5 Best Practices for Help and Troubleshooting on Your Site

Most businesses live or die by the customer service they’re able to provide. Troubleshooting problems, proactively and thoroughly, can make or break a customer’s experience. Most people get confused, or frustrated, or otherwise become dissatisfied by your products and services at some point; what really matters is how you’re there (or not there) to help them when they need to get a problem sorted out.

One of the best ways to do this is through help and troubleshooting programs, which help your customers understand their main issues and respond to them appropriately. There are many types of support you can offer, from addressing basic FAQs about your company, to providing IT help and support, to offering helpful tips about how to use your products.

But how do you go about offering help and troubleshooting online in a way that works for your customers?

Best Practices for Help and Troubleshooting Online

There are many ways to offer help and troubleshooting, from basic FAQ pages to in-depth encyclopedic entries on subjects related to your brand. Regardless of the formatting you choose, you’ll need to follow these best practices to keep your strategy effective:

  1. Make your sections prominent. Nobody’s going to get value out of a help and troubleshooting guide if it’s nowhere to be found. Your first job is to make your sections prominent—include them on your homepage, but go above and beyond the limits of your website, too. Get out and promote your programs through social media and other marketing and advertising channels, and make sure all your customers know that you’re now offering online support.
  2. Include a search bar. Your search bar will serve as one of the most important pieces of your online help strategy because it enables people to find what they’re looking for faster. Rather than forcing people down the linear path of a number-based phone menu, or making them crawl through a complicated network of scattered entries and articles on your site, you’ll be giving them a direct path to whatever they’re looking for. Search bars aren’t hard to create—just make sure to test yours to ensure it’s working properly.
  3. Establish redundancy. Even if your online troubleshooting guide is virtually comprehensive, you’ll still encounter people who will have trouble finding what they’re looking for (due to ignorance, search problems, or confusion about the issue). Don’t leave these customers behind! When you develop your troubleshooting guide, be sure to include some measure of redundancy. Include the same information in multiple sections to reiterate or clarify for users who haven’t read the entire guide. You’ll also want to include links to other sections and pages to help users navigate your content.
  4. Encourage user discussion. It’s also worth your time to establish a user forum where your customers can post and communicate with each other. Not only will this help users discover, learn about, and address their own problems, it will also give you first-hand insights into what types of problems your customers actually have. As another added bonus, the additional content can help you rank higher in search engines and establish greater online visibility.
  5. Integrate social media. Finally, try to incorporate your social media presence into your online help network. Field questions on social media, and point users to your guide where relevant. You can also encourage your users to share articles they found particularly helpful, and promote the existence of your help guides as a means of content promotion and syndication.

Ongoing Efforts to Refine Customer Service

It’s not enough to simply make a troubleshooting program—if you want to be successful in the long term, you need to actively work to refine it.

  • Update your content. Revisit your guide every once in a while to make sure it’s still up-to-date. This is especially important for tech companies, or industries where things change rapidly.
  • Incorporate a feedback loop. Plug into your users conversations, and establish multiple modes of submitting feedback (such as ranking articles or submitting commentary or requests). Then, take that feedback, learn from it, and update your strategy accordingly.
  • Upgrade your media. It’s fine to start with a bare-bones guide, but over time, you should upgrade your media. Offer more images, screenshots, and video tutorials as you flesh out and develop your material.

With these best practices and ongoing efforts in place, any business can establish, maintain, and improve their help and troubleshooting programs. You’ll find that, once in place, your customers will be happier and more satisfied with your products and services. Not only that, you’ll relieve some of the burden on your customer service team-and your entire company will run smoother.