The support leader’s guide to scaling smarter with self-serve support

Part One

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Zara Burke

Image of intercom proactive customer service diagram

Some 80% of customers are more likely to do business with a company that offers a personal experience. But as your company grows, how do you offer personalized support at scale without burning out your team or budget? Modern self-serve support is key to scaling smarter.

“How do I update my password?” “What’s your cancellation policy?” Answering simple, repetitive questions like these can feel like Groundhog Day for your team. Not only is this time-consuming, it’s also a heavy drain on your support team’s resources and morale. No one wins when your team is stuck running up an endless ticketing treadmill – especially not your customers!

Keeping pace with a constant flow of support tickets means all of your customers will have to wait longer for a response. Plus, study after study reveals that many customers would rather self-serve than talk to a support rep at all.

Modern customers are used to living in an on-demand world where their every whim can be met 24/7 – think online shopping, instant news updates, and personalized Netflix feeds. Self-serve support satisfies customers’ need for speed, control, and personalization. With contextual help content and bots you can provide customers with on-demand answers to simple questions, like: “Where can I update my billing details?” and “What’s your typical US delivery timeframe?”

Ultimately, self-serve support empowers you to scale your support and provide customers with the fast answers they need, when they need them – without upping your headcount or overstretching your team. Below, we share the latest and greatest self-serve support strategies – including how to resolve repetitive queries with contextual help content and targeted bots, measure and optimize your self-serve strategy, and ultimately, position support as a core value driver for your business.

Let self-serve support handle the simple, repetitive queries

At Intercom, we use a framework called the Conversational Support Funnel to deliver efficient, personal support to our customers at scale. It combines proactive, self-serve, and human support capabilities to get ahead of known problems before they arise, automatically answer repetitive queries, and quickly resolve complex issues.

With the funnel, self-serve and proactive support resolve most simple, repetitive queries, meaning only the most complex, critical issues ever reach your team.

Image source: Ultimate Guide to Conversational Support

Armed with the right self-serve support strategy and tools, you can empower customers to help themselves at pivotal moments in their customer journey, like when they’re onboarding or getting up to speed with a new product or feature. You can (and should) also use self-serve support as an opportunity to educate your customers on how to get the most value from your product or service.

By embracing the funnel, you’ll drastically reduce the number of simple, repetitive queries that reach your support team, all while keeping your customers satisfied. And when most of your customers’ questions are resolved through self-serve support, it frees up your team to focus on your most important, complex, and VIP support queries.

“50% of support leaders plan to invest more in automation, including chatbots, in the coming year”

Not only will you take pressure off your team, you can also demonstrate how support is impacting your business’ bottom line with positive customer loyalty and retention figures. With all of these powerful benefits, it’s perhaps no surprise that 50% of support leaders plan to invest more in automation, including chatbots, in the coming year to increase the efficiency of their support team.

Create contextual help content that delivers real value

Great help content compounds in value over time. The help content your team creates today will lay the foundations for supporting thousands, maybe even millions, of your customers for years to come. Not only will it empower your customers to self-serve, it can also provide them with proactive guidance from day one of using your product or service.

“With modern conversational support tools, you can deliver help in context to the right customers, at the right time”

It’s worth taking the time to get this right, so you can offer more help to a greater number of customers and significantly reduce your overall conversation volume in the process. Here are our tips for creating content that delivers long-term value:

1. Map your help content to your customers’ journey

With traditional knowledge bases, the key question is often: “How can we create articles that satisfy our customers’ search intent?” That’s still a worthy pursuit; however, with modern conversational support tools, you can take your content one step further and deliver help in context to the right customers, at the right time.

So the question then becomes, “How can we meet customers wherever they are?” – whether that’s in your product, or browsing your website.

We recommend planning out the different types of articles you need to help customers at each stage of their journey. For example:

  • Getting started guides are perfect for onboarding customers to new products or features.
  • FAQs and how-to articles are great for activating customers and getting them up and running with your product or service.
  • Best practice guides and troubleshooting articles are ideal for helping customers get value from your product, empowering them to overcome common hurdles, and ultimately, turning them into long-term, loyal customers.

Image source: Ultimate Guide to Conversational Support

2. Define your funnel vision

At the planning stage, you’ll also want to define where and how you’ll deliver your help content within the Conversational Support Funnel. For example, when your customers are starting out with your product or service they’re bound to have lots of questions. We recommend setting up your messenger to act like the receptionist of your product or website. For example, you can set up a relevant FAQ article to appear once a customer opens the messenger, helping guide them towards the help they need.

Image source: Ultimate Guide to Conversational Support

3. Mirror your customers’ language

People don’t search for your solution, they search for their problem. So if your customers are searching for “Cannot create new project,” you don’t want to be writing articles about “Scaling database errors”. Translating your product’s concepts into customer-friendly language will help you optimize your help content for both search engines and bots.

4. Show as well as tell

Using images, videos, and gifs removes the need for enumerating steps or writing overly wordy descriptions. Why waste your customers’ time with a few paragraphs of text when you can quickly show them what to do? Use tools like Skitch to create screenshots and Droplr for gifs to help your customers quickly comprehend complex ideas.

5. Make your articles easy to scan

Don’t bog your readers down with a wall of text – use subheadings, bulleted lists, and images to break up text, and keep sentences and paragraphs as short as possible. White space is your customers’ friend.

6. Use real-life examples

Almost all the examples we use in our help content are taken directly from our customers. That means actually talking to them and listening to their stories. Then, when a customer runs into trouble, they’ll have real-life examples, not abstract use cases they can’t relate to.

Tune into part two of Intercom's blog, to be released in May, to discover the four self-serve chatbots to supercharge your supports and the key metrics your brand needs for championing and optimizing self-serve support. In the meantime checkout Intercom's ultimate guide to conversational support.

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