Meeting customers at the starting line

When customers need help with an issue involving your product or solution, where's the first place they go? In the past, customers would call your support team directly. Now, they're more likely to search online for answers. According to Microsoft's State of Multichannel Customer Service Report for 2016, customers across the world overwhelmingly start their customer service interactions online as opposed to on the phone or in person. If possible, people would rather try to handle support issues on their own.

Your business needs to be ready and waiting for these customers at the beginning of their support journey. You can best provide online customer support in two ways: offering an online support portal that directs customers to self-service support options and optimizing the visibility of your support portal in organic search.

"A customer portal serves as the point of entry to all your self-service support options."

Offering online customer support portals and self-service support
A customer portal serves as the point of entry to all your self-service support options. This is incredibly helpful for customers who first head to your website to find answers to their queries. They don't have to search every corner of your site to find the solutions they're looking for. Instead, they can enter through the portal and read through external knowledge base articles and wiki content.

The right customer self-service software also provides community forums, which are easily accessible through your online customer portal. Customers can discuss problems among themselves and share solutions or search the forums to see if other customers had similar problems. 

Some other ways to meet customers at the start of their support journey include:

  • Providing a live chat option that instantly connects customers and agents.
  • Letting customers submit tickets and check their status from within the portal. 
  • Allowing customers to access any information they need regarding their product or inventory

Optimize portal visibility in search engines 
Microsoft's report revealed a good portion of businesses - 51% in the U.S. and 46% in the U.K. - regularly rely on search engines for their customer support. Customers want these search engines to lead them to your content and knowledge base articles that address the topic they seek. 

"Design your content and self-service support options so they rank high in search engines."

To make sure customers using online search find what they're looking for, you need to design your content and self-service support options so they rank high in search engines. Frequently update your website with relevant, informative content. This helps your site perform better on Google, Bing, and other search engines as a whole. 

To bring customers to your self-service support options directly, Forbes advised optimizing your pages so they're easy for search engines to access. You should also promote any new knowledge base articles, wiki entries, FAQs and more through social media and email marketing. This gets the content in front of more readers, encouraging clicks and social shares that help boost a page's search engine rankings.

Customer Support Start
Your business should be reading to meet customers at the start of their search for customer support.

In addition, using headings, subheadings, lists, image tags, and metadata all help inform search engines what a particular web page is about. Therefore, if a customer searches your company name and "help adding images" (or whatever term is relevant to your software), they're more likely to come across your wiki article if the page has a header, labeled "screenshots", and meta data including the targeted keywords.

Creating self-service support solutions that are designed to perform well on search engines helps ensure your customers find the answers they need, regardless of whether they visit your website directly or through a search engine.

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