Usability guru Dr. Jakob Nielsen tells us that our users have a firm mental model on search. The mental model includes a search box, a search button, and a list of results. In testing, people want search on every site to work like search on their favorite search engine (Google, Yahoo, and MSN).
Users also expect to type in a keyword or two. “In [a] recent search study, the mean query length was 2.0 words.” Search success rates also drop off drastically as users refine, from 51% on their first attempt, to 32% and 18% on their second and third attempts, respectively.
In the knowledge management and enterprise search space, most vendors are pushing natural language searches – completely different than the mental model Dr. Nielsen describes. Nielsen recommends that if that is the case, then do not make your search look like search, “…the label ‘Search’ equals keyword searching, not other types of search.”
Dr. Nielsen does not have a hard, fast rule to solving this problem, but he does recommend not using a “Search” button. Try instead using the word “Find” or “Retrieve.”
So, “When Is Search Not Search?” When you do not support keyword search.
In my last post I ranted about my frustration within my organization in regard to knowledge management. I discussed some problems and gave a list of things required to make knowledge management successful. Since that time, I found a very good article from David Kay, Breakthrough Knowledge Management, that summarizes the Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) model.
Mr. Kay makes several great point when he discusses “Making the Transition” that have not occurred in my organization. The bolded items are where we need to go back and put more emphasis.
KCS requires a significant rethinking of knowledge, support processes, support staffers’ job descriptions, and rewards and recognition. It requires senior executive and management buy-in, a carefully executed communications plan, and an enabling technology platform. It generally requires help from experts outside the company. It’s not an initiative that should be taken lightly.
You can learn all about KCS from the Consortium for Service Innovation. Begin by reading their whitepaper, The KCS Operational Model.
This is a good reminder, we can all work hard to get our tools and systems to the next level, but if you do not have your content development model working, your web support site will still fail your customers.
I have not been posting too much lately, actually not enough since I started this blog. Besides working on my other blog, I have been preoccupied at work, asking, “what is happening in knowledge management in my organization?” Because my current role is just now expanding into more main stream knowledge management, after being away from it for 18 months (I switched companies and started a team specifically to develop how-to and tutorial movie animations), I have been trying to figure out what is going wrong in our organization.
The truth is, our organization is struggling with the basic concept of web support and knowledge management — an organization that has been “doing it” for over five years. I finally believe that I have discovered why we are struggling: the employees, those who we are expecting to create the majority of the content, they do not understand why they need to create the content and they do not see how it benefits them.
It is a failure in our management practices in helping our subject matter experts to see the value of knowledge sharing; a failure in setting the right measures and expectations for knowledge management; a failure in not making sure the employees have the appropriate training; and most of all, a failure in making it a part of the employees job. Quite frankly, even though we have support at the Executive level, we do not have it at the front-line management level. I heard one person say today that it is hard for his peers to embrace knowledge management when they already have so much to do in their “day job.”
Day job? Why is knowledge management not part of their day job? Knowledge management creates capacity: 1) more customers can find their own answer; and 2) agents can find answers to help customers faster. This should be a part of every agents day job – period.
There is a lesson here for all of us. For knowledge management to work, and therefore the content behind web support, you need the following:
- Support through the entire management chain: it must be valued!
- Accountability: see#1 — if it is valued, then employees should be held accountable
- Training for the knowledge creators
- How to use the tools
- How to write
- How the work contributes to the companies success
- Where to invest (i.e. content gaps, search tuning)
- What is working (i.e. success rate, satisfaction rate)
- What is not working (i.e. unused content, broken links)
- Clear escalation path, with follow-through, for system issues
So if your organization is struggling with knowledge management, go talk to a few of the subject matter experts — your support agents. Go find out if knowledge management is part of their day job or not.