7 Ways Your Support Website Frustrates Users

You’re probably “too busy” to use your own support website, but do take a quick look. Do you experience one or several common user frustrations?

Frustration #1: Too much fluff, not enough action

Support website users are not looking to read lovingly about how great support is, or how to use the website: they want to be able to quickly get answers, downloads, or updates on their cases. Working with test users we find that they do not read, they skim. Cut down on verbiage and focus on actions.

Frustration #2: Another world entirely (compared to the corporate site)

Too many support websites look antiquated compared to the main site, as updates and upgrades are lavished on the corporate site but don’t make it into the support site. If your site has not been updated in a year or more, it’s time…

Frustration #3: A big mess of systems cobbled together, badly

It is true that many support sites bring together multiple back-ends: the case tracking system, a community tool, a download mechanism, and more. But when the interfaces are wildly discordant it makes for a challenging user experience. At a minimum apply some consistent styling across the various properties.

Frustration #4: No content or cannot find content

Looks are nice but content is king. If there are only a handful of knowledge documents, the last one updated back in July, and a few meager threads in the community, the website will do nothing more than expose your poor treatment of online support users. You need to have a robust knowledge management program in place.

Frustration #5: Too much work

Some support websites require many, many clicks to accomplish the simplest tasks. Aim for all frequent tasks, especially searching the knowledge base, to be initiated right from the landing page.

Frustration #6: A barrier against cases

You’ve had that experience of wanting personalized help but not being able to find a phone number to call, or logging a case online only to be presented with irrelevant “useful information”. Don’t inflict that on your users. Self-service works best when personalized service is also available.

Frustration #7: Does not travel well

So the site looks beautiful on a big screen but many users will access it from their phone or tablet. Does it shrink into awkwardness or gracefully morphs into adaptive design? Take a look at your web analytics and check the percentage of users with mobile devices.

Do you schedule regular website audits? Please share in the comments.

And if you need help finding solutions to the frustrations you identified, we are here for you.

Using Neuroscience to Speed Up Adoption

One of the central roles of customer success teams is to increase (and speed up) product adoption. And it’s not an easy task. We traditionally think of adoption as an onboarding challenge, and indeed, training is an important part of adoption, but a better approach may be to think of adoption as developing new habits in our customers, habits that replace the old ways of doing business.

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg shows how we can develop new habits for ourselves and makes it clear that self-motivation is not enough to start running or cut out that superfluous afternoon cookie. As customer success professionals, we have the additional challenge that our customers, especially the end users, may not be that self-motivated to begin with. But we can use some of the techniques he describes:

  • Add rewards: perhaps a simple emailed thank-you after the first use, and others as milestones are reached. One of my clients, a vendor of an e-commerce platform, sends congratulations when orders placed through the platform reach certain levels.
  • Integrate product usage into a larger routine. Rather than just training on how to use the tool, show the entire routine. For the commerce platform, my client trained customers to schedule one day a week to place orders (and place them through the platform, of course!)
  • Address the emotional root cause. The e-commerce platform is much better than the old-fashioned methods for tracking orders, but we found that the users welcome personal contact with their suppliers and cling to the old ways (email, phone) to get that emotional connection. So we designed ways to encourage suppliers to add a personal note to confirmation notices.

What are you doing to help customers adopt your tools?

The FT Word – November 2016

The FT Word

The FT Word is a free monthly newsletter with support management tips. To subscribe, click here. The subscription list is absolutely confidential; we never sell, rent, or give information about our subscribers.


to the November 2016 issue of the FT Word. Topics for this month:

FT Works in the News

The Great Support Websites workshop starts this month!

After a successful first run over the summer, I look forward to another session of the Great Support Websites workshop starting November 29th. It’s conveniently scheduled in short, remote sessions, and this time the sessions are scheduled over the course of two weeks, making it easier to focus on the topics at hand. Another improvement is that you now have a choice between a group review of your site, for maximum exposure, and a 1:1 review, for more confidential feedback.

Space is limited. To sign up or to get more information go here.


Curious about something? Send me your suggestions for topics — or add one in the comments — and your name will appear in future newsletters.

Françoise Tourniaire
FT Works
650 559 9826

About FT Works

FT Works helps technology companies create and improve their support operations. Areas of expertise include designing support offerings, creating hiring plans to recruit the right people quickly, training support staff to deliver effective support, defining and implementing support processes, selecting support tools, designing effective metrics, and support center audits. See more details at www.ftworks.com.

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A Support Website Challenge: integrating new acquisitions

So your company just bought another one and you, the support website owner, have to figure out how to somehow meld the two support websites. What do you do?

  1. Confirm how the underlying tools (for the knowledge base, online forums, case tracking) will be merged. If the two sets of customers overlap, the tools should be merged for the convenience of the customers — but it may take time! If there is little overlap between the customer sets, you may be looking at two different set of tools for an indefinite amount of time.
  2. Establish how entitlements work today and in the future between the two companies. Much like tools, entitlements, including the definition of support portfolios, are often merged, eventually, if the customer bases overlap.
  3. Create a temporary “dispatch” landing page for support. Normally we strive for landing pages that present immediately usable KB documents and threads, company news, and descriptions of support contracts, but during the interim it may be impossible for the landing page to do more than show the paths to the separate support portals. (Many times we see the acquiring company’s existing, rich landing page with a discrete option to navigate to the portal of the acquired company. Think about how the customers of the acquired company feel about that!)
  4. As tools and entitlement systems merge, restore a fully-functional landing page. Remember that, if your customers are frequent visitors of the support portal, they will bookmark the portal that interest them rather than navigate through the temporary dispatch landing page so the introduction of the merged portal will require a re-launch.

This and many other tips are discussed in the Great Support Websites workshop, scheduled to start on November 29th. Five convenient online sessions and you will be done by mid-December — with a custom critique of your site. For more information or to sign up, go here.

Interested in a complete redesign of your site? Contact me.