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Online help is the help file accessible for software applications or operating systems. It provides information relating to general operation of the program as well as troubleshooting. Online help can help customers resolve their issues without having to contact a customer service representative, saving time and effort.
Online help can be a wealth of information and is provided for free with the concerned product. Online help is usually provided in a table form with easy navigation and search options. It is created mostly with the help of authoring tools and is delivered in different formats based on the product, like hypertext markup language or Adobe PDF.
Common deficiencies reported for online help are the absence of an index or glossary, unorganized topics, inconsistency in formatting, grammatical errors, difficult navigation and lack of complementary information in addition to the instructions or data. Characteristics of good online help include:
With online help, the need for live customer support has decreased, which has led to decreasing the cost and manpower involved in issue resolution. Unlike other forms of customer troubleshooting like live chat and calls, online help can provide additional information to the customer. This can in turn educate them more on the product and its services, making users less likely to need support in the future.