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One of the pillars of a modern customer support offering, self-service sites are a solution many support teams couldn’t imagine living without. As a new place to house information about your company online – from basic FAQs to tutorial videos and everything in-between – customers are utilizing self-service solutions more than ever before.

So, what exactly is the foundation of a great self-service support site? Here are 4 things that they all need to have…

1) Corporate branding and custom URL – These are some of the most important components of a support site but they’re often overlooked by professionals evaluating self-service solutions. Choosing a provider with CNAME redirect capabilities (i.e. change “companyxyz.com/selfservice/customer/na/” to “support.companyxyz.com”) has become mandatory because a clean URL is so much easier to advertise and for customers to remember. Don’t forget to also customize the appearance of your self-service site. A company logo is an obvious addition, but things such as color scheme can sometimes be overlooked. If a self-service site feels like it belongs to your brand, customers will be more likely to trust it.

2) Up-to-date and relevant content – A self-service site can look great, but it will struggle if it doesn’t have the answers customers seek. Getting the right content online, especially as you launch the solution, is time consuming but also very important. Businesses launching self-service solutions for the first time only get one shot at an initial impression with the site. If it provides value right away, customers will continue to come back. Relevant and applicable content is the corner store of a successful self-service solution. After all, you built a site as an alternative so people don’t need to reach out to support for minor issues, but if the information is incorrect or outdated they will contact you anyways. Some self-service sites are also increasing their success by adding personalization elements including relevant content based on articles customers have viewed in the past.

3) Easy to find and effective search functionality – People in general prefer to acquire information in different ways. Some learn best through browsing pages and reading content. Others prefer to learn by directly searching for content based on a question or opinion they may have. To cater to the latter audience, add search to your self-service site. It will help customers find content based around a specific keyword or phrase so they can learn more. Also make sure your site is indexed not only for your own use but also so it can be picked up by search engines (if desired). This is free traffic and helps because many people start off a search for information on Google or Bing.

4) Internal analytics tracking – Once you have a site that matches your company image and contains relevant information that’s easy to find, it’s time to look at how the site is performing, Digital analytics solutions (such as Google Analytics) are a great way to look at what pages are doing well on your self-service site. Another more modern solution called “heatmapping”, or seeing exactly where customers click on a specific page, is also valuable when measuring the usability of your site. While both are great on their own, it’s when you combine them that you can truly make educated changes so your self-service site performs even better. A more intuitive site is important because it leads to repeat visits and customers spending more time learning about your business.

BONUS: Offering mobile support – This isn’t a “need” quite yet but it likely will be soon. After all, for years there has been an upward trend in the number of site visits originating from mobile devices. As phone and tablet usage continues to rise, the importance of making a self-service site “mobile friendly” increases every day. Not only will it provide a significantly better user experience to your mobile users than a desktop version of the site, but there are other reasons to go mobile as well. Search engines are now beginning to penalize sites that do not have mobile code written into the site files and is boosting the rankings of mobile friendly content to replace it.

Wrapping up, launching a new self-service support site is a great idea but there are some key things to implement before it goes live. Make sure the URL is customized and the branding of the site matches your company. Take the time to curate strong and relevant content before going live and do your best to keep it up-to-date. Lastly, don’t forget to add search functionality and tracking to create a better site experience for your customers. A self-service site is great at informing customers about your business and implementing this technology properly will save both you and your customers time and money.