Using your help center to improve your support

Using your help center to improve your support
By Diana Potter | On Feb 22, 2022
8 min read
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Recently, we dove a bit deeper into tracking data and then using it to determine what causes the most support and advocate for change. You can use that same data to improve your help documentation in parallel, and you can use data from your help docs to improve your product and service as well. We’ll be talking about both ideas and how to accomplish them in this article.

First, though, let’s step back and talk a bit more about self-serve and help documentation. Help docs are generally those articles written to explain common questions that your customers have, or in-depth information about your product or features. They’re there so your customers can help themselves without needing to come to you, and can be a great way for you to both help more customers with a smaller team and empower your customers. 

As much as we’d all like to support products and services that are so intuitive that no one ever has any questions about them, we know that isn’t the reality. Customer pain points are going to come up as a result of your support ecosystem and product. I’m going to assume that you have help docs in place, but if you don’t, stop here because that’s your first task—and it’s not a small one. Stay tuned for more articles over the coming months to help you get started with self-serve education.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about how you can use your self-serve data to improve your service (or vice versa). 

In this article:

Use your help center data to improve your product

Your help center is generally overflowing with all sorts of information about what your customers are most confused or curious about. Want to know where they’re getting stuck? Just look at the terms they search for or the articles they’re viewing. Want to know how you can better help them? Collect article feedback and make sure to regularly view their comments. 

The exact data you’ll have available will depend on what platform you’re using. However, you can also typically install something like Google Analytics to get additional information.

Track the most viewed articles or frequent search terms

The first thing I’d suggest looking at are your most viewed articles and/or your frequent search terms. While they’re different metrics, they can often help you gather similar information. The first tells you what articles your customers are browsing. This can be specifically what they have questions about, or may even just be articles that they thought may have handy information. The second metric lets you know specifically what terms your customers are looking for, which can directly tell you what they have questions about. Most platforms offer at least one of these metrics in their help center reporting.

As an example, let’s look at Zendesk’s reporting. If you’re using their Explore product, you can use their pre-built search dashboard. If you’re not, you’ll want to head to the search analytics dashboard.

From their search dashboard, you’ll want to look at the search queries overview and from there you can see exactly what your customers are searching for — as well as matching articles and how often they’re clicking through to view a specific page.

Image from Zendesk

Those queries and the resulting page views will typically reflect both your most popular features as well as the areas that your customers find to be the most confusing. You’d want to take that information and combine it with the common causes of customer questions (link to most recent article of mine), sprinkle in some intuition from your team, and present it to your product team. On my end, I use this data along with the other areas we collect and put together a story-focused Voice of the Customer report on a monthly basis that’s shared initially with the product team, and then with the company as a whole.

The product team can then know that from what we’re seeing, x products or features are the most likely to cause customer questions and confusion. Then, they can prioritize improvements to those areas.

Track article feedback

Nothing is better than feedback that comes directly from your customers, and your help center is no exception to that. While things like search terms and article views can help you intuit areas for improvement, hearing it in your customers’ own words is even better.

While it’s hard to just ask for product or service feedback in your help center, you can ask for article feedback. This is a feature built into numerous platforms, and if it’s missing you can always use something like Typeform or SurveyMonkey to create your own feedback forms.

The built-in surveys are intended to collect feedback on the articles themselves, but customers quite often use them as a way to send you feedback on both your documentation and your products. This will give you some great ways to improve both your self-service and your product.

As an example, let’s look at Intercom’s article reactions. With these enabled, your customers would be prompted to rate whether or not an article answered their question. If they give a negative reaction, they’d be asked for more information. 


Image from Intercom


While their further questions may point to areas of confusion in the article itself, often the communication may revolve around a product or feature that is simply extra confusing. Add this information to the reports you share with your product team or the rest of the company — it’s a great additional insight.

Use your other data to improve your help center

While the data in your help center can lend itself to a better product and overall customer experience, the reverse can also be true. Changing a physical product, or even software, can be time-consuming. It isn’t something that can happen overnight even when it is possible. The reality of support is that you’re often looking for ways to help customers and smooth over any bumps in their experience, especially if its methods under your control. Your help center is a classic area where you can quickly and easily (in the overall scheme of things) make a real impact for your customers.

Take your feature tracking and use it to prioritize

A few weeks ago we talked about how to use your support conversation data to identify areas of your product to improve and you can use that same information to improve your help center. 

What you’ll likely find the most useful information from is tracking what features or products cause the most customer questions. This will tell you the areas of your help center that you’ll want to spend the most time on. Those will be the articles that you may need to improve (article feedback is great here, too!) or just expand. 

I recommend creating a report every month to share with others in your company, and then use the exact same report to improve your help center. You can then keep tracking those trends over time and see demonstrably if the changes or additions to your help center are reducing those customer questions.

Track saved reply use

Maybe you’re using Freshdesk’s Canned Responses, Zendesk’s Macros, Help Scout’s saved replies or even something standalone like TextExpander. In every case, those snippets of answers are created in advance because they’re something you’re saying on a frequent basis. Wouldn’t it be better if you didn't have to start repetitive messages from scratch every time they came up? When it comes to your saved replies, check out these support ticket response examples to inspire your team.

FAQs can be a bit of a controversial topic in the documentation space, and all of those naysayers have a lot of very good points. In fact, most of the rest of the data-focused tips from this article and previously (link to a past blog post) have been all about fixing the root causes of questions, and focusing on a customer-centric viewpoint where you clear up confusion rather than bandaging over it. 

But the reality is that sometimes the best thing for your customers is the less perfect. That’s where tracking your saved reply usage really comes in handy. If something is elevated to a saved reply, then it should be an article in your help center. If it isn’t already, use your reporting to help you prioritize what you need to write first.

In Help Scout, for example, the All Channels report will let you know which of your saved replies are getting the most usage and let you track trends over time. 


Every one of those replies is a perfect example of something you should add to your help center—because the only thing better than a quick reply is not even needing to ask the question in the first place.

Conclusion

Have you gotten some ideas for how you can leverage your help center data to better help your customers? It’s such a gold mine of valuable information to improve your customer’s overall experience. We’d love to know what you’re tracking or sharing with the rest of your team. And as always, we’d love to hear what areas of customer service you’d like to learn about. Leave us a comment on LinkedIn and let us know all of your suggestions and questions.

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Diana Potter

Diana is a support, success, and experience leader. She’s currently the Head of Customer Experience for Qwilr and previously led customer departments for a number of leading companies. When she’s not writing or helping customers you’ll find her off in the woods taking photos or curled up with a book.

TestBox empowers you to have a self-serve, customer-led experience so you can buy new software and feel confident that you made the right choice. Currently focused on Customer Support, TestBox allows you to test out Zendesk, Freshdesk, HubSpot, Dixa, and other products side-by-side. It takes a matter of minutes to sign up and take these products for a test drive. Find out more at TestBox.com or follow on LinkedIn.