Web Support Blog

September 22, 2006

Do You Have a Collaborative Business Environment?

Filed under: Knowledge Management — Chris @ 7:57 pm

I finally got around to reading the September 2006 issue of KM World. Jonathan B. Spira wrote an article, Step up to the knowledge economy, where he made a very valuable point. He lists three tenets that are required to make collaborative business environment (CBE). These three items range very true to my own (support) environment.

  1. the one environment rule (OER), which describes the benefits of conflating all applications into a single interface;
  2. friction-free knowledge sharing, which eliminates unnecessary steps in order to increase knowledge worker productivity; and
  3. embedded community, which deeply integrates many of the tools within the work environment.

In terms of knoweldge development, we currently are not in one environment — for that matter, we had three separate processes depending on the medium until just recently. Within a year, we should be on one environment. The greatest benefit is that we will reduce the learning curve for our knowledge contributors. For knowldge retrieval, it has just been this month where we have one search interface across all of our knowledge.

With the improvements to the environment, we are also gaining process benefits, eliminating unnecessary steps. By the end of the year, the publishing aspects that are still manual will have one less person to filter through. And again, once we get to one system, we will see additional improvements. With that being said, as we work to make sure that we are investing our precious resources on creating the right content, I do fear that we introduce new, unnecessary process steps. From prior experience, any process needs to be watched closely — too little, and mistakes happen; too much, and nothing happens.

The third tenet seems rather obvious, but it does not play out that way. Knowledge tools need to be in the workflow. If you have a call center, the knowledge tools need to be integrated with the transaction system. And if you are expecting those agents to add knowledge, the creation aspect needs to be integrated into the workflow too. The same can be said for your business intelligence tools. If the tools are not consolidated, easy to access, and within a familiar environment, they unfortunately will not be used.

I beleive the underlying message here is, if you want great knowledge collaboration to occur in your environment, you need to put the pieces in place to make it easy.

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Fingertip Knowledge: Learning-on-Demand

Filed under: Learning, Search, Web Analytics — Chris @ 5:48 am

I recently listened to a podcast from Elliot Masie, Fingertip Knowledge: Learning in a “Flatter” World. Mr. Masie introduces a concept called fingertip knowledge. He is using it in context of learning, but it is a concept I recognize — I have called it learning-on-demand. It is the idea that I wont try and learn all that I need to know, I will use Google to find what I need, when I need it.

This also translates to our support web sites. As I have indicated in my prior blogs, users will come to your site to learn a specific piece of information to solve a problem. Your users are employing the concept of fingertip knowledge more and more every day.

It is this idea as to why I suggest that the best way to determine success on your web support site is to look for the users who left your site immediately after reading a content (knowledge) item. Once you have fulfilled their learning-on-demand need, they will return to their work. Remember, as a provider of support information, customers come to your site because your product or service failed — once solved, they will go back to using your product to complete their real work.

September 21, 2006

Measuring Web Support Success, part 2

Filed under: Web Analytics — Chris @ 7:59 pm

As I mentioned prior, you need to think about the delivery of your content as much as the content itself. Moving from that rather basic notion, consider “What is the purpose of your customers’ visit?” and “Why are they coming to your site?” The likely answer is that they had a problem, and they need your help to solve it.

Now some customers will know or believe they know the answer — they just need the latest driver or patch, so their behavior may look a little different, but it is still the same intention — solve their problem. Excluding customers that come to your support site to learn (which will vary by product and industry), the ideal support experience is straight forward and therefore easy to measure success.

If I was selling a product or service, once I collected the customer’s credit card number, I would count that as a success. In the support world, once your customer reads the answer to his or her problem, you have been successful — a conversion. If you buy into that idea, then this should be fairly straight forward: the last content item read on your site by your customer must have been the solution to solve his or her problem. Why else would they keep looking for an answer if I already found it (that could be the learning exception)?

So assuming you have a low rate of customers that visit your site purely to browse and learn, you can conclude that the last item viewed was the conversion content item. Okay, but what if the customer never found a solution, but looked at many content items? Again, what wss the last item viewed on your site? A content item? Or was it a search result page? Or how about a page to route to additional content? If the last item viewed (the last page viewed) on your site was a content item, then I would say very likely your customer was successful in solving their problem. If the customer left your site where the last page was any other page but a content page, then I would say they did not solve their problem.

What do you think? I will continue to expand on this subject in future blogs…

September 18, 2006

Measuring Web Support Success

Filed under: Web Analytics — Chris @ 4:13 am

How does your company know if their web support is successful? Does more visitors mean it is better? Can you correlate increased web success to a reduction of support calls to your call center? Most companies do not know if their web support is successful nor can they correlate it to a reduction in support calls.

I have recently started a new assignment where I will define our organizations content effectiveness strategy. The basic idea is that better content = more successful customers. When I am done, we should be able to identify our content health and which part of the content needs the most attention.

There are two points worth expanding on from the prior paragraph: content health and which part of the content needs the most attention. First of all, content health should put information in the hands of managers that need to decide how to best allocate prescious resources. Today, most organizations only know to answer the phone — it is the only area where they can measure the value. These managers need more information so they understand when it is better to invest in content and when it is okay not to.

Hopefully, the second part is obvious. The fact is, there is more to support content than just writing a few articles or FAQs. Just remember this for now — no matter how good the content is, if users cannot find it, then it is useless.

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