chatbot interaction.
  • Product Specific – Product specific support page linked from product marketing pages.
  • Promotion – Start Page tied to a specific outbound campaign that references support or service.
  • Search – Provide robust search capabilities with access to all service content sources including technical bulletins, downloads, manuals, social content, etc. Consider the following search capabilities:
    • Structured vs. Free Form – Search should support structured (fielded search) and free form words and phrase searches (e.g. natural language queries).
    • Search – Search bar should be clearly visible and of sufficient size to encourage appropriate user input (e.g. if you want the user to enter a lot of words provide more space).
    • Examples Provide sample searches to suggest the best way to structure a search request. Provide a link to additional instructions about how to construct an effective search.
  • Menus – Provide menu options that clearly describe the options available to visitors. Consider the following menu design elements:
    • TerminologyUse terms that are most likely to be recognized and understood by the intended audience. Consider using terms that express a customer intent or desired outcome (e.g. ask a question, download new software, etc.).
    • Sub-Menus – Present sub-menu options as top-level choices are selected.
    • Menu Descriptions – Present descriptions about each menu choice.
    • Breadcrumbs – Provide visual indication of where the visitor is in relation to their starting point.
    • Home – Provide a one-click option to navigate back to the services home page.
  • Browse – Provide site visitors with the option to browse available resources. In all cases the “browse list” presented should reflect the start page and/or navigation path the customer is on. Consider the following browse capabilities:
    • PopularityProvide a list of relevant “top 10” most requested articles that can be browsed and opened.
    • Transaction Type – Present a list and/or menu of service transactions that can be performed.
    • Topic – Provide a list of topics that can be browsed. Topics should be relevant to the product or start page the customer begins their web session.
    • Product – Provide a list of products and/or models that can be browsed.
  • Analyze Customer Behaviors – Evaluate customer navigation and use of the support web pages. Track where customers enter the site, where they exit, how many steps it takes to get to specific pages and the time spent on specific pages and or navigation paths. Take corrective action to address navigation issues (e.g. too many clicks to get to an answer).

Featured: Featured: Digital Transformation Through Support Web Site Design

The digital transformation of support is defined by an increased use of digital technologies to improve and extend core support processes and enable new service capabilities. Self-help tools and content provided through the web are fundamental to support’s successful digital transformation.  This Playbook outlines the five elements of well-designed support web sites.

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CX Implications for the Digital Transformation of Support

CX Implications for the Digital Transformation of Support

CX Implications for the Digital Transformation of Support

With the increased reliance and expanded use of web self-service and automation customer experiences are increasingly shaped digitally.

Imperatives to Sustain CX through Support Digital Transformation

Read More about Support Digital Transformation

The ability to influence customer behaviors and maintain mindshare in a crowded digital world requires a commitment to providing the right tools and content.  To sustain and enhance customer experiences as support interactions shift to digital methods, consider the following:

  • Today’s workforce is “digitally aware”– The population has shifted to a digitally aware workforce. When customers need assistance, they reach for the phone – not to make a call, but to search for an answer – be prepared to respond digitally.

 

  • Digital access to support resources is expanding – Customers can get access to useful information through mobile apps, on the web and embedded within product interfaces – make access to support seamless and digital.

 

  • Customer experiences and perceptions are influenced by digital experiences – As more customer interactions shift to digital interactions, a company’s opportunity to influence customer perceptions about its brand, its products and its services increasingly occurs without direct human interactions – Carefully craft your digital message.

 

  • Customers have purpose, but need help attaining their goals – Customers know what they want to accomplish, but they do not always know how to achieve their desired outcome. A positive digital experience occurs when self-help and automated tools provide the guidance and resources to help customers achieve their goals – make digital support experiences welcoming and intuitive.

 

  • Personal interaction is replaced by digital interaction – As self-service and automated transactions replace personal interaction, the burden for the quality of the customer experience shifts to digital tools and content. Lack of good content or hard-to-find resources quickly undermine the opportunity to offer a positive digital experience – Make sure that the support tools and content can deliver an experience comparable to an assisted human interaction.

 

  • Many sources of content compete for customer mindshare When customers and prospects cannot find what they are looking for on-line, there’s a good chance they will look for it elsewhere. If a company can’t satisfy its customers a competitor may get the opportunity to do so – Provide, timely accurate and compelling content through digital channels.

 

  • Customer success and fulfillment of the customer experience requires a commitment to offer good content and the means to help customers find it – Content is king; it is the main reasons customers go on-line for technical support, product research, and shopping. Today, many customers report that the content they need does not exist, or if they do find it, the quality is less than they expect – Offer quality content and tools to support customers’ information needs throughout the product lifecycle including Sales – Onboarding – Adoption – Achievement of Success – Renewal – Expansion.

Featured: Featured: Digital Transformation Through Support Web Site Design

The digital transformation of support is defined by an increased use of digital technologies to improve and extend core support processes and enable new service capabilities. Self-help tools and content provided through the web are fundamental to support’s successful digital transformation.  This Playbook outlines the five elements of well-designed support web sites.

Log-in to get your copy.

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The Three Most Important Characteristics of a Support Web Site

The Three Most Important Characteristics of a Support Web Site

Well-designed support web sites encourage customers to invest their time to explore and discover the information they need. There are three critical characteristics that make or break support web site effectiveness.

Three Critical Elements of Effective Web Support Design

The primary objective of a support web site is to help customers find the information and resources they need quickly and intuitively.   Page layout, navigational aids and clear and aesthetically pleasing presentation of content encourages customers to invest their time to explore and discover the information they need.  Well-designed support web sites offer the proper balance of form and function to engage visitors, encourage repeat use, and ensure that each self-service transaction is successful.

Site design elements include:

  • Look and Feel
  • Convenience
  • Navigation

Look & Feel

The look and feel of the support web site are critical, as it sets the tone and first impression for customers and others that visit the site.  Typical support web site users are looking for information to help them complete a task, solve a problem, or answer a question. They are usually in a hurry and are more likely to scan and skim pages, rather than read them in full.  Sites that have a good look and feel are much more likely to grab and keep the attention of visitors, by providing a clear and intuitive path to the content they are looking for.

Convenience

Convenience represents the ease by which common resources and frequently requested content are easy to identify, access and use.  Design elements focused on convenience may include the options offered within a menu, lists of frequently requested information, or other visual aides to suggest how a customer can find what they need (e.g. search, browse lists, images, etc.). 

When customers struggle to find the resources they are looking for, or visual cues to suggest an approach to find what they need, they are more likely to give up on the attempt to help themselves and request assisted support, or worse, go away dissatisfied and still in need of assistance.

Navigation

While convenience provides the visual cues to help visitors determine what they may need, navigation provides the path to a successful self-service transaction.  Navigation takes many forms including menus, lists for browsing, and the option to search.  Once a visitor embarks on a journey to find the information they need, well-designed sites will offer intuitive navigational aids to help the customer determine the next logical course of action.

Click here to read more articles about web support site design

Featured: Featured: Digital Transformation Through Support Web Site Design

The digital transformation of support is defined by an increased use of digital technologies to improve and extend core support processes and enable new service capabilities. Self-help tools and content provided through the web are fundamental to support’s successful digital transformation.  This Playbook outlines the five elements of well-designed support web sites.

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read more

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Incomplete case records diminish Support’s ability to identify root causes of support demand and plan mitigation efforts such as enhanced self-help, product improvements, and training. This article describes how poor support case closure practices lead to missed opportunities.

read more

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read more

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The digital transformation of support is defined by an increased use of digital technologies to improve and extend core support processes and enable new service capabilities. Digital transformation includes human-assisted, self-assisted and fully automated support transactions. This article defines and introduces key characteristics of the digital transformation of support.

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Segment your Customers

Segment your Customers

Your customer base contains a diverse population of customers each with distinct needs and expectations.

Similarities between customers’ needs, expectations and general business characteristics can be described by using common classifications and attributes.  Develop a system to organize customers by these common characteristics. 

Define a service segmentation model to organize customers by shared characteristics.

  • Shared characteristics may include service needs, usage, product adoption or life cycle stage and business characteristics.
  • You should identify a minimum of 4 distinct service-centric segments to defined to describe unique attributes such as customer needs, expectations, or business characteristics. 

Conduct customer studies to understand the defining characteristics of your customers.

  • Determine what customers need and expect from services.
  • Define how customers may use the services.
  • Establish how customers prefer to buy services – all-inclusive portfolios, base offers with add-ons or catalogs of available services to select from.

Align customers with common needs or expected business outcomes.

  • Assign all existing customers to one or more service-segment.
  • Note that customers may belong to one or more customer segment.

Develop service offerings and value propositions aligned with the needs of identified customer segments.

  • Target sales and marketing strategies and messaging to the unique needs of segments.

Evaluate service-segments each year to align current and prospective customers and to assure segments are up to date and relevant.

  • Customer needs change so make certain that your portfolio keeps pace with changing expectations.

Featured: Service Segmentation Strategy Playbook

Not all customers are created equal nor do they represent the same value to your business. Nearly two-thirds of support and maintenance revenue comes from less than one-third of the customer base. It seems illogical to view all customers the same way, yet only slightly more than a third of companies (36%) have a formal customer segmentation strategy for managing support and maintenance sales and renewal activities. Companies that indicate that they have a formal service segmentation strategy have an average attach rate nearly 60% better than companies that do not. This playbook describes the steps necessary to define and implement a formal service segmentation strategy.

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6 Ways to Apply AI to Technical Support

6 Ways to Apply AI to Technical Support

Support has been relentless in the pursuit of continuous improvement, yet the function of Support has remained fundamentally unchanged for decades. AI is a critical catalyst that will help enable an inevitable Support transformation.

Many Support organizations want to be more customer-success focused, but few have the capacity to change.  To make this transition, Support resources need to focus on high value activities such as helping customers adopt and succeed with products and resolving new and challenging issues.

Consider the following scenarios for AI in Support:

1.  AI Enabled Self-Help

Known issues are resolved through intelligent automation that will match customer needs to available knowledge.  When new customer issues are identified they are flagged and prioritized based on need for addition to the knowledge base.

2.  Intelligent Resource Allocation

As customer issues are identified during a knowledge base search or new online ticket creation, issues will be triaged and directed to the most appropriate resource for resolution.

3.  Skills Enhancement

Intelligent monitoring of service interactions will result in recommendations for skills development for both customers and service staff.

4.  Relationship Development

Analysis of customer behaviors and sentiment will identify opportunities to sustain and enhance relationships.  Resources can be directed to head-off potential issues that will negatively affect relationships.  Targeted engagements will help to deliver value-added services to expand relationship value.

5.  Product Quality Improvements

Analysis of customer issues provides the foundation for prioritizing corrective actions and product enhancements.  Issues that otherwise may cause customers churn can be addressed before they defect.

6.  Proactive Issue Resolution

Deep data analytics will monitor product performance and usage telemetry to identify potential issues and apply corrective actions.

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What Support Professionals Need to Know About AI in Support

What Support Professionals Need to Know About AI in Support

Artificial Intelligence is not a silver bullet it is a tool. This tool however holds the key to fundamentally changing the way support is delivered. With the right application of AI fewer resources can handle more interactions and potentially in a more proactive and productive way.

What is AI

AI, or Artificial Intelligence is a convenient term that is widely accepted to represent access to a new type of intelligence – not artificial, but machine based. The promise of AI in in its ability represent human knowledge, make recommendations or predictions about something based on what it understands, and to extract meaning from vast amounts of data.  AI can process and represent information with speed and accuracy at a scale beyond human capacity.

One of the pioneers of AI, Arthur Samuel, described it as a “field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed.” Samuel coined the term machine learning, which more accurately represents the state of AI today.

For the purposes of this article we will use the term AI to represent a new type of machine intelligence that we can leverage as a tool. 

Types of AI

Today’s AI technologies are focused on representation of human knowledge typically within specific focus areas. Machines are taught a set of rules to perform actions or represent knowledge.   Current AI is classified as Narrow AIStrong AI is the next level of machine intelligence where rules, knowledge and learning enable machines to create new knowledge, solve unfamiliar problems and operate in ever-changing circumstances.

Examples of true machine intelligence exist in Hollywood and perhaps in the research labs, but for the purposes of applying it to post-sales services, we are limited to narrow AI capabilities.

Making Machines Intelligent

The reason we have introduce AI into the services lexicon is that the ability to make machines intelligent is now possible without a team of PhDs on staff (although some companies do have these types of resources on staff).  AI-enable technologies provide services teams with the ability to introduce intelligence into the service process without having to develop customized software and algorithms.

Whether AI is enabled through custom software or out-of-the-box solutions, there are common elements that make AI possible.

Machine Learning

For AI to act intelligent it must be taught about the domain in which it will be working. For technical support, a machine must be taught about products, operating environments, issues and solutions customers are likely to encounter.  Machines may also be taught to identify circumstances that can cause a problem to occur.  We may also choose to teach machines to understand customer sentiment so that we can monitor the health of customer relationships.

Teaching machines may involve defining a set of rules for it to operate against.  Machine learning may also involve deep learning techniques where a large collection of data is provided as a basis for the machine to infer meaning from the words and structure of the data. 

Whether through an out-of-the-box application interface or coded deep within the algorithms of a customer AI solution, teaching the machine is the first step to applying AI to support.

Natural Language Processing

The methods we use to teach machines to be intelligent will also require us to help machines understand our language. When machines can process and “understand” the way we speak it is referred to as Natural Language Processing.  The natural language we speak and understand is more than just words, it is sentence structure and the meaning derived by how words are organized. 

We must be certain that systems understand the nuance of our language and the lexicon of our domain.  As an example, we need machines to understand the difference between how the word “crash” is used.

In a hospitality environment, crash may refer to a place to relax and may generally have a positive connotation.

It was a great place to crash for a night…

In a tech environment crash typically refers to an unplanned event with negative implications.

My computer crashed after installing the new upgrade.

For most AI systems, Natural Language Processing is a fundamental capability for receiving input and presenting knowledge. Fortunately, Natural Language Processing is commonly found in many out-of-the-box solutions. 

Applying AI to Support

Teaching machines about our products and support-related issues and language processing (our support-specific lexicon) are foundations upon which we can build intelligent support applications.  These basic building blocks make it possible to leverage machines for the delivery of technical support.  

Machines can be taught to recognize patterns and concepts and respond with appropriate actions.  In some cases, AI can identify and help prevent issues before they impact customers (e.g. analyzing telemetry from system and application monitoring).  Some of the benefits of AI for Support may include:

  • Machine intelligence can “understand” a user’s need even if it is not expressly stated.
  • AI can identify customer sentiment expressed in cases records and customer feedback.
  • Knowledge can be recalled by expressing a need or concept. No longer do we need to depend upon matching a search term or phrase within a collection of written human intelligence.
  • Machine intelligence can interact with a user to collect necessary inputs to resolve issues.
  • A machine can execute the most logical action in response to a user need such as presenting the right answer or routing a user to an expert that can help.
  • AI can identify patterns that may cause problems and help to prevent issues.
  • Machines can see the things that humans may miss (data analytics).

Making Support More Human

With the right application of AI fewer human resources can handle more interactions and potentially in a more proactive and productive way.  While machines handle some of the support burden, support staff can focus on building and sustaining relationships through human-to-human activities:

  • Develop plan to help customers adopt and apply products.
  • Develop personal rapport with customers.
  • Understand customer needs and expectations.
  • Advocate for customer needs.
  • Empathize when something goes wrong.
  • Detect early signs of dissatisfaction.
  • Maintain a personal relationship.
  • Reinforce value of the relationship.
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Featured: AI – A Catalyst for Support Transformation

Support has relied on training, technology, and self-help to achieve efficiency gains, yet the potential of AI offers so much more. Through the introduction of intelligence afforded by AI-enabled systems, we are not just streamlining the way we provide Support, we introduce the means to fundamentally change the strategic role of Support. Learn how AI can transform technical support.

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The digital transformation of support is defined by an increased use of digital technologies to improve and extend core support processes and enable new service capabilities. Digital transformation includes human-assisted, self-assisted and fully automated support transactions. This article defines and introduces key characteristics of the digital transformation of support.

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Is Assisted Support Demand on the Rise – Shift Demand to Self-Help and Automation

If your support demand is on the rise and exceeds your current ability to handle it through assisted channels, let automation and self-help share the load. Whether you have well-established self-help capabilities and just need a tune up, or if you are about to launch a new initiative to introduce automation capabilities this article provides resources and insights to help.

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Chatbots for Technical Support – Are They Working?

The ability to provide automated interaction with customers by chat has been available for years. The power and potential of today’s chatbots offers a wide array of customer service and technical support opportunities. For many companies the question is not if they should deploy chatbot automation for technical support, but rather, how to make chatbots successful. In 2020 ServiceXRG conducted a study to assess the use and effectiveness of chatbots for support.  Here are the highlights:

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Self-Help and Automation – Risks and Rewards

Companies that apply self-service and support automation can yield significant benefits, but not without risks. This article examines the risk and rewards associated with Self-service and support automation initiatives.

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Digital Customer Experiences (dCX)

Many customer touchpoints with your company are conducted digitally through web self-service and automated tools. It is imperative to consider how customer experiences are impacted by services delivered through digital channels. This article introduces how to define and measure Digital Customer Experiences (dCX).

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Best Practices for Support Web Site Design

The primary objective of a support web site is to help customers find the information and resources they need quickly and intuitively. Well-designed support web sites encourage customers to invest their time to explore and discover the information they need. This article introduces the elements and practices for effective web support site design.

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