Using help sites to deliver Customer Success

Help sites at a minimum explain how to use something. There’s usually a FAQ section, a few details about how to reset your password, and so on. Exceptional help sites go a step further and actually explain why you should use a product, feature, or service. Customer Success teams should leverage their help site (also called a knowledge base) to educate users and remove barriers for success.

When do you need a help site?

“From day one. As soon as you release your product and have customers using it, you need to have a help doc site that is basically a feature of your product. Don’t treat it like an afterthought- treat it with the same care and intensity that you’d have if it was an actual feature of your product itself. Invest in it from the very beginning,” Chase Clemons on the Inside Intercom podcast.

At early stage startups CSMs are often responsible for a certain amount of support coverage. These teams should invest in building out a knowledge base to provide Customer Success at scale. If there’s a dedicated Support team, CSMs should collaborate with them to create articles that address common customer questions and issues. The key difference between Customer Success and Support is that CSMs proactively reach out to customers to ensure they’re finding value in your products or services. By contrast, knowledge base content is completely reactionary- customers only visit the site when they need help with a specific problem. The on-demand nature of these resources makes it a great opportunity for CSMs to train customers to visit the help site before reaching out with basic questions or after hours requests.

What type of content should you have on a help site? Basic sites include FAQs, troubleshooting instructions, user manuals, product updates, and how to guides. Once you have that covered, you can level up by sharing best practices, feature overviews, and tutorials.

Collaborate on content

Support teams usually own help sites because they’re closest to the end users and understand their challenges. But leaving content creation exclusively to Support is a missed opportunity for Customer Success and Product teams.

“[At Basecamp] every new feature before it gets released has help documentation written for it. Usually the designer that’s working on that feature will go through and work things up, but we’ll also have somebody on our support team go through and help them out with that as well. The help documentation is getting made by people who are kind of coming from two different angles- the designer who’s coming from the ‘I built this feature’ and the support pro that’s coming from the ‘yeah we have to teach people how to use it now’,” Chase Clemons.

Collaborating on help site content across teams provides users with a complete view into the lifecycle of a product or feature- how and why it should be used, where it fits into the bigger picture of value attainment, and getting ahead of points of confusion. Look for situations where having visual elements accompany text could improve reader comprehension. GIFs, videos, and screenshots can all convey more complex concepts or allow users a step by step walk through.

The branding on your help site should be aligned with your brand style guide of brand story, voice, color palette, typography, imagery, and logo.

Gather feedback and iterate

Now that your content is live, you should monitor site traffic, engagement, and bounce rates through the same lens a marketer would apply. See which articles have the most views, where your site traffic is coming from, and which videos have the highest completion rate. If you’re using a knowledge base software that incorporates feedback (such as a “did you find this article helpful” rating in the footer), review which articles are performing well and update ones that receive poor feedback.

Above all else- don’t let your content get stale. Building out a knowledge base is a huge initial investment and keeping it up to date isn’t a trivial task. Screenshots, videos, and links shouldn’t be out of date, so if you’re doing a major UI overhaul, make sure you refresh your knowledge base content accordingly. A lot of teams even have someone who owns managing and updating the knowledge base as part of their job description. A help site can be an incredible resource for both users and Customer Success teams- if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to make it great!