Sabine Ocker, Comtech Services
May 15, 2020

Enabling user self-service is at the center of many organization’s content strategy. We know that users who are used to finding virtually any piece of information they require through the internet expect the same behavior for any product they use as well. They expect to have ready answers to their questions, step-by-step instructions to complete their tasks, and specifics for troubleshooting and resolving any issues they encounter. In fact, some research studies indicate that 90% of today’s consumers expect an organization to offer a self-service customer support portal, and that number will likely increase to 100%. Self-support portals set up an organization’s user-centric content strategy in three essential ways.

First, all modern content consumers expect technical content to be searchable. The number one complaint of users is that they cannot rapidly find the information they need, and the most common request is to make searches more “Google-like.” In order to be able to deliver on this requirement,  an organization must have developed a metadata strategy based on a common, enterprise-wide taxonomy and provide users access to a search engine that can use that metadata to provide relevant, appropriately prioritized search results, which provide not only the title, but short descriptions and often information such as publication date, to help users get the answer they are seeking. That answer could be located in a knowledge base article, a community forum post, a training video, or in a product technical documentation manual.

The good news about this fact is that there is no need to merge different tagging structures into a unified approach, as support of taxonomy and metadata enabled search facets are a function of most self-service delivery platforms.

Second, most organizations recognize the main purpose of technical product documentation is to support the needs of the users of the product. To meet that goal, it is imperative that the organization understand who their users are and what they both need and expect from the documentation. Even after the initial work of identifying the requirements of target and secondary audience are in place, these goals and what users do to find information related to achieving those goals will continue to evolve over time. This is why the ability to gather user feedback is vital to the continued success of any content strategy. Self-support portals facilitate this in key ways—user ratings, user comments, and user analytics.

User ratings (either in a numerical rate or a thumbs up/down) provides unequivocal insight into what content users find helpful to answer their questions. As user ratings help organizations focus on what types of content to prioritize, user comments guide organizations in what content improvements to make. A strong content strategy incorporates mechanisms to add customer feedback to the product documentation planning process and as part of the content creation lifecycle.

Just as user ratings and comments give organizations the means to continuously assess product content against changing user requirements, search analytics help organizations make tweaks to the taxonomy strategy to accommodate advances in user search behavior.  These advances ideally could result in modifications to keyword, titling, short description metadata in the source data, or in changes to the search engine precision or recall relevancy measures.

Fortunately, one of the most compelling benefits of a self-service support portal is a strong search experience and easy access to good analytics about the user.

A self-service support portal’s secret weapon is the ability to break down content silos, and that is the third content strategy benefits. There is a tremendous amount of data that tells us that users are looking for answers, and they don’t care if those answers are in the form of a documentation manual, a community blog post, a training video, or a knowledge base article. Because self-service support portals can ingest both structured and unstructured content, providing the content is tagged consistently against common business-critical metadata such as product, audience, and content type, users can better focus on getting the information they expect in the format they prefer without needing to traverse a company organizational chart. Users have complete access to a larger content corpus in a unified content experience which they can further personalize. Some of the effort of breaking down content silos involves a shift in the culture of your organization, but more often than not, it comes down to implementing the right technologies.

If your organization is already looking to implement a self-service support portal, congratulations! Otherwise, if you’d like to investigate how a self-service support portal might better enable your organization’s content strategy, below are links to some leading vendors:

In addition, your cCMS may also have a self-service support portal option which you could explore. Either way, don’t be surprised if you hear harp music playing!