9 Lessons From This Year’s Ten Best Support Websites Awards

Each year, the Association of Support Professionals (ASP) distributes ten awards for support websites, three to small companies and seven in the so-called open division. This year’s winners were Cisco, Dell, Intel Security, PTC, Red Hat, and, in the small company division, Aconex, Jive, and LANDESK. Congratulations to all the winners, which include several FT Works clients.

I have served as a judge for the website awards for many years, but was not assigned to review any of the winners this time around, so I was particularly interested in reviewing the final report and the winning entries. I have found that the caliber of entries has gone up over the years, and indeed, in 2015, the average scores in many categories topped 3 on a 4-point scale — and of course the winners earned higher scores. This points to a consolidation in best practices for support websites, and that’s what I also concluded from reading the 128-page report. Here are nine highlights:

  • Leverage web metrics to improve the site, and the contents. As highlighted in the Aconex entry, if users are clicking on the “wrong” bits of an illustration, change it until users “automatically” choose the ones you want them to use.
  • Create product pages. This has been a crowd-pleaser for FT Works clients’ customers, so I am not surprised it is now established as a best practice.
  • Bridge internal silos to present a unified experience to customers. Easier said than done, but said, and apparently done, by several of the winners.
  • Special portals for high-value customers are useful and worthwhile. We tend to think of high-value customers as wanting (only) high-touch services, but this is a mistake: they also appreciate tailored self-service.
  • Offer a translation widget as a low-cost alternative to full translation.
  • Strenghten the mobile experience. Customers are much more likely to use self-service when their mobile experience is positive. We routinely offer mobile options when we create websites.
  • Back-end processes matter. I was delighted to see several entries specifically mentioning the need for and difficulty of coordinating with the support team to ensure the website works well. One idea (Jive’s) intrigued me: that of encouraging support engineers to request knowledge base documents be created on topics of interest. This goes counter to our beloved KCS model, but it is an interesting substitute, and I like the idea of requesting a document rather than checking that little box to “make this case into a document”, which just moves the problem into a big black hole in my experience.
  • The website can help cope with spikes. There is a dramatic example in the RedHat entry of how the website handled twice as many users on crisis days — something no people-based organization could do.
  • Deflection is still measured haphazardly. I was saddened to see that many entries still equate a successful website visit to a case. I suppose I should rejoice that at least it’s a successful visit, not any old visit…

What are you planning for your website? Any mobile developments in the works? (And a reminder that, unlike other web designers, FT Works specializes in creating and improving support websites. Contact me to discuss your projects, from complete re-dos to rejuvenations, to mobile sites.)

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