The pros weigh in: Managing security concerns with proactive customer service

In our recent webinar, Preparing for the Next Evolution of Self Service, our expert panel agreed that customer service is evolving from a responsive model to a more proactive one. With customer activity being monitored for potential failure points, security is at the top of everyone’s mind. One of our audience members posed this question to our presenters:

Do customers have an option to opt-in to proactive services, or are those services just baked in to their offerings? I’m wondering about companies with privacy issues or objections to having a vendor “watching.” How do you deal with those objections?

Melissa Burch, Knowledge Strategist, Irrevo:

My sense is that this differs depending on the product. For instance, with credit card protections, the banks don’t really provide an opt-in because they are really protecting their own interests. If we want to use credit cards, we have to tolerate the inconveniences that come with theft protections. However, with monitoring and notification services for most products should offer the option to utilize them or not. With regard to the “watching”, I believe that companies have been doing that with ill-intent. We aren’t being “watched” in order to provide us with conveniences and protections that would need. Instead, we are “watched” to determine what additional products we might want to purchase. When products we buy provide us with “service” through monitoring, notifications and maintenance, then I see consumers having more tolerance. So, overcoming reluctance to participate requires consistent data protections and the delivery on promises to use the data for good.

Matthew Seaman, VP of Service Management and Operations, PTC

For the majority of companies starting on this journey today, we are seeing opt in, or opt-out, capabilities for the data being collected and sent.  In our own experience, the key to customer’s connecting and sending data have hinged on two main aspects.  First is transparency.  We allow the customer to see and control the data being captured and sent.  We also provide white papers and legal documents that can be used with security teams to understand the way we are connecting and how we manage the data once it arrives. 

Being open and partnering has gone a long way.  We have no products sending data that the customer is not aware of.   Second is Value.  As we all are experience today, we have given up a measure of personal control of information due to the value being delivered back to us.  We all know that location services used on or smart phones to get directions can also be used to track our movements.  We allow this though due to the convenience and value we get in return, and we do not often experience the misuse of that data. In our journey to have customer connect, before worrying about any internal value our company could gain, we started with how to deliver value to our customers.  If the value outweighs the concern, then a large percent of people will opt-in. 

Learn more

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch a recording of this webinar. Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for more Q&A from this session, and follow us on Twitter to be the first to know when we share new answers.

The future of self-service: Intelligent avatars for customer support

In our recent webinar, Preparing for the Next Evolution of Self Service, Jordi Torras, CEO & Founder of Inbenta, shared his vision of how some companies are already taking steps to future-proof their customer experience program. One way is through the use of an avatar: An AI virtual assistant who answers questions from customers using natural language.

Our audience asked:

Do avatars use the exact same KB content used by analysts or on web self service, or is a ‘special’ set of knowledge created for the avatar?

“Avatars can use the same version of the Knowledge Base, and new knowledge can be added or edited as the Virtual Assistant collects more user questions. Also Decision Trees can be added to the KB that not only answer questions, but are able to gather information from users and effectively solve a problem.”

Jordi noted that avatars can increase self-service success to between 85-90%. Our audience wanted to know more about this statistic:

“We do use surveys to measure customer satisfaction and the overall quality of the experience after a hybrid chat is finished.
We also use Deflection Rates which are measured as the percentage of user sessions with the avatar that did NOT become a session with human chat, email or call.”

Learn More

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch a recording of this webinar. Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for more expert Q&A.

Truly effortless self-service: The future of proactive customer support

Self-service has an inherent flaw: Effort. What would you do with all of the time and energy you’d save if you didn’t have to stop working to diagnose and resolve issues? The next evolution of self-service shifts that effort from customers and technical support staff to proactive technologies.

Today, self-service requires a lot of effort

phone-and-coffeePicture yourself as a system administrator managing an enterprise-wide application.  A business leader contacts you to report concerns that have been impacting the productivity of his staff for a week. This sets off a time-consuming process of investigation and diagnostics. You could search a vendor’s support web site to find articles related to your condition or post to a community forum, but if all else fails, you’re calling the vendor for help. Depending on the complexity of the application and problem, this can take hours, days, or weeks of work. Work that takes you away from more important activities. Meanwhile, the business leader who’s having the issue is losing money, and becoming frustrated with you and the vendor. Value erosion is growing by the minute as productivity is lost.

…But there’s a brighter future

In the next generation of self-service, you’re still that system administrator. You wake up in the morning and an app on your phone tells you that the enterprise system is experiencing performance degradation. The app sends you a knowledge base article with details on the problem and lets you know that a self-healing fix is expected to resolve the issue within the hour. A Service Request has already been opened for follow-up and the system will report back at the end of the day if the fix has been successful. Since the performance degradation has been identified before it becomes a truly impacting problem, the problem will resolve itself before the business leaders lose any productivity. The system itself is doing the heavy lifting, so instead of performing manual diagnostics or researching fixes, you can finish your first cup of coffee.

Internet of Things technologies, data analytics/machine learning, and robust knowledge capture best practices are making a new proactive support engagement model a reality, transforming the technology support industry. In this new proactive model, the “voice of the product” will be the communication mechanism to vendors and manufacturers. Rich data streams will provide real-time information about assets. Analytics and machine learning technologies will identify immediate problems, trends, and patterns to knowledge in the form of recommendations, solutions, benchmarks, and self-healing fixes.

When resolutions are not already known, proactive service requests will be initiated, kicking off an investigation by the vendor’s support staff, and notifying the customer of its progress. All of this value can be delivered back to the asset or customer proactively through any number of communication channels.  A loop that automatically identifies a problem, matches it to a solution or service request, and provides that solution with little to no human interaction is now complete.

Further insight

promo_Mar31-2016_blogThis proactive support experience becomes a competitive advantage for the customer through dramatic productivity and product efficiency gains. Machine to machine communication and auto correction are becoming a reality and will be the backbone of tomorrow’s support organization.

On March 31, I’ll a part of an expert panel featuring Jordi Torras, Founder and CEO of Inbenta, and Melissa Burch, Knowledge Strategist with Irrevo, for a webinar titled Preparing for the Next Evolution of Self-Service. Join us for a deeper dive into how self-service will evolve, and hear actionable strategies that will help you future-proof your self-service experience.

Identify (and resolve!) support content issues with one precise exercise

hand-and-compassThere are times when you are looking for a quick win to give your customers an improved support site experience. You can have a big impact with focused content improvement efforts that align to your customers biggest concerns.

To get started, begin by doing some analysis on what types of issues your customers are asking about most frequently when they contact you. If you have data, dig into it and figure out what it is telling.  If you don’t have data to look at, poll the agents who work with customers directly.  They can easily tell you what questions they are frequently asked.

After you have the frequently asked questions, test your support site by searching for information for those questions. Remember that you are playing the part of a customer who doesn’t understand your system from the inside like you.  They are coming to your support site with very limited visibility into how it works.  If you are able to, it would be great to ask a customer to help you with this. Even if you engage with your customer remotely, via web conferencing, you will see and hear what the experience feels like for them.

Now, starting with one of the frequently asked questions, improve the content by assigning a knowledge engineer resource to address the issues with the content.  They should remove the outdated content and update existing content with better and more targeted information. Don’t be tempted to create a single long document with responses to each of these frequently asked questions. Since each question is important to many customers, it requires substantial content that aligns to their needs (not yours) and should be kept separate to support findability.

This is a very simple way to positively impact your customer’s experience with your support site.  Ideally, this should not take a long time, but should be a focused effort to ensure that it is completed well. Don’t forget that you will have to keep this content maintained to be helpful.

On March 31, I’ll be joined by an expert panel including Jordi Torras, Founder and CEO of Inbenta, for a webinar titled Preparing for the Next Evolution of Self-Service.

Join us to hear share actionable advice and strategies that will help you take your self-service experience to the next level.

Irrevo named to KMWorld 100 Companies that Matter in Knowledge Management, 2016

KMW_3_2016 (3)We are excited to announce that Irrevo has been named one of KMWorld’s 100 Companies that Matter in Knowledge Management for 2016.

For the past decade and a half, KMWorld has created this annual list of organizations that advance the field of knowledge management by meeting and anticipating the changing needs of clients and end-users alike. 2016 marks our second time making this highly-esteemed list.

“This is an amazing honor for Irrevo! This is a great indication that we’re on the right track and continuing to get noticed in the KM industry and among some very esteemed peers,” said Jason Kaufman, Irrevo’s President & CEO.

“Being named to our list of 100 Companies That Matter in Knowledge Management is a prestigious designation because it represents the best in innovation, creativity and functionality,” says KMWorld Editor Sandra Haimila. “The 100 Companies offer solutions designed to help users and customers find what they need whenever and wherever they need it … and what they need is the ability to access, analyze and share crucial knowledge.”


Knowledge base taxonomies: Classifying your content for easier navigation

A taxonomy is classification system. It is a way to categorize your knowledge base content and make it easy for your users to find what they need. Without a classification system, valuable knowledge gets lost and can be difficult to access. In fact, a recent study showed that only 53% of organizations have effective search capability in their knowledge base.

A taxonomy is not an arbitrary, however. It takes a bit of thought and planning to make a meaningful system to accurately represent your knowledge base.

In this article, we discuss how to create an effective taxonomy for your knowledge base.

Get to know your users

Before diving into categories and labels, you need collect information about your users and how they think.

  1. Who are your users?
    Is your knowledge base geared toward customers, customer service representatives, or operations personnel? Maybe you plan to use your knowledge base for multiple users. Clearly define who your users are. If there are multiple users, clearly define the user groups.
  2. Based on the user group(s), what is the purpose of your knowledge base?
    Is the content intended for training, general information, or troubleshooting? The way you categorize your content will be largely based on your intention for the users.
  3. How do your users search for knowledge?
    Research the way your current users navigate the content to look for the information they need. You can also run simple test studies to determine how your users ask questions and search for information.

Organize your content

Once you really get to know your your knowledge base and your users, organize your content into broad categories. For example, you may find a lot of content pertains to “billing,” “ordering,” “troubleshooting,” or “account support.”

After sifting through all your content, you may decide that some categories can be combined. For example, you may decide that “billing” and “ordering” are very similar and can be combined into one category, “orders and billing.”

If you’re having trouble telling the different between “billing” and “ordering,” try a card sort exercise with your agents. Card sorting is a user-focused approach to organizing information.

Decide on a level of depthtaxonomy_tree

Based on the quantity and complexity of each category, decide on a level of depth.

For example, your “billing” category may include a lot of related content; so, it might make sense to create a second level of subcategories such as “online bill pay,” “refunds,” and “statements.”

If you have a very large knowledge base,  it may necessary to create a third level for some of your subcategories.

For example, if the refund process for individual customers is different than that for businesses, it may be helpful to divide “refunds” further into “individuals” and “businesses.”

Test your taxonomy

Instead of wondering whether or not your taxonomy will be effective once it’s live, why not test it with focus groups first? Focus groups can help sort out any major issues and give you more insight as to how users navigate the content. Once the content is live, be sure to continue testing in order to adapt to changes in user patterns and needs.

Taxonomies gone bad

Be on the lookout for these potential blunders:

  1. Too many categories
    When information is spread too thin, it can get lost and users may not be able to find what they need. For example, “billing” and “payments” may be too similar to separate. Don’t make your users guess where they need to hunt.
  2. Too few categories
    When information is too concentrated, it can get lost and users may be overloaded. For example, if a user needs to log into his/her account to update a password or address, it’s not useful to lump all “my account” information under “order status” or “billing.”
  3. Too many or too few levels of depth
    Smaller knowledge bases may not need subcategories, but large knowledge bases might. You may be tempted to create as few levels of depth as possible to avoid having your users spend more time clicking through your content. However, studies show that users don’t mind clicking through information as many times as necessary, provided that the navigational path makes sense.UX Myths busted the myth that pages should be accessible in three clicks by stating that “…the number of necessary clicks affects neither user satisfaction, nor success rate. That’s right; fewer clicks don’t make users happier and aren’t necessarily perceived as faster.”Don’t forget that you can always interlink information with each article. As long as you provide a logical pathway for the user to find needed information, level of depth will not threaten the ease of access.

Get help from the pros

Take a look at some support websites for companies of your size and see what they do. Pay attention to how they structure their content, what you like about it, what you don’t like about it, and what you can learn from it.

Also, consider letting a team of knowledge engineers help you out. They do this stuff for a living and love it. Plus, it’s good to get a fresh perspective from people outside your industry.

3 Lessons learned managing a high stakes knowledge base migration project

The most successful content migration project I have ever witnessed lasted several months and involved nearly 50 people. They were not taking baby-steps; instead the vision was big. This meant that the project felt unruly and extremely chaotic at times. However, in the end, it delivered a dramatic impact to the business with changes in technology and processes. This project is a wonderful source of learnings and best practices.  Here are the big three takeaways.

1. Get ready to show off your leadership abilities.

For many executives, a large content migration project is a “once in a career” effort. It is high-stakes; costly, highly visible and can’t be repeated. So, it needs to be done well the first time. This means that you have to go through all the critical preparations. Most importantly, take the time you need to establish the vision and alignment of the project to strategic objectives. Define what success looks like. Then, make sure you align the right people to this project early on.

Be prepared to communicate the vision, objectives and success criteria many times. Your team will come to you many times asking for more resources, more time and more budget. To help everyone stay focused, be relentless in keeping the vision you establish at the beginning. Setting that vision up front will make it easier to address those requests each time they arise.

2. The content migration project team moves through a predictable emotional roller coaster (many times).

There is a predictable emotional roller coaster that you and your team will move through (probably many times). Knowing this in advance, allows you to use the best leadership techniques that align to what your team needs at that time. Prepare to lead the team both intellectually and emotionally. When the team is doubting itself, you are the cheerleader. When the team has lost the plot, you repeat the vision again and again and again to keep them moving toward the goal. When the team is confident and satisfied, sustain that momentum by celebrating their achievements.

Content Migration Optimism Chart

Most importantly, don’t forget that you will also move through these emotional phases. Anticipate that and have your own support structure in place to keep the positive energy.

3. Stay the course and you WILL be successful.

Leading a team through a dramatic change like this requires much more tenacity and persistence than is needed other times. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Others have done this already and you will be successful too. Maintain the energy and dedication and your team will deliver a dramatic and positive impact on your organization.

Mostly importantly, seek the information you need early on to make sure you are prepared and have all the information you need to make the right decisions along the way. To help you, Irrevo has recently collaborated with the amazing Eventusteam and published the Knowledge Management Guidebook: How to Lead a Successful Content Migration. Read the Guidebook and register for our “How to Lead a Successful Content Migration” webinar to gather the information you need to be set yourself up for success.

Scaling your customer success program: 4 goal-setting tips for Customer Success Managers

This post is a part of our Customer Success series written by Francoise Tourniaire and follows the last post about segmenting customers. You can read the first post in the series here and the post about scalable methods for customer success here.

This time, we turn to the issue of how to structure goals for customer success managers (CSMs). If you are a CSM and your manager has not set formal goals for you, keep reading! You will be able to suggest meaningful goals for yourself.

1. Match the goals to the mission of the customer success organization

Customer success has five big jobs: onboarding, monitoring customers’ health, retaining customers, upselling, and of course advocating for customers. Goals and objectives for CSMs will depend on the balance between the five.


Most customer success organizations focus on onboarding, monitoring, and retention, as discussed in steps 2 and 3. If your organization owns converting prospects, or is in a situation not covered in steps 2 and 3, read step 4 as well.

(Goals for the important role of advocate are usually carried by the manager of the team rather than by the CSMs.)

2. Goals for Onboarding

Customer success teams often choose to have onboarding specialists, whose goal it is to help customers adopt the product quickly through a series of training sessions, guidance to tailor the service, and adoption campaigns. The goals of onboarding specialists usually focus on the number and speed of onboarding projects. It is even better to measure the success of the onboarding projects. Were customers satisfied with the training and coaching? Did they correctly complete the assessment instruments (if any)? Did they manage to use the product without requiring additional assists from support or the CSM?

Onboarding specialists may receive a bonus based on achievement of their goals, or sometimes a fixed compensation.

3. Goals for Retention & Expansion

The goals of CSMs that are not pure onboarding specialists are sometimes based on customer satisfaction (as measured by a periodic survey) but are almost always driven by customer retention. There are many ways to measure retention so the computation mechanism matters, a lot. It can either be:

new MRR / old MRR


renewed MRR / MRR up for renewal

The first formula includes upgrades (expansion revenue); the second does not. This is an important distinction. If the goals include expansion sales, CSMs may neglect smaller customers who are unlikely to expand—and that may be just what you want. If not, either use a pure retention goal (i.e. use the second formula) or set two goals, one for retention and one for expansion. Set targets based on historical data, with careful uplifts added each quarter.

Note that neither formula relies on the activities that CSMs perform (onboarding sessions, QBRs, regular updates), only the results of the activities.

CSMs’ compensation usually includes a base and a significant bonus based on retention and/or expansion. (CSMs do not normally receive a commission, which is reserved for sales reps.)

4: Special Cases


In startups with no reliable history of renewals, it’s often difficult to set meaningful individual retention targets. Instead, use a group target, with the added benefit that group targets promote teamwork. (It’s not a bad idea to give CSMs both an individual and a group target, even in established teams, as recognition of the importance of teamwork.)

When Customer Success is all about Sales

If CSMs are deployed mainly to convert prospects or to push expansion purchases, their goal should be based on conversions (and their compensation may well be in the form of commissions.)

When Account Segments Behave Differently

Large accounts tend to renew at much higher rates than smaller accounts, regardless of the industry. New accounts churn a lot more than established accounts. And “at-risk” accounts, those that demand the most effort, are much more likely to churn.

If all CSMs handle a variety of accounts, no problem: you can set the same goals and the same targets for everyone. But if they specialize the CSMs by customer segment, take the mix into consideration. For instance, the retention goal for “at risk” CSMs may be only 50% while for others the target is 90%.

Francoise Tourniaire is the founder of FT Works and co-founder of ChurnSquad.  Both companies provide consulting, training, and coaching to create and improve customer success initiatives. Her latest book, The Art of Support, provides guidance for both customer success and support executives. Contact Francoise at or 650 559 9826 for more information.

Q&A: Re-invigorating a stalled knowledge program

In our recent webinar, Creating Institutional KM Change that Sticks, our expert panel shared lessons learned in implementing new knowledge programs.

In this series of posts, Jennifer Crippen, Senior Consultant at DB Kay & Associates, and Dave Cutler, VP of Customer Success at Venafi, are joined by Irrevo’s Knowledge Strategists, Melissa Burch and Laurel Poertner to respond in detail to the questions our audience shared during our Q&A session.

Do you have suggestions for good resources, best practices, and/or lessons learned that address restarting KM programs that have stalled or failed, and that speak to the unique challenges that exist in such programs vs. ones operating in a greenfield environment? How does the failure of previous efforts impact the willingness of an org to change, and what pace they’re willing to move at?

Melissa Burch: 

Invigorating a stalled knowledge program is definitely different than initiating a new one. Previous failures are felt by all members of the organization and it is best to acknowledge what has gone wrong and how things will be different in the future. The heightened level of pessimism from the team means that it is important to share the victories early and often. A pace of change that is too slow is likely to be interpreted by the team members as a leading indicator of failure because they are not able to see the impacts quickly. Build momentum quickly and sustain it more carefully than during previous attempts.

Laurel Poertner: 

I do think that a restart is a little bit different because you may not have additional training since your audience is already familiar with the changes. I think you should always have a refresher course. I also think it’s important to understand in great detail why it failed. There’s so much to learn on why something failed, and you can really build on that. Try to make sure you understand the underlying causes. Was it a culture thing? A change in leadership? It is helpful to be transparent with those reasons for failure so your teams understand why the mistakes happened. Use that to your advantage by showing you have resilience and new experience to help you move past it. You may find that there are team members that still have some of that momentum that you leverage. I have been a part of several implementations that sought out additional help from an organization like DB Kay and Associates or Irrevo that helped them get going again. 

Dave Cutler:

I agree, analyzing what went wrong and having a plan to do something differently including outcome based objectives and getting people’s buy in right from the beginning, and communication and the three things we’ve talked about throughout the webinar.

Jennifer Crippen:

The restarts are where I find I spend a lot more of my time and Laurel and Dave hit it on the head, that transparency and recognizing whatever it was we did before that didn’t work and we’re not gonna do that again. Then really plan and demonstrate how you’re not gonna let the organization fall back into those same failures by doing things differently and very clearly explaining how things will be different this time around.

Learn More

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch a recording of this webinar. Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for more Q&A from this session, and follow us on Twitter to be the first to know when we share new answers.


Q&A: Training on knowledge base search engines

In our recent webinar, Creating Institutional KM Change that Sticks, our expert panel shared lessons learned in implementing new knowledge programs.

In this series of posts, Jennifer Crippen, Senior Consultant at DB Kay & Associates, and Dave Cutler, VP of Customer Success at Venafi, are joined by Irrevo’s Knowledge Strategists, Melissa Burch and Laurel Poertner to respond in detail to the questions our audience shared during our Q&A session.

We are trying to develop a training program for our Knowledge Base. Currently we train on our organization’s products and programs, but there is so much information now, that we are trying to orient the training for our employees to learn how to use the KB, instead of directly teaching its contents. Do you have any experience or advice with this type of training?

Jennifer Crippen:

The search is so important, and I think it’s a common oversight in how we train our employees. We offer a tool like a search engine so they can get to the right content, whether it is knowledge articles or training materials, white papers or product documents. Typically employees tend to expect a search engine in a knowledgebase to work how they use Google, but it doesn’t. Employees require some amount of training on what to expect and on how to use search effectively.

Laurel Poertner: 

I have asked some of the super users of the KM system to participate in very specific, tactical training sessions. This helps others see hands-on examples of how to do some of the daily tasks involving the KB. I have also asked for feedback from Managers and users on what specific topics they would like more information on so I could tailor a training class to that. Finally, the business systems team that fielded a lot of the questions about the KB created a separate article tag and wrote KB articles on some of the common questions that were coming up.


Learn More

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch a recording of this webinar. Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for more Q&A from this session, and follow us on Twitter to be the first to know when we share new answers.