Using Self-Service Portals: 20 Tips

When today’s consumers run into issues or have questions, they expect solutions fast.

Though tools like live chat have drastically decreased the time it takes to find a resolution, most channels still require you to wait for a support agent.

But online self-service portals have changed that.

In fact, many consumers now expect to find the answers they need on company websites. If you’re not yet offering this information as part of your support strategy, then keep reading to learn how to create an online self-service portal that works for your customers.

20 Tips for More Effective Self-service Portals

Building effective self-service portals requires more than answering a few basic questions and publishing them on your company’s website.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 20 tips you can use to ensure that your company’s portal is helpful to your customers and useful for your support strategy as a whole.

1. Set Clear Goals

Much like any addition to your strategy, you should have a clear idea of what you hope to accomplish with a self-service portal before you create one.

Do you want to reduce the incoming ticket volume for your support team? Reduce overall support costs?

Knowing this ahead of time will help you create a portal that aligns with your goals and moves you closer to the level of support you want to offer to your customers.

2. Make Your Portal Easily Accessible

This may sound obvious, but it’s in your best interest to make your support resources as easy to find and use as possible.

For example, one common mistake among companies that offer these types of resources is making users log into an account before accessing them.

This barrier to entry can deter customers from utilizing your portal, which defeats the purpose entirely.

3. Use a Logical Organizational Structure

As you build out your self-service portal, it’s essential that you create an organizational structure that’s logical and user-friendly.

Divide your articles into categories (and subcategories, if necessary). Then, make these categories accessible from the main page so that users can quickly navigate to the correct resources for their needs.

4. Incorporate a Helpful Search Bar

In addition to a logical menu of categories, it’s also a good idea to incorporate a search bar into your self-service portal’s design.

You can also maximize your search bar’s usefulness by including an auto-suggest feature. Samsung, for example, provides suggestions as users type on their support portal’s main page.


This helps users skip past the step of scrolling through a results page. Instead, they can jump directly to the articles that relate to their needs.

5. Keep It Simple

When you write support articles and other content, aim to be as clear as possible. Write in a way that’s straightforward, easy to understand, and free of any technical jargon.

If your brand typically uses a more fun or original writing style for a marketing copy, this will be a change of pace. But the goal here isn’t to sell readers on your brand. You simply want to help them accomplish a task as efficiently as possible.

6. Link Relevant Resources

As you write support resources, you’ll likely make them extremely specific in order to address a task or question. This means that if a user needs additional information, there’s a strong chance it will be in a separate article.

You can make it easy for them to find that information by linking to related articles at the end of each page.

Trello, for example, includes a “See Also” section at the bottom of each support resource.

This way, users can easily navigate to the additional information they’re likely to need.

7. Make Your Portal Mobile-friendly

Today’s consumers access online content from a variety of devices and browsers, and your support portal needs to take this into account.

Test your platform on multiple screen sizes and operating systems to ensure that all of your customers can get the help they need, no matter what device they’re seeking it on.

8. Enable Community Forums

Although your resources should largely consist of content that your team has written, it’s also beneficial to enable user-driven communities. These are places where customers can collaborate and discuss issues.

Apple, for example, hosts a thriving support community where users discuss everything from iPhone issues to software recommendations.

This way, customers can use their own experience to assist one another and discuss the solutions that have worked for them.

9. Integrate User-generated Answers with Your Own Content

Once you’ve created customer forums, you may find that your users write helpful answers that could assist other customers in the future.

Linking to these answers as additional resources can save your team the time it takes to write a new response, and it helps you make the most of your online support community.

10. Monitor the Support Journey

After you launch your portal, it’s a good idea to monitor how customers move through pages within it.

This way, you can determine which of your articles are sufficient and which often result in users reaching out to your support team. Then, you can revise any articles that don’t seem to be helping customers sufficiently.

11. Ask for Feedback

Although user data can give you insight into your portal’s effectiveness, you can also simplify the process by asking your users for feedback.

Evernote, for example, asks users if each article in their support portal is helpful. They place this question at the bottom of their pages.

This brief, one-question “survey” can help the company easily identify which resources on their site accomplish their intended goal and which need improvement.

12. Use Support Interactions to Create New Content

There’s likely a handful of questions that frequently come up in your support team’s interactions with customers. Determining what those questions are should play a role in building your portal.

Ask your agents to document the questions that customers ask them most frequently, and make sure that your support resources fully address them.

13. Encourage Customers to Use Your Self-service Tools

Once you’ve launched your portal, it’s essential to make sure that your customers know about it. After all, if they don’t know that it exists, they won’t use it.

Consider sending an email announcement to your users when the portal first goes live. Then, feature it prominently as an option on your company’s “Support” or “Contact” pages.

14. Make Your Support Team Available

Even the most well-designed support portal won’t be able to address every possible question your customers might have.

As a result, it’s important to make it clear that users can get in touch with an agent if they’re unable to find the answer they need on your portal.

15. Collect Data

Analytics are extremely useful for monitoring and improving website performance. In the case of your support portal, the data you find can help you improve not only your resources but also your product as a whole.

Monitor which articles your customers visit most often. This will give you valuable insights into which aspects of your product or service are most confusing to your customers.

Then, look for ways to simplify those elements and prevent other customers from running into the same issues.

16. Make Resources Available Within Your Product

For SaaS companies and other brands with digital products, it’s essential to make support resources accessible to users as they’re engaging with products.

If you include links to your support resources in your menus, these resources will likely be the first place that users go when they run into issues.

17. Maintain Your Content

Creating a support portal isn’t a “set it and forget it” support initiative.

As your products, services, and customer needs change, your resources need to reflect that. So, you should make it a priority to update and improve your portal on a regular basis.

18. Consider the Onboarding Process

When creating support resources, many companies focus on helping customers troubleshoot more advanced issues.

This approach is useful for customers who are already familiar with your product or service, but it doesn’t help those who are still in the early stages.

Include content for customers at all stages of the buying cycle, and your support portal can become a valuable part of your onboarding process.

19. Incorporate Visual Content

You can thoroughly address some questions with written content, but this isn’t always the best way to answer a question.

Including visuals like screenshots and videos can make your support resources easier to follow and more helpful to your overall support strategy.

20. Familiarize Your Agents with Your Support Resources

In order to fully integrate your support portal with the rest of your support strategy, it’s important that your agents are familiar with these resources.

This way, they can do more than just direct users to content that will help them resolve an issue. They’ll also be able to identify information gaps in your support portal and provide suggestions for new articles.


Self-service portals can be an excellent addition to any company’s support strategy — but only if you design them well and constantly maintain them. The tips on this page can help you accomplish this.

First, create a clear organizational structure and make it easy for your customers to find the right resources for their needs. If your existing resources aren’t enough to resolve their issues, make sure that they can get in touch with your team.

Then, look for ways to improve your self-service portal by collecting user data, enabling community forums, and integrating user-generated answers.

Just like every other part of your support strategy, you’ll need to treat improving your online resources as an ongoing task. Ask for feedback, update your content on a regular basis, and add new articles as your products and services change over time.

As you improve and add to these resources, your self-service portal will have the potential to be an integral part of your customer support. If you maintain it properly, it can bring unmatched value to your customers.