June 26th, 2012 | 3 MIN READ

10 Tips for Customer Self-Serve

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

Customer self-service doesn't just save your organization money. 2 out of 3 customers prefer self service to speaking with a live representative (Nuance Research). 75 percent believe it's more convenient to self-serve, versus 6 percent that find a live rep more convenient. This isn't surprising when you consider wait times and clunky IVR menus often stand between customer and CSR.

That places the burden on your website to support self care needs. How do you optimize your Support area? The following tips will get you started.


1. Support scanning for trigger keywords

Usability research shows users are more likely to scan a page or menu for trigger words than turn to the search box. So menu options should contain these words, but also be short and easy to scan.

Long strings of words are more difficult to scan:

2. Use FAQs with caution

Showing top asked questions seems like a good idea, but it takes up valuable real-estate. Understand that customers are not looking to browse your Support content -- they already know what they want to ask. They are more likely to scan categorical menus or head to your search box than peruse even the most common queries.

Hint: consult your analytics (click overlay) to verify whether customers are actually using your frequently asked question list.


It's difficult to address all possible questions through browse-able menus, so Support search optimization is key.

3. Scope your global search

You may have a dedicated search box on your Support page, but if you also have a global search box, make sure it has clear refinement tools for users to "scope" their searches to Support results, excluding product pages and other site content.

But avoid overwhelming menus of refinement options!

4. Don't make search results look like product results

We are conditioned to view product thumbnails as product results. Be careful when presenting support content in a way that may be confused with your product catalog.

5. Avoid truncated results

If your search results look like this...

...you will have frustrated customers. Result titles must be readable in full!

6. Perform keyword research

Keyword research for product catalog site search is tough enough -- you need to handle synonyms and misspellings, including brand and trademarks not included in standard dictionaries. Help and support topics require even more keyword research, as problem-solving phrases can be construed many different ways.

In the telco industry, for example, one my describe a pre-paid top-up through a mobile app as "how do I add more minutes from my phone?" or "how do I renew my prepaid minutes?" North American customers may call it pay-as-you-go, while international customers use pre-paid/post-paid, with or without hyphens.

Use your search logs to identify how your customer describe their problems, and append your meta data accordingly. Consider mining your and your competitors' forums for more ideas.

And don't forget to run tests on your most frequently asked questions to see if your search is getting it right.

7. Optimize for search engines

Not just your internal site search, but for Google. Often users will turn to the big G for community answers. Well optimized FAQ and community forums can bring your customers directly to your site.

Community forums

8. Don't neglect forum questions

Get your staff in to answer questions. Even better, train moderators to sell. For questions like "when is iPhone 5 going to be released?" you could point readers to a landing page with an opt-in form to be notified about its new release and pre-order information.

Support pages

9. Use pictures and video when possible

Step-by-step instructions are a headache when one must flip back and forth between a document and an account, device or application. Give users a head start by demonstrating visually, with screen shots or video tutorials.

10. Ask for feedback

Is your content really helpful? Bake feedback tools into your support pages and take user comments seriously.

Optimizing customer support is one of the topics in our latest 30 minute webinar for the telecommunications industry Keeping Customers: Reducing Churn Through Support and Upgrade Optimization, available on demand now.

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