Articles in the series
- Introduction: Elements of a self-service channel
- Part 1: Planning your self-service content project
- Part 2: Planning your self-service content structure
- Part 3: Determining what articles you need to create
- Part 4: Writing your knowledge base articles
- Part 5: Launching your help center
- Part 6: Tracking essential self-service metrics
- Part 7: Maintaining and improving your knowledge base
If it’s your job to plan, write, and maintain the content for your knowledge base, this series of articles will help you learn how to plan and then write and review your self-service content, how to structure your content and make it available to your customers in the help center, how to promote it so that it gets used, and then what you need to do to continuously improve your knowledge base to ensure that it’s meeting your customers’ needs and is providing the highest possible customer satisfaction.
This is the first article in the series and provides an overview of the self-service channel and elements in the Zendesk that you have to work with in creating and maintaining and improving content.
Self-service means that your customers are able to find the information they need to answer their questions and solve their problems without having to contact and interact with a customer service rep. To do that, they rely on the explanations and instructions you provide to them via your knowledge base articles.
The written word is the core of a self-service channel and the processes and technologies that surround it are there to help ensure that your customers are aware of the content, that they use it, and then to help you evaluate how well it’s serving both your customers and your goals of reducing their dependency on person-to-person customer service interactions.
All of these elements together (the words, the technology, your processes) make up your self-service channel and involve many steps and a number of different roles and people to make it all happen. While this guide is focused on the content creation part of the self-service channel, we provide links to more information about those other steps.
Making the business case for self-service
- 69% of customers want to resolve as many issues as possible on their own and attempt to use self-service to make that happen.
- 61% of customers say resolving issues quickly is a top indicator of good customer experiences. If customers can quickly locate the self-service content they need, they don’t need to contact and then wait for assistance from a support agent.
This data is provided by Gartner, a leading provider of customer experience insights and data. They also tell us that of that large percentage of customers who attempt to resolve their issues on their own only about 9% succeed. This could be because either no self-service is available to them or that it’s been poorly implemented. This is especially important for SMBs because customers are 2x more likely to prefer using self-service to engage with small and medium-sized businesses versus businesses of other sizes.
That data demonstrates the value of self-service to customer satisfaction, but there’s also the cost to you as a business. A self-service transaction is a fraction of the cost of a support transaction that is handled by an agent.
There’s also the question of scalability and handling heavy ticket volumes. Self-service improves ticket deflection for many high frequency support issues, which frees up your agents to focus on the more complex issues. With a manageable ticket queue, there’s also less need to bring on more resources to handle the load.
Another point to consider is that creating knowledge base content and publishing it to the internet (if you’re providing a help center that anyone can access, versus a restricted help center - see Restricting help center access to signed-in end-users) raises awareness of your business because the content is included in internet search results. The self-service channel can help you to rank higher in search results and generate new business.
Finally, a knowledge base is as valuable to agents as it is to customers. A great knowledge base is the source of accurate and up-to-date go-to information for everyone who needs it. It’s a reference and also great training material. A new agent can be dropped into a team and they can be quickly up to speed on the products or services they’re supporting by using your knowledge base.
The elements of a self-service channel
Self-service begins with your knowledge base content. In the narrow sense, it’s the FAQs and how-to articles you create to explain how your products and services work and how to resolve common issues that arise when using them. In the broader sense, your knowledge base is also the content that is generated by your community of users and by the back-and-forth between that community and the people who are creating and supporting the knowledge base content.
When you open up your content for comments, you often get follow-on questions that point out gaps in your content and comments from users who provide further advice, best practices, and clarifications.
To begin providing self-service, you need somewhere to publish your collection of knowledge base content that is easily accessible to your end users and customers. That’s where the help center comes in. In Zendesk, you build a help center using Zendesk Guide.
- Knowledge Base - This is your collection of knowledge base articles, which you organize into the structure and categories and articles you need.
- Knowledge Base Comments - You can allow your customers (and agents) to add comments to articles so that additional questions can be asked and answered directly in those articles, in context.
- Customer Service Portal - This is where customers submit tickets if they can’t find the information they need in your knowledge base and also, in the Professional and Enterprise versions of Guide, where they can manage their tickets.
- Online Community - You can also create an online community in your help center by enabling Zendesk Gather. This provides a community forum where your customers can connect and collaborate, crowdsource support, share knowledge, and provide you with feedback.
s you advance farther along with your self-service channel, you’ll discover other Zendesk features that will help you create, maintain, monitor, and improve your self-service content and its effectiveness in helping your customers succeed in resolving their own support issues.
Zendesk self-service products and features
If you’re not already familiar with the products, add-ons, and features that you can use to create and manage your self-service channel (some of which we’ve just mentioned), here’s the complete list.
|Zendesk Support, in tandem with Zendesk Guide, are the core of the self-service channel. They work closely together and some of the key elements of your help center customer experience are configured and enabled in Zendesk Support. Support also provides essential reporting tools for monitoring your help center activity. For more information, see Using Zendesk Support and Zendesk Guide together.
Zendesk Guide is what you use to create your help center. It’s your authoring tool, publishing platform, and your customers’ window into the support you provide to them (where they interact with your content and submit and track their support requests). You organize your content into articles within categories and sections.
There are two versions of Guide:
Guide Professional - This version covers the basics of creating and managing a knowledge base. You can create articles in draft mode, have others review the drafts, and then publish your articles when they’re ready to go live. It also includes the Knowledge Capture app, which allows agents to flag and create articles and leverage AI-powered recommendations. It also includes article revision history and a number of other features to enhance your articles and evaluate your customer engagement with your content. You can also create an agent-only knowledge base within your help center.Guide Enterprise - This advanced version allows you to create multiple help centers, provides more theme templates, and also includes Team Publishing, Content Cues, and Content Blocks (all described below). This version also allows you to create sub-sections up to six levels deep.
Zendesk Gather is a community forum that enables customers to connect and collaborate with one another. Your community of users can solicit the help they need from other members of your community. Gather complements the knowledge base in your help center. You must first set up Guide before you can add Gather.For more information, see Getting Started with Zendesk Gather.
|You use the Web Widget to embed automated conversation flows using conversational bots and bot builder into your websites and your help center. Automated support interactions via messaging can contain links to your help center articles. See Enabling a Web Widget for messaging.
|Knowledge Capture app
With the Knowledge Capture app app, agents can search the help center without leaving a ticket and insert links to relevant help center articles in ticket comments.
The Knowledge Capture app can also be used to add inline feedback to existing articles that need updates, and create new articles while answering tickets using a predefined template.The Knowledge Capture app is installed by default in both versions of the Guide plan and all versions of Zendesk Suite. For more information, see Opening the Knowledge Capture app.
|Zendesk bots use machine learning to help answer your customers’ questions. With content from your knowledge base, AI suggests articles to your customers to resolve their issues. It can be used in automated email responses and in a number of Zendesk products and integrations (see Understanding everywhere you can use Zendesk bots) and is the first responder when you set up messaging
Team Publishing, available in Guide Enterprise (which is included in Zendesk Suite Enterprise and Enterprise Plus plans), makes it easy for teams to collaborate on and manage content. Teams can set up collaboration workflows to review, approve, and publish content. They can also stage content updates for published articles without affecting the live content.For more information, see About Guide Team Publishing.
Content Cues, also available in Guide Enterprise, uses AI to automatically review incoming tickets and identify common questions and keywords and compare that to your help center content, providing suggestions for adding or updating your content and what labels you can add to your articles to improve your customers’ search results. It also identifies top performing articles over the last 60 days and underperforming content so that you can either improve or archive content that is no longer relevant.For more information, see Understanding Content Cues.
Content Blocks, also available in Guide Enterprise, allows you to create blocks of content that can be shared between articles. This is useful for content such as disclaimers or boilerplate text that you want to create once, maintain centrally, and reuse in multiple places.For more information, see Enabling content blocks for reusing content in articles.
Zendesk Explore provides reporting tools that allow you to monitor key metrics related to the use of the Knowledge Capture app and the Zendesk bots (currently called "Answer Bot" in Explore). For example, you can track the number of articles linked through the Knowledge Capture app that were marked as helpful by end users and resolved their request.For more information about using Zendesk Explore as part of your self-service channel, see Overview of the Zendesk Guide dashboard and Metrics and attributes for Zendesk Guide.
The following articles in this guide describe how to plan and then create, maintain, and improve your self-service content.
- Getting started with self-service – Part 2: Planning your self-service content project
- Getting started with self-service – Part 3: Planning your self-service content structure
- Getting started with self-service – Part 4: Determining what articles you need to create
- Getting started with self-service – Part 5: Writing your knowledge base articles
- Getting started with self-service – Part 6: Launching your help center
- Getting started with self-service – Part 7: Tracking essential self-service metrics
- Getting started with self-service – Part 8: Maintaining and improving your knowledge base