10 pro tips to leverage your Zendesk help center effectively
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How many of your customers contact you because they want to? Not many.
Unless you’ve got a truly magical brand — which are few and far between — your customers contact your support team because they experience a problem. Contacting support might be slow, but it’s (usually) a reliable way to solve an issue, so people choose to do it — even if they wish there was a better way.
A decade ago, 91% of customers said they would use a knowledge base if it were available and suited to their needs.
Some reports even suggest that some customers would rather clean a toilet than speak to customer service. That isn’t an indictment of customer support. It simply shows that people don’t like feeling blocked and relying on someone else for help. They want to knock out their issues on their own time and keep moving forward.
The good news is that you probably already have all the tools you need to meet those customers’ needs in your Zendesk help center.
The benefits of having a help center
Having a help center is a default for support teams today. Almost every company, even very small ones, will at least put up a quick FAQ page. It’s worth the time, because customers actually do read and use those resources.
These are some of the ways your business will directly benefit from your help center:
Higher customer satisfaction
Better customer experience
Reduced support costs
Higher customer satisfaction
If 81% of customers try to solve a problem before contacting you, empowering them to actually solve it by themselves is a no-brainer. Of course, they’ll be more satisfied!
Being able to quickly and easily find a solution means customers can continue using your product the way they want. In an ideal scenario, your help content should lead to a direct resolution — meaning your customers have to invest less time and energy.
Better customer experience
There are many knock-on effects of having a great help center:
Customers can solve issues themselves
You can provide 24/7 support without needing to expand live coverage to 24/7
Fewer tickets get created, enabling you to answer the customers that really do need human help faster
73% of customers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service. A great help center is how you value their time.
Reduced support costs
The cost of a self-service interaction is a fraction of the cost of live customer support by a person. That’s because self-service is much easier to scale — create an article once, and it can help thousands and thousands of customers. Human support interactions can be really meaningful and will always have their place, but each human interaction typically only impacts one person.
How to leverage your Zendesk help center for more of an impact
Whether your help center is performing well or not, there’s always room for improvement. A knowledge base is a living, evolving thing. As your product and your customers change, you’ll find new ways to iterate and improve the way you support them. having quite the impact you expected.
Whether you’ve got a stellar help center or a less-than-impressive help center, there are four aspects that influence its performance:
The overall experience
How you promote it
How you develop it over time
Here’s how you can improve each of them.
Improve your Zendesk help center content
The content is only one part of your help center, but it’s the most important one.
1. Build a help center early
The best way to make the most of your help center is to train your customers to use it. In most cases, that’s easiest to do before customers have had a chance to develop habits around contacting you first.
Launching Zendesk Guide is relatively easy, so it’s a good idea to spin up your help center in the first days or weeks of your support team. To start, just take note of the most common questions you receive and write out simple and clear answers to those questions.
Setting up your help center early can prevent or delay the need to launch additional support channels and hire additional staff. Before going down these more expensive and complicated routes, make sure you’re funneling everything through your help center first.
2. Transform your macros into articles
Some content is better than no content. If you have to create a macro about something, that’s a sign your customers are asking the same question over and over. It takes very little extra time to transform that macro’s contents into a simple knowledge article.
It’s tempting to wait until you have the time to write the perfect article — but perfectionism can be the enemy of progress. Great articles may look professional and may work better, but think about it this way: if you delay creating those articles, you’re creating a worse experience for your customers (and more work for your support team, even if they’re using macros!).
Export your macros to understand what you’re doing with them, then create help center content around the most-used macros.
3. Invest in the quality of your content
Once you have some content in place, you can focus on leveling up the quality across the board. You can develop templates and guidelines to create a unified style and adjust based on customer feedback. You can implement Knowledge-Centered Service to maximize the impact of your team’s knowledge.
One of the best ways to upgrade your help center’s quality is to invest in some testing. Find external people who’ve never used your product or internal employees who don’t know about a feature. Ask them to go through your articles and try out the steps, then take note of where they get stuck or confused.
This can be time-consuming, but it can have a massive impact on how effective your help center is. Great self-service is worth the investment.
Construct a seamless experience
The content is only one piece of the help center puzzle. Within Zendesk, your help center usually includes contact forms, live chat, and more.
Your help center should be a seamless part of your customer journey
Your help center should be a seamless part of your customer journey. That means developing a big picture view of the customer experience and understanding where it naturally fits in.
4. Use smart, custom contact forms
Great support teams view their contact forms as an opportunity. They use it to:
Collect as much relevant information in advance as possible.
Personalize the questions they ask for specific issues.
Reduce customer effort further down the line (by eliminating back-and-forth emails, for example).
Your customers may need to spend a minute or two filling out your custom contact forms, but if it enables significantly faster resolution times and resolution rates, that’s a tradeoff worth making.
5. Design a cohesive, branded experience
Many companies use one of the standard Zendesk themes and adapt the colors just enough to use their brand colors.
That works as a starting point, and if it gets you to launch your help center sooner, it’s often a good option. But relying on standard themes for the long haul brings one big issue: Your customers will have the impression that they’re exiting your product experience to enter the support experience.
Your support experience is an interaction with your company and your brand. Treat your help center the same way by mirroring your website and product’s design.
6. Tailor the experience to your customers
Every company’s customer base is unique. That means your customers may interact with your help center differently than others:
Some customers might immediately do a keyword search as soon as they hit your help center.
Others might search for help on Google and navigate based on the top search results.
Other customers might open the help center and navigate through the categories to find what they’re looking for.
In an ideal world, you’d optimize for all three scenarios. But it’s worth seeing how your customers use your help center and then prioritizing that experience.
If they navigate through the categories, you need to simplify the category structure as much as possible. If they’re only using keyword searches, you need to ensure that the top searches bring up relevant articles.
Zendesk Guide already has a lot of this data built-in, and using Google Analytics adds a whole bunch more context. If you want to take those insights to the next level, a tool like Help Center Analytics will unlock a whole different level of understanding.
Promote it internally and externally
With great content and a seamless experience, you’re positioned to market your help center. The next step is to ensure your customers can find it and your agents use it.
7. Integrate it into your product and website
The easiest place to start promoting your Zendesk help center is by integrating help center links into your product and website.
47% of customers say they always search online for an answer before contacting customer support. But what if you could make it so that they don’t have to search at all?
This involves close collaboration with your Product team. The goal is to design an experience that feels intuitive and easy, while anticipating as many potential customer issues as possible in advance. Putting your help center in the right places within your app and product has a massive impact on how many customers engage with it.
Bottom line: If your help center is convenient and easy to find, people will naturally use it.
8. Market your help center internally first
Your employees are — believe it or not — the biggest potential advocates of your help center.
How many internal questions about your product does your support team field? How many questions does your sales team get from prospective customers they interact with? How about your marketing team when they manage social media?
Imagine if all of these employees used and linked to your help center when they needed to answer a question about your product. That’s the power of internal promotion.
You can tell you’ve succeeded at this when people across your company default to your help center before they contact your support team.
9. Involve every support agent
Whether a team of documentation experts manages your help center or not, all frontline support agents should be involved:
You can standardize the best ways of using and talking about the help center in your responses.
Your agents should link to help articles where relevant (not to replace their answers but to supplement them).
They should regularly provide feedback about content that’s outdated or suggest new articles.
You can use a methodology like Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) to make managing your Zendesk help center a project the whole team gets behind.
Improve your help center continually
10. Measure success and iterate
Your help center will never be finished.
Reviewing analytics on a weekly or monthly basis will keep you constantly in the loop. As your product evolves, your customers’ needs will change. And as you improve both the content and design of your help center over time, your customers’ behavior will change too.
The only way to keep it effective over time is to keep up with those changes. Managing your help center can feel like a big task, but with the right tools (like Help Center Manager) it becomes far easier.
And it’s vital, because the only thing worse than having no help center for your customers is having a help center full of outdated or incorrect information.
Take your Zendesk help center to the next level
It’s hard to overstate the value of a great help center.
It empowers your customers, who gain the tools to answer their questions and solve their problems independently. And it enables your support team by freeing up their time and providing them with a valuable resource to refer to.
Incremental investment into your Zendesk help center — in time, money, and effort — over a long period will significantly improve your customer and agent experience.
We’ve developed a suite of Zendesk apps at SwiftEQ to help you on that journey. Book a free demo with us today to find out how.
Written by Nouran Smogluk
Nouran is a passionate people manager who believes that work should be a place where people grow, develop, and thrive. She writes for Supported Content and also blogs about a variety of topics, including remote work, leadership, and creating great customer experience.