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Article 8 min read

8 tips for building a thriving help center

Most customers prefer solving issues on their own, but that doesn’t mean they should be left alone. Learn some best practices for building a help center.

By Hannah Wren, Staff writer

Last updated February 12, 2024

Your customers don’t want to wait on hold, navigate endless menus, or scour the internet to find answers. They want a convenient and comprehensive single source of truth that provides fast resolutions.

A well-structured and informative help center satisfies that need by facilitating customer self-service. With a little effort and this guide, you’ll know how to build a help center that empowers your customers and catapults your business to self-service success.

More in this guide:

Why self-service is important in customer service

The expectation for seamless self-service experiences has become ingrained in today’s consumer culture. When individuals can’t find the information they need or resolve issues independently, it disrupts their desired workflow and challenges their autonomy. Addressing the causes of these frustrations with a customer self-service portal is crucial for delivering a great experience.

Why you need to create a help center

When you create a help center, your business receives the following benefits:

  • It increases customer satisfaction by providing better service and meeting the needs of customers who prefer self-service.
  • It reduces costs and increases efficiency by eliminating repetitive tickets so agents can focus on more strategic activities.
  • It grows your business community and builds trustworthy customer relationships.

A note on ticket deflection

“Deflection sounds defensive,” says Dave Dyson, a customer service evangelist. “It’s not that you don’t want to talk to your customers, but you do want them to have information, readily and easily, so that they can solve problems themselves.”

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How to build a help center

Setting up a successful help center is a big undertaking if you don’t know where to start. Luckily, you’re reading this guide. Follow these help center best practices to better meet your customers’ needs.

  1. Set actionable goals
  2. Use data to drive your success
  3. Leverage AI to create content
  4. Create a great experience for app and mobile
  5. Develop an FAQ page
  6. Encourage employee participation
  7. Focus on the user experience
  8. Market your help center

1. Set actionable goals

A person runs toward the words “Set actionable goals that key stakeholders can rally around,” a tip for how to build a help center.

Whether you are just starting to think about launching a help center or simply looking to improve what you have, the first and most vital step is to define what it is you hope to achieve:

  • Do you want to reduce the number of support tickets customers submit to your staff?
  • Do you want to foster relationships and engagement among your customers and employees?

These are just a few questions to ask yourself when identifying the right goals for your business and garnering support from key stakeholders.

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2. Use data to drive your success

A person looks at a painting next to the words “Use data to drive your success by tracking help desk KPIs,” a tip for how to build a help center.

It is important to begin measuring the performance of your help center from day one. Keep track of metrics like:

  • Community analytics stats
  • Resolution times
  • The percentage of issues resolved by staff versus those solved via the customer portal

These help desk key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you understand if your help center is effective and any areas that need improvement.

It’s also extremely important to track the kinds of content that your customers are using. Knowing this will help you decide what content you need more of, such as specific topics or FAQs.

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3. Leverage AI to create content

A woman leans on a green ball next to the words “Leverage AI to create content without monopolizing your team’s availability,” a tip for how to build a help center.

AI can intelligently scan user data and identify content gaps, pinpointing topics customers struggle with and areas lacking helpful resources. To take it a step further, Generative AI can draft new articles, saving your team precious time and ensuring consistent quality.

AI can also breathe new life into existing content, automatically updating articles with the latest information or translating them into different languages, expanding your reach and catering to diverse markets. This results in a thriving help center that anticipates needs, provides accurate, accessible information, and speaks the language of your global audience—all without breaking the bank.

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4. Create a great experience for app and mobile

A woman walks on a beach with her phone next to the words “Create a great experience for app and mobile that provides consistent levels of service,” a tip for how to build a help center.

It’s important to provide a seamless experience so your customers have the same level of service whether they’re visiting your help center on a laptop, tablet, or phone.

For example, the Grubhub help center design lets customers and drivers use the mobile app to trigger a support workflow automation. Customers can add to their orders and get refunds right on their phones. Drivers can flag delivery issues without calling anyone by submitting order updates from the app.

A screenshot depicts the Grubhub mobile help center.

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5. Develop an FAQ page

A woman walks up a set of stairs next to the words “Develop an FAQ page that integrates with your help center,” a tip for how to build a help center.

As you explore how to offer self-service options, an FAQ page can be a heavy hitter in your tool kit. FAQ pages are versatile and cost-effective and can be swiftly implemented to cater to customers with diverse needs. Although traditionally seen as a simple Q&A list, these pages can integrate with your help center, so you can build and manage help articles over time as your company scales.

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6. Encourage employee participation

Two people lounge together, one on their phone and the other reading a book, next to the words “Encourage employee participation to develop content and keep it accurate,” a tip for how to build a help center.

Self-service goes beyond merely building a help center and stepping back. It requires active engagement from your employees. When employees create content to address customer needs, it shows that your business listens to and cares about customer behavior and feedback.

And by employees, we’re not just referring to your customer service team—we mean everyone:

  • Marketing teams can observe customer interactions and nurture customer-business relationships. The help center is an excellent platform to identify and familiarize yourself with customer advocates.
  • Product and support teams can help answer questions and respond to comments. The collaboration between these departments allows them to leverage insights from the community and use them to speed up the feedback cycle.
  • Sales teams active in the help center are better connected with your customers. Also, the help center provides valuable insights for an ongoing sales cycle.

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7. Focus on the user experience

A man sits at a laptop with a headset on, accompanied by the words “Focus on the user experience to promote long-term engagement,” a tip for how to build a help center.

You might have done everything right in attracting people to your site, but if you don’t provide a great user experience (UX), they won’t stay long and won’t return.

Provide easy navigation to the things that matter most. For example, a search bar is an important feature that your customers will look for, so make sure it’s easy to find and use.

When considering UX, ask yourself:

  • Am I providing and promoting what matters most to my customers?
  • Is the help center content organized effectively?

It’s also important to make the help center visually appealing. Consider adding rich media options like videos, webinars, and images alongside text to make help center resources more engaging. Work with the experts on your web or design team to implement best practices, and test, test, test. Your help center is always a work in progress, so look at what is and isn’t working and adjust accordingly.

One of the best ways to measure UX is by directly asking for feedback: Did they find what they were looking for? Do they have suggestions for improvement? A short customer survey can take you a long way toward creating an engaging experience.

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8. Market your help center

A man walks with a flashlight glowing on the words “Market your help center to raise awareness of its existence,” a tip for how to build a help center.

There’s no sense in creating a help center if no one uses it. Once you’ve selected your technology, set your goals, and created your help center, you must drive users there. With this step, you either need to involve your marketing team or start thinking like a marketer:

  • How will you invite and attract visitors?
  • How will you promote the site or even particular aspects of the site?
  • Are there ways to leverage the community to help support other marketing programs?

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How is an internal help desk different?

While a help desk traditionally aims to assist external customers, an internal help desk is a centralized hub for employees to access information about processes, products, and services. An internal help desk is a key aspect of an excellent employee experience.

Next steps for your help center

With Zendesk as your partner, creating and maintaining a help center is easier than it may seem. Define your goals and customer needs, and let Zendesk do the heavy lifting. With pre-built templates, generative AI, and a no-code editor, your team has everything it needs to empower customers to self-serve effortlessly.

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