Building a Successful Self-Service Support Website with WordPress

Building a Successful Self-Service Support Website with WordPress

Have you been inside a restaurant like Applebee’s or Red Robin lately? Well, if you haven’t, I’d urge you to do so because a lot has changed in the past few years what with rising costs. One of the ways these restaurants have been successful maintaining profits? By removing the human element and installing self-service kiosks.

Think about the last time you went to the grocery store. Or the airport. Or the movie theater. Self-service kiosks and book-ahead services are all now readily available and widely used in environments that previously relied heavily on the human-to-human element. Needless to say, customer service is no longer contingent on a human service representative; and for someone whose work revolves around building virtual “homes” for businesses, this should intrigue you.

Self-service isn’t a new concept for businesses. In fact, it’s an idea that’s often explored as businesses seek out ways to be more efficient within their own operations while also giving customers more of what they want.

Back in 2010, Forrester released a report regarding North American customer service trends. In that now seven-year-old report, they found that “72% of US online consumers prefer to use a company’s Web site to get answers to their questions rather than contact companies via telephone or email.” In a more recent survey, it was reported that 70% of people expect businesses to offer a self-service element on their website.

For many online businesses, offering a strong self-service support presence could be supremely beneficial. I’d like to explore this topic today and offer up some versatile solutions you can easily build out in WordPress.

A Very Strong Argument for Self-Service Support Online

Maybe this is all a result of millennials’ preference to do everything themselves… or maybe it’s just a natural evolution of our dependence on technology. Regardless of why self-service is so big right now, I don’t see it going away anytime soon. It’s great for the customer and it’s great for the business behind the website.

Empowers Customers

If you’ve ever had to wait too long in a checkout line or you’ve become frustrated with a customer service rep who clearly didn’t know how to handle your issue, then you understand how great it feels when you can take matters into your own hands. Trust me, everyone’s been in that position. I’d say this is the primary reason why your site needs self-service support options.

Removes Human Error

On a related note, human error—or, more accurately, human “ineptitude”—can lead to serious issues in how customers feel about a brand. By giving your visitors control over their own customer service experience, they won’t have to deal with someone who doesn’t have the answer, someone who forgets that they put them on hold, or, worse, someone who’s rude to them.

Speeds Time to Conversion

Out in the real world, self-service kiosks are all about improving the speed and efficiency of how an operation works. U.S. Customs claims that kiosks reduce customer wait time by 25% to 40%. Can you imagine what would happen if visitors could take care of their own queries on your site? They’d spend less time hunting around for answers and more time getting to the shopping cart.

Frees Time up for the Business

Visitors aren’t the only ones who get a whole bunch of time savings from self-service support. Businesses that take this route spend less time fielding phone calls, responding to emails, and monitoring social media for customer questions or complaints. Instead, their website—and the visitor—does most of the work for them, freeing them up to focus on running the business.

Improves Your Image

You want your website to be an accurate reflection of your business. You’ll likely see an improvement in how visitors view your brand by:

  • Providing thoroughly developed self-help elements.
  • Demonstrating a solid knowledge of your audience in being able to anticipate their questions and issues.
  • Being totally transparent and upfront with them about your business (and anything else they might have questions about).

7 Ways to Implement Self-Service Support on Your WordPress Site

In general, you want to provide a great experience for visitors on your WordPress site. There’s nothing that says that every visitor will want to manage their own service and support issues, but there’s research that suggests that a growing majority of them do.

Here are some of the (very easy) ways you can add self-service support elements to your site:

#1. Update Your Site

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that this may be a cop-out answer, but it’s still a valid point to make. By always keeping your site up to date, you can ensure that visitors have all the information they need about your business, services, products, team members, hours of operation, etc. at the tip of their fingers. If they don’t have to go digging through your site to find the answers to their questions, then don’t make them.

#2. Add a Search Bar

When your visitors have questions or can’t find what they’re looking for, I’m willing to bet the first thing many of them do is look in the top-right corner of your site for a search bar. Why? Because it’s so ingrained in each and every one of us that when we have a question, we pop open our browser and turn to Google for help. Wouldn’t it be great if visitors had that same inclination on your site and could get the answers they were looking for that way?

While you could rely on the default WordPress search bar, I’d suggest using a plugin for this one. WPMU DEV’s Custom Google Search plugin is an awesome choice.

#3. Create a FAQs Page

I’m always a fan of Frequently Asked Questions pages. I feel like websites that do this right use them as a way to elaborate on information that’s already available within the main content areas of their site, not as a way to hide details they don’t want customers to see right away.

If you’re unsure of what sort of information would be appropriate here, talk to your customers. In order to get access to the most relevant and pertinent information, add post-support surveys to your process. These can be launched after a live chat session, phone call, or email—that way, those questions, concerns, and issues will be fresh in their minds. In no time, you’ll be able to spot the trends in what your customers want to know and what they need the most help with pretty quickly.

#4. Build a Knowledgebase

Self-Service Support - KnowAll
This WordPress theme from HeroThemes simplifies the process of building a knowledge base.

Does your website need more thorough documentation and support modules for your visitors in their attempts at self-service? For service-based businesses, that is likely the case. That’s why a separate knowledge base is always a good idea. Think of it like a separate website that’s dedicated solely to supporting your visitors, without having to do any of the heavy lifting yourself.

You could probably try to build this out from scratch, but I wouldn’t suggest that. There are WordPress themes built specifically to fulfill this purpose—like KnowAll from HeroThemes.

#5. Let the Community Chime in

Self-Service Support - Forums Plugin
There are so many benefits to building a community on your site. Why not allow them to support one another through a forum?

You’ve undoubtedly seen how websites like Quora or Stack Overflow work. Your visitors are already familiar with this form of self-support that’s powered by their community of peers, too.

If you’re already working on building a community for your site, either through a membership or a highly active commenting system, then adding a forum would probably make a lot of sense. You can use the Forums plugin to get this up and running in no time.

#6. Create Helpful Content

Every website has a unique strength when it comes to creating relevant and useful content for their audience. For instance, some websites may utilize how-to video content that promotes their brand indirectly while demonstrating how to use their products.

For the most part, online users are aware that blogs usually aren’t the place to find self-promotional content (that’s usually saved for a dedicated “News” section). Blogs are where visitors come to get a sense for a business’s expertise and know-how, which makes them the ideal location for well-formulated tutorials. Just remember to keep your tutorials lively and easy to follow with plenty of images, screenshots, and short blocks of text as you detail each step.

#7. Offer a Support System

Self-Service Support - Support System
Service ticketing systems are great not just for streamlining customer communications, but for keeping documentation on all reported issues and questions.

Even with all those self-service opportunities mentioned above, there may still come a time when a visitor needs to speak with someone (via email, phone, or live chat). Rather than force them to call and potentially wait to speak to you, create a support ticketing system where they can send you their information. This will streamline your communications and also still give visitors the ability to control how and when they want to be contacted by you.

Building a support portal or ticketing system is easy with the right plugin. I’d suggest you start with WPMU DEV’s Support System plugin.

Keep These Tips in Mind Before Adding Self-Service Support

Self-service support options are great—for your visitors and for you. That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind before you go crazy with pimping out your site with these elements:

Tip #1

One of the things many restaurant owners (and other hospitality professionals, I’m sure) worried about with self-service automation was what would happen to their employees if they were no longer needed to assist customers. What they found was that they were able to transfer those customer-facing representatives to other parts of their business, which in turn improved the strength of their operations.

I’d argue the same applies here. Take all that time saved and invest it into reinforcing web design best practices.

Tip #2

Just remember that customer service should still take the form of a well-rounded, omni-channel approach. Even if your visitors tend to prefer self-service options, your site should still have the other typical contact methods available (like contact forms and a live chat).

Tip #3

If you’re building out separate pages dedicated solely to support, provide visitors with clear directions to them in the navigation or at the top of the website.

Tip #4

Make sure that all of the self-service elements are designed for all users, regardless of which device they’re using. If your site is already responsive, this shouldn’t be a problem, though it’s important to watch out for this if you’re using a third-party plugin to add new functionality to your site.

Tip #5

Never let self-service users hit a dead end. Even though they’ve gotten an answer to their question, there should be a clear path to back up, explore other questions, or continue back onto their path to conversion.

Wrapping Up

There are a number of reasons why your visitors will go ga-ga over self-service elements. Maybe they really abhor talking to people on the phone. Maybe they’re short on time and appreciate the speed and convenience of self-service. Maybe they just like to see a company that can anticipate their visitors’ every move and thought. Regardless of the “why”, your site will no doubt reap the benefits as it caters to an audience that wants more control over their on-site experience.

Suzanne Scacca
What’s the biggest motivation for you to get self-service support on your WordPress site?