Industry insight

How to make your Help Center future-proof: embracing key trends

Customer support leaders in the hardware manufacturing industry are all too familiar with the challenges that come with providing effective customer support. The customer support landscape is rapidly evolving, with new technologies and customer expectations constantly driving the need for innovation.

In the past, phone and email were the primary means of delivering customer support. However, with the rise of self-service and the increasing importance of digital channels, the traditional approach to customer support is no longer sufficient. According to a comprehensive Global State of Customer Service study by Microsoft, 86% of customers expect a self-service support option to be available to them, and two-thirds will try self-service first before contacting a live agent.

Today’s customers want a seamless, self-service experience that allows them to find the answers they need, quickly and easily, without having to wait for a response from a support representative. To meet their customers' changing needs, support leaders must embrace new technologies and innovative approaches to customer service. One of the most obvious areas for innovation is rethinking the approach to online help centers.

Online help centers have long been an essential part of the customer experience. Despite their importance, many help centers have not evolved much in recent years, often featuring outdated or unintuitive designs, limited search capabilities, and a lack of personalization. By rethinking the approach to online help centers, businesses can greatly enhance the user experience and streamline customer support, leading to increased self-service resolution, satisfaction and loyalty.

In this blog post, we will explore the innovative solutions that can help hardware brands meet the evolving needs of their customers.Our goal is to provide you with insights and best practices that will help you transform your help center into a modern, effective, and efficient support platform that delivers an exceptional customer experience.

Tips for optimizing your self-service experience

Self-service options provide customers with immediate access to information and support. This not only enhances the customer experience, but it also frees up support resources to focus on more complex issues, improving overall support efficiency.

To effectively harness the power of self-service knowledge bases in the hardware industry, it's important to focus on the following key areas:
  1. Content: Ensure that your online knowledge base and FAQs are comprehensive, up-to-date, and easy to navigate. Consider including instructional videos and interactive guides to enhance the self-service experience.
  2. Design and discoverability: Make sure that your self-service options are easy to discover and use. Consider using a responsive design to ensure that your self-service options are accessible on any device.
  3. Analytics: Use analytics to track the effectiveness of your self-service options. This will help you to identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions about future investments in support content creation.
  4. Seamless experience: Integrate your self-service options with other support channels, such as virtual assistant or live chat, to provide customers with a seamless support experience, allowing them to escalate their requests, if needed.
  5. Interactivity: Interactivity further provides customers with a more engaging experience, encouraging them to explore the information and resources available. This can lead to increased customer engagement and loyalty.
  6. Personalization: Incorporate personalization into your help center to provide a tailored and more efficient experience for your customers.

Additionally, provide access to self-service options, such as online knowledge bases, FAQs, and community forums, from every page on your website. This will make it easy for customers to find the answers they need, quickly and easily, without having to navigate through multiple pages.

If you can't measure it, you can't manage it

Another gap that prevents brands from providing stellar self-service experience that often goes unnoticed is lack of data-informed insights that can help support teams understand what customers are searching for and what information they're unable to find. If you struggle to access the analytics you need to make informed decisions, consider investing into developing the technical expertise on the team required to extract insights from existing data.

It is also a good idea (especially, if you are in the process of replacing your current Help Center vendor) to invest in solutions that provide detailed and actionable analytics and insights out of the box. Such solutions will enable your support teams to see what content is performing well, what information is missing, and what changes they need to make to improve their self-service experience.

From static Help Center content to AI-powered virtual assistants

Artificial Intelligence can play a crucial role in enhancing the online help center experience for hardware brands. By leveraging AI-powered solutions, hardware brands can provide instant and accurate answers to their customers, reducing response times and increasing customer satisfaction. They can also use them to analyze customer interactions and identify areas for improvement in the help center, such as addressing content gaps and providing a more personalized experience.

Can and should AI-guided virtual assistants replace the traditional Help Center?

Reports show that traditional support content may not be efficient enough for hardware brands customers, who are increasingly seeking interactive self-service solutions and expecting streamlined customer support experiences. On top of that, the Help Center has become a critical aspect of the research process, playing a vital role in the pre-sales stage.

Virtual product assistants can use advanced algorithms and natural language understanding to process customer inquiries and provide quick and accurate answers instead of forcing people to search through dozens of pages of irrelevant support content. They are also capable of emulating a more natural support interaction, helping hardware brands deliver a truly exceptional support experience to their customers.

Another significant advantage of virtual product assistants compared to traditional knowledge bases is their built-in capabilities allowing them to learn and improve over time, providing an ever-evolving and more sophisticated support experience. Even if replacing the traditional knowledge base with an interactive AI-powered product assistant sounds like a project for the future, it can be a good idea to integrate the virtual assistant with the traditional help center solution to deliver an improved support experience to your customers.

Exploring the potential of AR and VR

Augmented and virtual reality technologies have a lot of potential for changing the game in hardware manufacturing customer support. With AR and VR, hardware brands can offer customers an immersive, interactive experience that brings products to life and helps them understand how they work. Even though the biggest impact is anticipated for live support, where AR and VR technologies can be leveraged for providing real-time guidance from a technician who can see the issue from the customer's perspective, there is potential for them to be used to elevate traditional help center experience as well.  

These cutting-edge technologies offer a new way to provide customers with an immersive and interactive experience that can help them visualize a product in action and explore it in detail. This not only enhances the quality of the customer service but also serves as a pre-sales tool, helping hardware manufacturers showcase their products in a compelling way. For example, AR-powered product manuals can provide customers with step-by-step instructions, while VR simulations can train customers on how to use the product before they even receive it.

Another example is Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology widely used to streamline data processing, document management, and automation. OCR can be implemented for reading hardware product labels to streamline support. Product labels typically contain important information such as serial numbers and other technical specifications that are essential for product identification and troubleshooting. However, manually inputting this information into support systems can be time-consuming, error-prone, and can lead to delays in resolving customer issues. By allowing customers and agents to use OCR to scan product labels, support teams can automate the process of capturing this information, improving accuracy, reducing response time, or enabling customers to troubleshoot their issues on their own. By leveraging the power of AR/VR technologies, hardware support leaders can transform their help center into a truly exceptional and future-proof experience.

Key takeaways

The hardware manufacturing industry is facing significant challenges in providing effective customer support. With the rise of self-service and the increasing importance of digital channels, the traditional approach to customer support is no longer sufficient. To meet the evolving needs of customers, support leaders must embrace new technologies and innovative approaches to customer service. From AI-powered virtual assistants to augmented and virtual reality, there is a wealth of opportunities to enhance the customer experience and streamline support operations.

Self-service options, such as online knowledge bases, FAQs, and community forums, play a crucial role in providing customers with immediate access to information and support. To effectively harness the power of self-service, it is important to focus on content, design and discoverability, analytics, and seamless experience. AI-powered virtual assistants can play a critical role in enhancing the help center experience by providing instant and accurate answers to customers and increasing their satisfaction.

The future of help centers for hardware brands definitely holds many technological and operational challenges, but with the right approach and mindset, hardware support leaders can successfully navigate this new landscape, while delivering exceptional customer experiences and driving best-in-class business outcomes.