Help options are essential for a good user experience. While users ideally should be able to navigate a website or app without help, some will still run into trouble on even the best designed platforms. Help resources can solve these issues, either by answering common user questions or teaching users how to complete their task.

CI’s Annuity and Medicare research teams recently published new reports on site help options in these industries, noting best practices and identifying industry leaders. The main finding: The best financial services and healthcare firms gather all their help resources into help centers on their sites. Our researchers have found that the best versions of these help centers are easy to find, intuitive, focused on common tasks, and not overwhelming. Help centers are particularly important in these two industries, where older and less tech savvy users may require more help navigating the site.

But there are more ways to assist users than just help centers. Using these reports, our researchers identified the following best practices for site help that are applicable across different industries.

Place all help options in a single location

Firms best serve users when they place all help options, including options for contacting the firm, in a single help center. These dedicated pages can point users in the right direction, teach them to use the site, or direct them to further help options, such as live chat. Scattering these resources can cause users to become confused about available options or use suboptimal options—for example, calling to ask a question already answered in an FAQ. This wastes both the user’s and firm’s time.

Our two recent reports found that help centers were prevalent but not universal in both Annuity and Medicare. For example, only 56% of annuity firms offered a dedicated help page on the authenticated site, with the rest scattering help resources throughout the authenticated and public sites. In addition, these help resources often lack annuity-specific help information, driving users to the phone instead. Only half of the 18 firms our annuity research team tracks offer annuity-specific help resources. This is a hurdle for the annuity industry. As annuity owners do not need to actively manage their accounts, they may log in infrequently and are often unfamiliar with the sites. They are more likely to need help than other users, making annuity-specific resources more important.

Prudential emerged as a leader in our latest annuity report, offering dedicated help and contact pages with annuity-specific information.

This image shows Prudential's help options available on the My Service Center page
Prudential’s My Service Center Page

Our Medicare researchers, similarly, identified a handful of firms exemplifying site help best practices. Anthem BCBS makes all help and contact options available on the Contact Us page, offering multiple access points across the site. Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente’s Support Center page houses a myriad of helpful links and resources for members, including links to its live chat tool, FAQs and message composition page.

This image shows how Anthem BCBS makes three contact options available on its contact page
Anthem BCBS Contact Page

Offer proactive help options, especially on unfamiliar pages

Firms can head off user difficulties with proactive help options, such as instructions and tool tips on problem pages. Our researchers noted that most annuity firms take advantage of proactive help options—a best practice for annuity sites. Tool tips (or balloon tips) are most popular, with 56% of annuity firms employing them. Annuity firms also rely on instructions and progress meters to help users move through their task.

This image shows tooltips on Prudential's authenticated site homepage, which provide definitions for different terms
Tooltips on Prudential’s Authenticated Site Homepage

These proactive help options serve as a first line of assistance for users. While every site should have a dedicated help center, the ideal outcome is that users never need it. Firms can monitor common questions and issues in their UX and address them both proactively (with on-the-page help options) and reactively (with a help center and easy-to-find customer service options, as seen below).

Provide a live chat option, or virtual assistant with access to live chat

Today’s firms have more and better help options for web users than firms ten or twenty years ago. The most important new options are live chat and virtual assistants, which offer instantaneous, adaptive help when users need it.

Annuity firms are split on offering live chat or a virtual assistant. Currently just half of the firms CI tracks offer either option. The firms that do often make it difficult to find: Only a third of the firms that do offer the option make it available on every account owner site. This renders these options less useful. Live chat or a virtual assistants are only helpful if users know where to find them.

Medicare firms offer similar live chat or virtual assistant options: Slightly more than half of Medicare firms offer one or both options. However, these options are often easier to find than their annuity counterparts, with most firms providing a chat icon throughout the site and links to chat on the help center page—a clear best practice. A live chat option should be easy to find. Certain firms across both the Annuity and Medicare coverage sets, however, make live chat difficult to find, or only allow users to access live chat once they’ve stumped the virtual assistant.

These three screenshots show Sydney's chatbot responding to user queries.
Sydney Health Chatbot

Firms can further improve their chat options with preset options or suggested inquiries, providing proactive help before users need to connect with a live person. These preset options should link to further resources to best assist users.

For more best practices and insights from across the financial services and healthcare industries, check out our Insights section. Learn more about our Annuity research services here, and our Medicare research services here. Or get in contact with us using the form on this page.