5 Rules Of The Perfect Knowledge Base/Help Portal
Written by Emil Hajric
A help page serves as an automated, content rich, support system that customers can quickly access and get INSTANT answers to their questions. To customers, help pages serve as a preferred means of problem solving. They do not require customers to pick up a phone or send out an email. Automating the process saves them time looking for answers, making their search easier.
From a business perspective, help portals simply ease the burden put on customer support groups by cutting down on the overall number of questions that need to be answered.
Now enough generic rambling, if you want to create the perfect help page follow these 5 rules.
1) Simple Design = Happier Users & LESS SUPPORT
We’ll start off with the most obvious of help page rules; use clean design and keep it simple! If your help portal is unorganized and doesn’t look user-friendly, chances are your knowledge base is not being fully utilized, defeating the purpose of even having a help page. The design needs to be intuitive and easy to navigate. Make sure to use a design that will match your company’s brand and transition well with the rest of the website design. The more user-friendly your help page is, the less likely customers are to call you, saving you time and money.
Take a look at Coastal’s help page and take note of the points we go over below to get an idea of how to achieve proper design elements .
We’re talking about a self-service page that is effective and appealing, thanks to a simplistic, non-cluttered design.
* Each category is properly labeled and segregated. Why? To make it easier for the customer to find the questions that will be most useful to them, sometimes they simply do not know what keywords to search for. The more information you have bunched up, the longer it takes your customer to find an answer, which is one of the easiest ways to annoy them. Do you like dealing with upset customers over the phone?
* The headings are brief and use bolded words to stand out. You should always stay away from long questions and menu options. This makes questions standout from one another, making them more visible and easier to find. If everything blends together it looks like a mess of information that is far from being user-friendly This again makes browsing a knowledge base quicker and simpler for the customer.
*INFORMATION OVERLOAD – *may cause temporary vision impairment*
* Stay away from clutter, do NOT add full explanations and answers to each question immediately. Integrate a collapsing design where clicking on a question brings up a drop down menu or takes a customer to a new tab. This way you’re not stuck with a clump of information that’s distracting the customer, making questions more visible and making it easier to navigate the knowledge base.
* One other option is to use graphic representation, such as icons. Do not go overboard with artsy buttons, keep it simple and recognizable. Sometimes users don’t feel like browsing through fields of questions, icons make it easy to distinguish between different help page topics.
2) ALWAYS integrate instant search
One of the biggest MISTAKES you can make is to have no search at all. For a customer there is nothing more traumatic than having to manually search through pages and pages of knowledge base material. All segments of your FAQ need to be automated and more important, FAST. I can’t stress enough how impatient customers can be. They don’t want to wait on answers, everything needs to be INSTANT. Think about why everyone loves Google… because as we type questions out, results instantly start appearing, who doesn’t love that. In a way, it makes you feel as though the search understands you and your problems, which automatically transitions into a sense of appreciation towards the company.
A large, easily noticeable search bar makes an instant search field stand out and pushes the customer to use it. Many times users will be viewing a knowledge base and simply glance over the headlines, missing questions they need answered. By offering a search you’re making it easier for them to find answers and you’re speeding up the entire process.
If it takes you longer than 10 seconds to find the answer to a question, you’re help page needs work. An instant search is a beautiful self-service tool sent from the internet Gods, take advantage of it and your customers will be extremely grateful.
3) Use Analytics
You need to have a means of allowing your customers to give you feedback. This not only allows them to share opinions about the content on your knowledge base, it simultaneously informs you which articles need to be improved or whether certain question need to be added . 9 times out of 10, a customer will not take the time to write out an email saying how bad or amazing a topic article is. The best way to get such feedback is to use a voting system and/or comment section. Users should be able to upvote/downvote articles based on their accuracy and content helpfulness.
For this example let’s go to the opposite end of the spectrum, inadequate knowledge base ques.
The MySQL help portal demonstrates room for knowledge base improvements that could SIGNIFICANTLY reduce their support and improve customer satisfaction. The one that stands out most in this case is their lack of customer interaction. They have no way of knowing whether articles are actually assisting their customers or simply driving them away.
By getting a simple thumbs up or down you’ll know which areas of your FAQ are well written or need some attention. Listening to the user’s input makes it easier to effectively help future customers and keep an up-to-date knowledge base.
Plus, if an article has a high rating other customers will know that it is actually useful and won’t waste their time reading a poor article.
4) Have multiple links to your websites help page
Where do most companies place their FAQ link? They place it at the bottom of the website… hidden among several category links… in small, dark font, like they’re trying to hide it. Why? I have no freaking idea. It goes against everything good customer service stands for. Your help page NEEDS to be at the forefront of user interaction. This could be as simple as including a sidebar button that says “Have a question?”
Chances are, most customers don’t want to bother scanning a website, searching extensively for a HELP button. Make sure your help page has proper advertising. I’m talking about a link that jumps out and SCREAMS at the customer, assuring you that there is no way they could possibly miss it. If your self-service is intuitive then customers will be much less likely to contact you and spam your email boxes complaining about the lack of support they received.
One of my favorite implementations of this design comes from www.vinylimpression.co.uk
I honestly feel as though the help button is stalking me as I browse their website and I love it. No matter what web page you go to or where you click, IT IS ALWAYS THERE. There is no way a customer could possibly miss it and it lets them know that you do want to assist them if they have any questions.
5) Make all contact help information easily accessible
If you follow all of the aforementioned rules you will have one amazing help page, but there is still a possibility that a customer may need further assistance and requires to contact you directly. Make it easy for them to do so by providing all help resources and customer service contact information in multiple, clearly marked areas.
To this regard I take pride in Helpjuice’s design and integration of contact options. We WANT to hear from our customers so we make sure to give them the option to easily send us an email or call us directly. Always remember that the first step to amazing customer support is being there to answer questions and provide support.
If there is one more rule I could squeeze in, it would be to keep the knowledge base updated, which should go without saying. As your company is adding new features and evolving so is the need for more articles and better self-service. If all questions and answers are not accounted for then you can expect to be going through tons of emails your customers are going to bombard you with. This ties in great with the need for analytics. Do not keep outdated articles if they are not being used and make sure to add new articles as the demand for them becomes apparent.