In-app help can be used for consumer-facing software or employee-facing software. It’s usually deployed using a digital adoption platform (DAP). There is some overlap between in-app help for consumers and employees. But it’s often used in different ways for both groups.
For example, customer onboarding and employee onboarding are nearly identical in name, but their goals are very different. Customer onboarding focuses on getting customers acquainted with software so they’re more likely to use it and continue using it. For employee onboarding, the purpose is to help employees work in company software more effectively and also reduce help desk calls.
The focus of this post is how contextual help (aka in-app help) can be used to help employees use internal company (usually custom) software. There are tons of benefits to providing in-app help as opposed to going traditional routes for training. While in-app help likely won’t eliminate the need for training, it will bring help closer to when they need it and likely reduce calls to the help desk.
When I first discovered in-app help it was in the form of overlays that would pop up the first time you used a new mobile app. Something as simple as this in the old HP printer iOS app.
Things are more complex now and in-app help can do a lot more for employees. Whether you’re using custom software for your company or software as a service (SaaS such as Salesforce), you’re likely opening it in your web browser. Chrome and other web browsers are now the window to your world in almost every way.
And, providing help for that software is essential to helping employees use it. The only app help method that used to be available was knowledge bases, job aids, or something like that. Now there are several different options available whether it be help articles available right inside of the application or even help overlays or what I’ll refer to as modal popups.
This is an example of the type of help you can find in Google’s Gmail. There’s a question mark icon at the top of the screen and when you click it, a modal pops up in the browser that lets you search for help and find articles.
For this help, it’s only articles that you have available or articles pulled in from a knowledge base. There are no step-throughs that show you how to do it right in the application.
This article is going to cover only in-app help that is essentially embedded in the application, though. That means it becomes part of the software and can even interact with different parts of your software. You may know of in-app help referred to as in-app support or even contextual help.
So you can understand the different ways in-app help helps your employees and organization, you have to understand the different ways it can be used. So, let’s take a look at the different types of in-app help.
Types Of In-App Help
Going beyond embedding help articles in an overlay within your application, in-app help can do a lot more. There is help that helps with onboarding employees who are new to the application, walkthroughs, videos right in the application, alerts, and more.
There are a few examples of each one below and what they might look like in an application. These examples all come from the guide showcases from Pendo. There are tons of interesting ways systems like Pendo and WalkMe can be used beyond their main purpose, but we’re going to stick with training uses.
I mentioned in the beginning that this could be used for customer-facing and employee-facing onboarding. And, they work essentially the same way except with very different goals.
You can see in the examples below the onboarding process essentially points to different areas of the screen and tells the user what that area is for. So, it might point to where you can access your profile to change your password, log out, or perhaps change your preference. Then it could point to the main menu and what’s available there.
User onboarding sequences could even end by offering more help in specific areas of the application. We’ve used the onboarding sequence to tell users about keyboard shortcuts, walkthroughs for top help needs, and more.
What you can do to onboard new users in an application is endless. It’s a great way to introduce new users and show them important areas of the application while in the application. It’s also the perfect place to show new users where they can get future help.
Not only that, but you aren’t even limited to providing only new user onboarding. There could be a new onboarding sequence for each major section of an application.
Stepthrough or Walkthrough
Onboarding is somewhat like a walkthrough except that it’s general guidance for new users in an application but they can be combined. A walkthrough shows an employee how to do a specific task in the application. A stepthrough is different in that employees are actually doing the process in the app as it walks you through it.
That could be walking someone through the process of creating a new user in a CRM, or perhaps making a note on a customer.
It’s possible to put important information for the process such as all the required fields to create a new user in the CRM. Each modal walks the user through the process and shows them exactly where to click. The best part is, they click through the application so they’re learning exactly how to do the process.
The walkthrough in the image above has the user click the button. More context can also be given each step of the way. So, it’s a great way to walk users through an entire process while giving context to the process.
Doing this can all happen without overwhelming the user because they’re taking it one step at a time. There’s no looking around the screen for something that’s in a job aid, it’s all right there in front of the employee pointed out and explained in modals as they go.
Embedded Training Videos
I don’t have a good example of this one since it’s a special use case that we’ve provided. But training videos can be hosted on any platform such as Vimeo or YouTube and embedded into a modal popup. That could be helpful for more complex processes that require information that a walkthrough can’t accommodate.
It could also be that a video has already been developed on a help topic which makes it easy to embed in a modal that can then be launched from a help center. I haven’t mentioned the help center before, which is an icon or some kind of button on the screen that launches a central location for all help content that is available in the application.
This is an example of the resource center inside of Pendo where users can get support and more.
The help center could launch guides, information, or even videos all from one central help icon.
Sometimes a walkthrough isn’t necessary. It’s nice to add additional context to a process or offer more information from a badge. It could be a question mark badge as seen in the image below or it could be a badge that has text in additional to a question mark icon.
Tooltips don’t even have to be badges. It’s possible to show more information or context when a user hovers over or clicks on a button or some part of an application. That pretty much opens the doors to many possibilities of what types of information and training can be made available in your application.
Any kind of survey or information you want to gather from employees is possible. You can collect NPS scores, answers to questions, scale ratings, and even open-field input. There are a lot of options for what you can collect right inside the application through in-app help.
We’ve used in-app help to collect some of the following information in applications:
- Reports of an application being slow.
- Satisfaction with a specific guide.
- General application feedback.
- Questionnaires about how new features are working.
There are no limits to the ways you can use questions and surveys to collect information from employees. Of course, the system collects a lot of information about how your application is being used, but surveys give you even more in addition to the raw data being collected.
We wish everything worked perfectly all the time. But, the truth is that not everything works seamlessly all the time and alerts are necessary.
It could be an alert that a system is going to be down for maintenance. Or, an alert might be necessary to tell users about something not working during certain hours. The truth is, in-app help isn’t only about help, it’s also about communication and getting information to employees quickly and where it’s relevant.
Then there are special uses like using alerts to prevent access to parts of an application or even tell users a feature is coming soon. There are no limitations to how and when you can provide users with alerts with in-app help tools.
How They Help Your Employees & Organization
You probably already have a lot of ideas on how in-app help will improve your application while helping employees and your organization. As you look at some of the ways in-app help can work, it gets you thinking about how different parts of your organization’s applications can be improved with better-trained employees.
There are many reasons we’ve implemented in-app guides for the organization and we’d love to help your organization take advantage of them too. Read on to learn more about how they can help your organization and employees too. You’ll see how much of a win-win they can be for your organization.
Keeps Them From Getting Stuck
Employees can’t use your software if they get stuck. In-app help helps in several different ways to keep employees from getting stuck. The analytics they provide can show you exactly where employees are running afoul in the application.
Or, for those places you’ve discovered are troublesome for employees, in-app help can pop up right in the place they need it most. If a popup isn’t the desired method to solve the issue, perhaps it’s simply a badge that can be clicked to provide more context in situations they otherwise were having trouble with.
In-app help can guide employees through the most tricky process until they have their legs and can navigate the rough seas themselves.
Reduce Helpdesk Tickets/Calls
This is a biggie right here. Making employees access help outside of an application is one more hurdle to getting help. It’s one they might not be willing to jump over and instead would rather call the help desk.
If employees have the tools they need to help themselves they’re more willing to do it. That’s especially true if it’s easily accessible with the click of a button. Not only that, you can provide an easy way for them to call the help desk right in a help center. Or, better yet, give them some options on the top issues they call for first before they can even get to the help desk phone number or chat.
There are lots of different solutions that can be implemented with in-app help to reduce helpdesk calls and tickets.
Increased Job Effectiveness
I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for the fastest way to do a task if I’m not shown any other way to do it. That means the ideal method isn’t always the process being done. Instead, employees work through it themselves and figure out the way that works for them whether right or wrong.
That could mean bypassing important processes or just flat-out doing things wrong. Don’t let that happen! The worst part is when someone learns their way (the wrong way) and then teaches others to do it their way too. Suddenly you have half the organization doing things wrong and causing an even bigger training issue.
That problem can be minimized with in-app help. It’s easier than ever to walk employees through the proper process with relevant tips along the way. While in-app help doesn’t force users to do things the right way, it helps make it easier for them to learn the right way. That’s especially true when the in-app help walks them through their first time and shows them the right way.
A job aid may not be followed properly because people scan it and improvise. In-app help doesn’t have to be scanned because it tells you exactly what to do next and how to do it.
When employees learn the right way to do something in your organization’s application they’ll be more effective at their job.
The more feedback you can gather the easier it is to improve processes and the application itself. In-app help isn’t just about help, it’s about feedback and lots of it. You can collect feedback from employees as they use your application where it’s the most helpful to you.
Gathering feedback from your employees benefits your organization and employees in two ways.
- Learn how the software can be improved with feedback about the application itself.
- Learn about topics that employees are interested in learning more about so you can build those into the in-app help.
Every bit of feedback you gather helps improve the application and employee efficiency.
All of this has the potential to save your organization money while making employees and the application more efficient and effective. Processes that are done incorrectly cost organizations money. A process that is done correctly saves money! In-app help shows employees how to do things right, therefore, saving time and money.
Fewer help desk calls also means fewer people are required to answer those calls. And, employees will be happier in their job when they know how to do their job right. That means less turnover from unhappy employees when they get frustrated with a lack of knowledge.
Almost everything about in-app help saves the organization money.
Challenges With In-App Help
In-app help is pretty amazing and can do a lot of great things for your organization. It’s not perfect, though. There are some challenges when working with in-app help and putting it into an application.
One of the great things about modern software is that it’s always changing and being improved. Unfortunately, that also introduces challenges for in-app help. This one may not be unique to in-app help but the more you create, the more challenging it is to keep it all up-to-date with changing applications.
There is a twist to the difficulties with in-app help, though. Sometimes a change in an application can completely break a guide. That means it’s not simply outdated, it may not work at all which means employees aren’t getting the help they need.
Changing applications can quickly render one or all guides non-functioning with a few changes in the URL structure, formatting tags, or any other number of changes.
So, while in-app help is a great resource for helping employees use company software better, it’s not all roses. There are some downsides and those challenges can vary on your organization, software development speed, employees managing in-app help, or any other number of things.
Whatever you call it: in-app help, in-app support, in-app guides, contextual help, or anything else it’s all the same thing and typically deployed through a digital adoption platform. It’s a way to help employees (or customers) use an application better right in the application.
There are tons of different ways you can use in-app help to help employees use your company applications better. Some of the tools at your disposal with in-app help are onboarding, walkthroughs, training videos, tooltips, feedback, and alerts.
Whatever methods you find useful to help employees and benefit your organization, they each have benefits. In-app help could help employees not get stuck (or get stuck less), reduce help desk calls and tickets, increase job effectiveness, give you more feedback, and save your organization money.
If you’re thinking about implementing in-app help for your organization software, schedule a free consultation to talk about your project. We can help you take advantage of all that in-app help has to offer.