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
The first step in launching your self-service channel is to plan for the key tasks that you’ll need to accomplish. This includes when to launch your help center, who creates the content, and who sets up and brands your help center.
This article covers the following topics:
Asking the essential questions
To successfully develop content for and launch your self-service support channel, you should create a plan to answer the following questions:
- When do I launch my help center?
- Who writes the knowledge base content?
- Who sets up the help center and makes it live?
Of course, there are many details contained in these questions, and there are many follow-up questions that you’ll need to address, but these are the essential questions you should ask yourself when you begin your self-service project.
The following sections of this article explore each of these questions in more detail.
Deciding when to launch your help center
When should you launch your help center? As soon as possible. Ideally, your help center would go live at the same time you go live with Zendesk Support so that you’ve got a multi-channel solution from day one and your knowledge base content is ready to help your customers resolve their issues on their own. Often, however, the self-service channel is launched after Support goes live, after support requests start rolling in, and as a response to the need to handle more support requests more quickly.
An advantage of launching your help center after you’ve launched Zendesk Support is that your incoming support requests can help you to understand what your top support issues are – the articles you should be writing to include in your knowledge base. This is because you’ve got the ticket data to show you.
The question of timing also has to do with the depth and complexity of your products and services (how much content you need to add to your knowledge base), the logistics of designing and setting up your help center, and so on. Keeping that mind, you should consider starting simply and covering your most essential self-service needs as soon as possible. You can add more content to your knowledge base after your help center is live and you can also iterate on its design after it’s been launched. Breadth and depth and a beautifully branded help center design can come soon enough.
- Launch your help center as soon as possible.
- If you aren’t able to launch it immediately, your incoming support requests can help you to determine the knowledge base content you need to create (if you don’t already know).
- Get off to a fast start by keeping it simple and providing your customers with the essential information they need as soon as possible.
Defining roles and the self-service team
Before you can launch your self-service channel, you need the knowledge base content. In other words, someone needs to write it. This is often the first stumbling block for many companies that want to provide self-service: no professional writers available to create the content.
While creating professionally polished content is important, you don’t necessarily need professional writers to create it. It could instead be created by someone on the Support team, for example, providing they have writing skills and follow best practices for creating this type of content, which we’ll discuss more in this series of articles.
Writing knowledge base articles requires not only writers, but also access to subject matter experts (SMEs) to provide the information to get started and people to review that the content is accurate (often these are the same people, your subject matter experts).
As with launching a self-service channel generally, the process of creating content can involve many people in many different roles (more complex) or as few people as possible (simpler, less complex).
When you have a small team
People from different teams and job functions often contribute to the successful launch and ongoing development of a self-service support channel. However, if you’re just starting out, these other people may not be available to you as resources. Instead, you can launch and maintain your self-service channel with a much smaller crew.
If you have a documentation team and technical writers available, they certainly should create the content for your knowledge base. If you don’t have those resources, if your company is small and growing, if you’re just rolling out your support solution to your customers, you can press someone else into service to create your knowledge base content.
The downside to choosing someone on the Support team to write the knowledge base articles (if that’s the approach you take) is that they often soon become full-time writers out of necessity – if, for example, you need to develop and maintain a large knowledge base or you simply have no other resources available. However, this is often the best way to get started if you don’t have professional writers available. Support agents spend a lot of time writing and communicating with customers, so they should know the products and have acceptable writing skills.
In addition to someone writing the content, you’ll need to involve some SMEs, have someone review the content before it goes live (often that’s also the SMEs), have someone to set up and administer your help center, and also have someone to brand the design of the help center. Here are details about each of the roles in a small team.
|Help Center Administrator
This role sets up the help center and possibly your online community with Zendesk Gather, configures user roles, helps to set up the help center information architecture (content sections and categories), and works with whomever creates the design for the help center interface.
After the help center is set up and live, this is not a full-time role; therefore, this person could also be the person who writes the content or someone on the Support team that has been chosen to help launch the self-service channel.
|Knowledge Base Authors
|This is the person or people who write and maintain your knowledge base articles.
|Technical Reviewers / SMEs
|Product Managers are often the SMEs and reviewers for knowledge base content. Whomever it is in your company or organization that knows how things work will help with the review and development of the content.
|Help Center Visual Designer
|Creating a help center design is a one-off task and you’ll probably want to involve the people in your company or organization that create and own the design and branding.
Our own small team experience at Zendesk
When Zendesk was a very small company, we hired a technical writer to join the Support team to create the knowledge base content. Eventually, the documentation team grew and was then moved into the Product organization where they remain today.
We found that a close alignment with the Product team, in the long run, makes it easier to create the best documentation and keep it in sync with the many new product releases and updates. The day something new is available to customers, the knowledge base articles are there to help customers use it.
In addition to creating the content, the Zendesk documentation team also manages feedback from the Support team and customers, and constantly refines the content to ensure that it is up-to-date, accurate, and useful. They also manage the translation of the content into the other languages that we support.
When it takes an organization
At an enterprise level, a large team and more complex approach could be required. Here’s a look at the additional roles that could make up the team of people creating self-service content for a larger organization.
|In a large organization, rolling out self-service could require more project management than a smaller team needs. This is the role of a Knowledge Manager: to manage the initiative from beginning to completion, to supply the vision, evangelize to the rest of the company, and defend resources commitments. This person is often a project or program manager.
|Recommender / Contributor
|To generate ideas and more content to grow a knowledge base, a number of people can be selected to become recommenders and contributors. For example, this role often includes product managers, support agents, and even select customers.
|Style Reviewer / Publisher
|If branding is an important consideration for a company or organization, someone can be assigned to oversee that all the content complies with the accepted style and speaks to customers with a consistent, branded voice. This could be someone from the creative team or marketing for example.
|Using Zendesk’s reporting tools and Google Analytics you can gain lots of valuable knowledge about how your help center content is being used and how effective it is providing self-service. There are a number of self-service metrics you’ll want to understand and track and therefore you may want to assign someone to monitor and report on that data. This is a good role for a data scientist.
|When the team of content contributors is large, it might make sense to provide a formal training program to ensure that everyone knows the proper ways to create and publish content and gather and incorporate feedback.
When you’re starting out, focus on the core roles that we described in the first table above. As you grow and there’s a need to expand and share the workload across more resources, you can determine if it makes sense to bring on other people to fill these additional roles.
- To quickly set up a help center and create knowledge base articles, you don’t need a large team or dedicated full-time resources.
- You need people who are capable of writing well, have product knowledge or have access to the people who do.
Setting up and branding your help center
Aside from the writers and reviewers that make up the core team, you also need people to design, set up, administer, and launch your help center. As indicated in the previous section about the core team, you need a help center Administrator and a Help Center Designer.
The Help Center Administrator is typically not a full-time role. If you’re the sole person charged with launching your help center, you’ve probably been tasked with the setup and administrative tasks as well. These include tasks such as enabling your help center in setup mode (the first step in preparing it to go live), setting up how content is organized, defining user roles, and working with help center Designer help to brand your help center.