How WebMD Moms Are Shaping the Future of Support


Paul Slavin likes to say that his industry’s target audience is “the Chief Health Officer Mom.”

As the general manager of Global News at, this is an audience he knows all too well.

Mothers — specifically mothers of children under 18 — are the driving force behind the success of one of the biggest self-service websites on the Internet. They’re a great example of where customer expectations are headed with self-service customer support.

Customers are asking for self-service

With over 25 million monthly users, WebMD is the most popular health resource on the web. It’s a long-standing example of how and why customers like to help themselves.

Susannah Fox, director of a Pew Research Center study on how Internet users research chronic conditions online, says, “People often go online before they see a doctor and after they see a doctor, preparing for an appointment or recovering after a doctor’s appointment.”

But it’s not just WebMD users, and it’s certainly not just moms that are instinctively turning to the web first. Customers across the board increasingly prefer to go online first to research, and resolve their own problems on their own time.

This is an opportunity for companies to lower costs while helping more customers – and customers have been asking for it the whole time. Forrester released a report in 2014 that found web self-service was the support channel of choice for 76 percent of people, surpassing phone support for the first time.

The problem is, only about half of customers actually find the support they’re looking for online. The message is loud and clear: “Send help fast! No, not that kind of help!”

READ  Building a Culture of Customer Care Isn't Easy

The support experience is part of the product

Companies that believe a help center is a one-time task to “set and forget” aren’t going to cut it.

Like the code on your website or the copy on your landing page, self-service knowledge bases should be considered living, breathing documents. They need regular attention – whether daily, weekly or monthly.  Your support is part of your brand, which makes your support experience an extension of the product itself.

Here are some key tips for building a support center for your customers:

Use keywords that match customer language

Self-service should must be written simply using the kind of language that customers themselves would use. WebMD’s Symptom Checker does that really well.

Look at how it guides users step by step towards possible conditions. It’s just like when you’d go to the doctor as a kid and they’d ask, “Show me where it hurts.”

WebMD Symptom Checker

WebMD’s Health Center uses that same kind of colloquial language rather than doctor speak. That makes it accessible to everyone. No medical jargon here! This one even has an option to listen to the article.



Self-Service Medical Help


When it comes to your knowledge base or support center, be inclusive of your most likely audience. What kind of language would be helpful to the majority of your users? Discover what that is and stick with it.

If you’re unsure of whether your knowledge base is really helping your audience, there are plenty of tried and tested ways to evaluate it. This way you can catch where your language goes wrong and rework your content so it makes sense to users.

READ  Attract Amazing Talent with the Right Customer Service Job Description

Don’t overwhelm with too many choices (guide them)

Limit navigation options as much as possible, gearing them towards selected destinations. You know why your customers are on your website (you do, right?), so guide them through your content in as few steps as possible.

WebMD’s Depression Health Center does just that. Most people who end up on this page is because they want to learn more about depression. Specifically, they want to know if they have it. On a site like this, they waste no time looking for the answer:

Medical Self-Service Knowledge Base

WebMD also anticipates the other common reasons patients end up on this page. They may have just been diagnosed and want to learn about next steps. They’re ready to get help and want to know what that will mean for them. They’ve just stopped their treatment for some reason but haven’t yet overcome their depression.

WebMD covers all the most likely audience concerns and scenarios right there on the top of the fold. They have most of their bases covered.

Find ways to keep on giving

This pill identification tool is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s endlessly useful for the busy and/or forgetful person and a great example of how a help center can be an indispensable tool that customers bookmark and refer back to frequently.

Pill Identification Tool

With a simple tool like this, you might be able to save your customers from:

  • clicking (or flipping) through lots of pages
  • gathering information from a bunch of sources
  • making multiple phone calls to get a hold of details
READ  Why Community Is Your Most Valuable After-Sales Service Asset

If it saves customers time, you can justify developing it.

The takeaway

When you go off and do your monthly help center audit, you’ll know what needs your attention first. It will also give you a good idea of what has been successful and what you might want to replicate.

The bar is being raised, and it’s companies that adapt their support to customers’ shifting preferences that are likely to come out as winners. Sites like WebMD have been pointing to our natural inclination to problem solve ourselves, as a harbinger of the self-service era.

It’s time to do it like mom.

Webinar: Conquering the top 5 customer support mistakes

Don't miss our latest success secrets

Want the best customer support and startup content delivered straight to your inbox?

About the author
Nandini Jammi

Nandini is Kayako almuni. Once passionate about customer service, she now helps brands craft content that tells their personal story.

Related articles
create-a-knowledge-base-template-from-scratchCustomer experience

Knowledge Base Template: 5 Easy Steps to Create Your Own from Scratch

3-ways-to-politely-reject-customer-requestsCustomer experience

3 Ways to Politely Reject Customer Requests