How searching “early and often” improves your knowledge ecosystem’s health

In our recent webinar, Making Your Support Content Work Harder For You, experts Melissa Burch of Irrevo and David Kay of DB Kay & Associates covered a wealth of information on how to improve your knowledge base.

One of our audience members asked David Kay to speak in a little more depth about how utilizing best practices for search can enhance a knowledge program:

How does searching improve content quality? How can we incorporate this into our processes to maintain the health of my knowledge ecosystem?

Searching “early and often” is a cornerstone of the KCS practices for a number of reasons. First, by searching and understanding what we collectively know before solving a problem anew, we actually get the benefit of the knowledge in our KB. But searching has many more benefits:

  1. By searching throughout the resolution process, we make it far less likely that we’ll create duplicate content. For KBs, duplicates are death.
  2. If we don’t find content, our search terms capture important context from the requestor. These words should end up in the article that we ultimately create from the interaction
  3. If we struggled to find the article, then the search terms will be good to add to the article, to make it easier for the next person to find.

It’s sometimes difficult to get people who already know the answer to search and link. We need to reinforce the many benefits of searching and linking, even if we know the answer:

  • Link data gives us ammunition to drive improvements in the products and services
  • Link data targets value-added work in the Evolve loop
  • Every use is a review; if we’re not using, we’re not reviewing and content will get stale
  • Even if someone thinks they know the answer, that answer may have been updated or improved
  • If everyone uses the KB, we’re more consistent
  • It’s quicker and easier to search and link an article, and send it to the customer, than it is to write case notes or customer communications from scratch…even if we know the answer

You can watch the entire webinar on-demand to hear more great insights from David. Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for more Q&A from this session.

Managing Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact: Case Analysis

Our recent webinar, Managing Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact, covered the important aspects of building a knowledge ecosystem that creates happy, loyal customers.  It’s a big topic so it’s no surprise that we couldn’t get to all of the audience questions in the Q&A.

Senior Knowledge Consultant, Melissa Burch, and founder of FT Works, Françoise Tourniaire, have previously answered your questions on how to transform your knowledge program, and how to change your organization’s relationship with knowledge. Today, they’re tackling questions on case analysis.

Q: What’s your recommendation for the number of case evaluations per analyst and who should do them?

Francoise Tourniaire: For established analysts, a couple per quarter, randomly chosen, should suffice, assuming that the outcome is positive. (If not, review more to determine whether there is a real issue, or if you just happened to pick problematic cases.) For new hires, or anyone with performance issues, you should review more, maybe all of them for brand-new hires.

As to who should do the case evaluations, I’m a strong proponent of having the analyst’s manager perform them. It’s best to have the same person perform the evaluations, deliver feedback, and manage the performance. That being said, with very technical products it’s often helpful to enlist the help of a senior technical resource who would be better able to assess the quality of the troubleshooting process.

Q: How do you measure case deflection as a result of knowledge?

Francoise Tourniaire: I wrote a book on this! Seriously, it’s a very difficult topic. Depending on the tool you are using, you may be able to present possible solutions to users as they are logging cases. If so, you can measure the percentages of cases not logged. Voila! (But note that some, maybe many users may have found solutions and gone away happy without starting to log a case.)

Otherwise, you need to have a method for measuring what’s NOT happening, which is very difficult. I like to simply measure the incident rate, so volume of cases per customer (or per seat, per license, whatever method helps you capture the size of the customer base). If the incident rate goes down when you are improving the knowledge base, that’s a positive result. Of course, incident rate depends on many other factors, most notably product quality… If you have multiple product lines you can check them against each other to eliminate these other factors.

Q: How do you measure quality when the customer needs to go and do some work and only then determine whether the solution worked? They are unlikely to come back and score the item.

Francoise Tourniaire: Determining the quality of an individual solution is best determined by (1) feedback on the solution itself and (2) reuse during case resolution. The vast majority of customers will not bother rating solutions at all, so be sure to use whatever feedback is given: if one person complains about a solution, chances are that dozens of others also had a problem.

Q: Similarly, what’s your recommendation for the number of KB articles evaluated per analyst and who should do them?

Francoise Tourniaire: Here again, a small number will suffice, assuming that the analyst is experienced and has a good record of writing quality documents. That’s a job for the KCS coaches, if you have them.

Q: Case quality reviews: Aren’t case reviews also lagging since it is after the case is closed? How is it leading?

Francoise Tourniaire: Case reviews are often conducted on closed cases, in which case they do, indeed, come after the fact. But they can be conducted on cases that are still open. Also, not every customer will return a customer satisfaction survey so the case quality review can be considered as a leading indicator of quality, suggesting what customers might say in the future about cases closed by that same individual.It’s not always easy to cleanly distinguish between leading and lagging indicators.

 

Further insight

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch the recorded webinar.

And for practical advice and strategies to transform your customer support experience,  read  our new white paper, Managing your Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact.

Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for answers to more follow-up questions.

Make sure to sign up for the Irrevo Newsletter for announcements about upcoming webinars and insights about creating truly great customer service.

Managing Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact – Your Questions, Expert Answers

Our recent webinar, Managing Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact, covered the important aspects of building a knowledge ecosystem that creates happy, loyal customers.  It’s a big topic so it’s no surprise that we couldn’t get to all of the audience questions in the Q&A.

In this series of posts, our Senior Knowledge Consultant, Melissa Burch, and founder of FT Works, Françoise Tourniaire, take on some of the insightful questisons asked by our audience.

Each of these articles covers a different aspect of how to get the most from your knowledge program:

Further insight

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch the recorded webinar.

And for practical advice and strategies to transform your customer support experience,  read  our new white paper, Managing your Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact.

Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for answers to more follow-up questions.

Make sure to sign up for the Irrevo Newsletter for announcements about upcoming webinars and insights about creating truly great customer service.

Diagnosing Unhealthy Content: 4 Cures for Common Knowledgebase Ailments

Building a successful knowledge management solution doesn’t stop at implementation.  Once a KM system is up and running, it’s important to track how articles are being used and how well the system is performing overall.kb_heartbeat_heart

With 25-45% of today’s workforce using and sharing knowledge and information, it’s more important than ever to provide knowledge base articles that are relevant, useful and easy to find. Building a strong knowledge base that delivers long-term benefits requires constant tracking and maintenance to keep it relevant.  Making small course changes along the way based on user feedback, performance metrics and content reviews are the keys to maintaining a successful KM solution.

Check Your Metrics

To get the most detailed view of how your KM solution is performing, you have to look at the metrics, including which pages are getting the most traffic and how they are rated by users.  Identifying the articles that get the most views and user votes and those that have a high bounce rate and low user ratings is a critical part of any KM health check. Looking at how these articles are tracking compared to others helps with identifying content gaps or outdated content that no longer applies.  Once you have identified areas that should be removed and those that need to be updated, you can work on improving articles and seeing how those updates perform with future metrics.

Provide High Quality Content

A key element to any KM system is quality content.  When evaluating your KM solution, look at the articles that are presented to customer service reps and customers.  Pages that don’t perform well often lack the basic information that someone is looking for or are too full of grammatical errors to be helpful.  Make sure you haven’t placed all of your focus on the technology by neglecting article quality.  Putting your best content efforts forward in articles that generate the most interest and improving those that aren’t performing as well will help drive traffic to your most important articles.

Maximize Search Efforts

Do you know how users find the articles they need?  If you haven’t implemented an SEO strategy, or if it’s been awhile since you did keyword research for the business, then users may not be finding your information.  Doing some basic keyword research and implementing the right keywords into your article update strategy is a great way to help users find the right information.  Staying on top of your keyword strategy and making improvements along the way will help you get the best results.

Review, Improve, Repeat

Having a successful KM system involves much more than just investing in the latest technology and having a great launch.  Making small, yet important changes along the way by identifying content gaps in your knowledge base, improving existing articles and maintaining a consistent SEO strategy will ensure that you get the most out of your investment.

 

Managing Knowledge for Greater Impact: Metrics that Really Work

Our recent webinar, Managing Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact, covered the important aspects of building a knowledge ecosystem that creates happy, loyal customers.  It’s a big topic so it’s no surprise that we couldn’t get to all of the audience questions in the Q&A.

Senior Knowledge Consultant, Melissa Burch, and founder of FT Works, Françoise Tourniaire, have previously answered your questions on how to transform your knowledge program, and how to change your organization’s relationship with knowledge. Today, they’re tackling questions on measuring your knowlede success.

Q: Do you recommend star ratings on individual knowledge artifacts? Are those scores representative of quality?

Melissa Burch: I find it very helpful to collect feedback on how effective users think the knowledge is. Star ratings are popular and easy, so people generally use them more often than if they were asked to use other techniques. I wouldn’t rely on it as your only measure of quality, but as one indicator. It should be evaluated in the context of other data points when possible.

Q: Who created the balanced scorecard?

Francoise Tourniaire: The balanced scorecard was created by Kaplan and Norton. It’s a very standard approach. If you want to learn more about it, you’ll find a lot of information on it on Wikipedia. It’s a very powerful way of looking at operations in a holistic manner.

Q: How do you measure customer satisfaction on a balanced scorecard that focuses on knowledge?

Francoise Tourniaire: That rating really depends on what you have.

If you’re really serious about looking at knowledge management, it’s helpful to have a CSAT survey on the knowledgebase or self-service experience itself. You could do an online survey, or a popup survey, or something similar. It’s not crazy to measure customer satisfaction based on cases and use that to measure KM, because why are you doing KM? Not for the fun of it – you’re doing it to deliver better results to customers.’

Q: Have you come across the newest sat survey known as Customer Effort Score? Can you explain more about it?

Francoise Tourniaire: Customer Effort is a wonderful idea. Instead of looking at customer satisfaction, loyalty, or NPS, we can measure how difficult it is for customers to do business with us. Customer effort can be nicely correlated with the quality of your self service. It has limitations just like everything else. Don’t measure just one thing, measure several aspects.

 

Further insight

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch the recorded webinar.

And for practical advice and strategies to transform your customer support experience,  read  our new white paper, Managing your Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact.

Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for answers to more follow-up questions.

Make sure to sign up for the Irrevo Newsletter for announcements about upcoming webinars and insights about creating truly great customer service.

Managing Knowledge for Greater Impact: Culture Changes

Our recent webinar, Managing Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact, covered the important aspects of building a knowledge ecosystem that creates happy, loyal customers.  It’s a big topic so it’s no surprise that we couldn’t get to all of the audience questions in the Q&A.

Senior Knowledge Consultant, Melissa Burch, and founder of FT Works, Françoise Tourniaire, answered your questions on how to transform your knowledge program in our last post. Today, they’re tackling questions on changing how your organization treats knowledge.

Q: How do you financially justify a need to start a knowledge program?

Melissa Burch: I recommend you start with evaluating the negative impacts you see in your environment from not having a knowledge program. There’s probably a list of key drivers which cost your organization money, for example, training new employees. You can diminish the amount of time it takes to get new employees proficient with the support of a knowledgebase. When training times are significantly shortened, you can see a return on your investment. This can help you lead a financial discussion around the KM program you want to put into place.

There’s also a sales component. When you have a robust set of knowledge your audience can use to make decisions quickly, it can reduce the amount of time it takes for a prospective customer to convert into a sale. Information that helps your prospective customers converting into a sale reduces the amount of time it takes and can increase your number of sales.

Look for the indicators that show there are opportunities and translate those into real dollars.

Q: I’ve talked to numerous support groups who say their corporate culture does not embrace knowledge sharing. How successful can support be in creating a good knowledge sharing culture when executives may not embrace it?

Melissa Burch: Without executive support, you will be able to make some progress in how effectively you can encourage capture of knowledge because in general, most support agents want to help each other and their customers. It’s a much smaller return than you’d see if you had executive sponsorship, but some participation would occur.

Francoise Tourniaire: I agree with Melissa. What I’d encourage you to do is do active knowledge sharing, preferably using KCS within the support organization. People in support are usually well-disposed to knowledge sharing. It’s not easy, but they understand that it’s important to share knowledge.

The important thing to avoid is being the tail wagging the dog. Start with what you can control within your support group, and hopefully it will spread. Lead by example, but don’t try to transform the entire organization. I have several clients that have tried to do that and three years later they’re still trying to get started because not everyone agrees yet. If they had started where they could, they’d have a system that works for them, and they might have inspired others. Start where you are and then inspire others.

Further insight

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch the recorded webinar.

And for practical advice and strategies to transform your customer support experience,  read  our new white paper, Managing your Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact.

Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for answers to more follow-up questions.

Make sure to sign up for the Irrevo Newsletter for announcements about upcoming webinars and insights about creating truly great customer service.

Managing Knowledge for Greater Impact: Transforming your Knowledgebase

Our  recent webinar, Managing Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact, covered the important aspects of building a knowledge ecosystem that creates happy, loyal customers.  It’s a big topic so it’s no surprise that we couldn’t get to all of the audience questions in the Q&A.

Here to address the first round of follow-up questions are Senior Knowledge Consultant, Melissa Burch, and founder of FT Works, Françoise Tourniaire.

Q: We are thinking about moving to a new technology platform, what specific advise would you give us?

Melissa Burch: When choosing a new technology platform, the most important question to ask is “Does this align to my strategic objectives in the mid to long term?” Be sure to identify specific functionality you will need to support your business processes, and use that to determine which tool to select.

The second important consideration is the content migration strategy. How will you identify and migrate content from your legacy system into the new one?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you have the information you need to decide how you will retire the legacy system and the content it holds.

Q:  Our knowledge base has been around for many years and is not able to align to our new strategic initiatives. What do you recommend we do now?

Melissa Burch: It’s likely that there will be some specific pieces of knowledge in your legacy knowledge base that remain valuable and should be migrated.  A usability review of your content can help you identify what specific documents to bring over. Examine any usage data you have to ensure you only take valuable content.

Q:  We would like to implement a knowledge management program team to support our knowledge management efforts.  Where do we start?

Melissa Burch: The first step is to do a knowledge management ecosystem assessment to determine where your specific opportunities are. Do this yourself or partner with Irrevo to help you. This information will help you determine how you would like to design your knowledge program.

Determine if a centralized, decentralized or hybrid model works best. We cover the differences in our new white paper, so that’s a great starting point. Then start to build out your roadmap of the critical elements that are needed to be successful.

Q: I manage a doc/user assistance team of a brand within a multi-national software company. We don’t have any metrics about users interactions. Where do we start? Is there a good set of books or papers that give us some metrics that we can start managing?

Francoise Tourniaire: If you have no metrics at all, that’s great because you have no bad metrics. I would suggest starting from the balanced scorecard approach. There are a lot of ways you can look on the metrics. I have some books available that talk about metrics, and you can also read my blog.

The main thing about metrics is to accommodate both the theory of what you should measure and the reality of what you can measure. Start small. Start with metrics that are meaningful. If you can measure satisfaction at all, that’s a good start. Start with the ideal and accommodate what you can do.

Melissa Burch: In addition to FT’s book, I’d add another book to read; It’s called How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value in Intangibles in Business by Douglas Hubbard. The beginning of the book is very inspirational and makes you think differently about measuring for intangible value.

Further insight

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch the recorded webinar.

And for practical advice and strategies to transform your customer support experience,  read  our new white paper, Managing your Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact.

Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for answers to more follow-up questions.

Make sure to sign up for the Irrevo Newsletter for announcements about upcoming webinars and insights about creating truly great customer service.

 

Want people to pick your Knowledge Base titles out of a search lineup? Write as if you’re telling a friend!

When you search for answers online, what makes you select one title over another? Do you automatically open the first result, or do you skip the advertisements and thoughtfully scan the titles and brief descriptions looking for something to grab your attention? Are you more likely to choose an item that sounds like an encyclopedia or user manual, or the one that reads like a knowledgeable friend’s or favorite teacher’s explanation?

Draw the reader in

Which would you choose?From the first brief impression throughout your content, it will be most effective if your content is simple and conversational. Try to make the reader feel like they are getting information from a friend or family member who values them. A common standard is to write at a 7th or 8th grade reading level to reach the broadest audience. There are online resources to measure reading level, as well as tools within many word processing programs. If the reading level is high, select segments of content to measure. This will help target the best places to rewrite.

Guiding principles for your content may include limits on the number of words in a sentence, sentences in a paragraph, and total number of words in an article. Using second-person and active voice are ways to engage the reader. Break content into palatable chunks using sub-titles, headings, or collapsible links so that a reader can scan and drill down on what is most important to their situation. Provide direct links to related content when it’s possible and appropriate to avoid duplicating content and cluttering an article.

When time and circumstances permit, have a colleague read through your content as if they landed on it from a list of search results. Ask them to approach it from the point of view of a customer, watching especially for internal jargon or terms that are not easily recognized by the general public. Be aware of internal versus external branding names. Find out what search terms they would use in order to find this content.

Draw the content out

Content that is written to reach a wide audience is more likely to be viewed and shared. You may intertwine pieces of content within your organization and others may leverage the content by linking to your support, increasing traffic to your content. Users should be delighted by what they find, not using your content as a springboard for search terms to find a “better” article.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can point users in the direction of your content by using meta-data search terms that are similar in meaning to what is found in your content. But if your content is not written well, your customer will skip over your content and select another item in their search results. It’s important to draw them in with your title and content preview, and keep them with content that feels like it speaks directly to them.

When content is well written it draws your customer in while the content itself is drawn out to be reachable by a wider audience. Your goal is to write content that’s both effective and appealing!

Knowledgebase metrics identify the symptoms, but let’s find the root cause

Content metrics are fairly obvious, right? When you want to measure how useful your support site is, you’ll look at the basics – Call deflection, use count, issue resolution, or even customer ratings on individual articles. These are important metrics, but they have one fault: They define the problem, but not the solution.

What’s the difference?

When you use data to determine how effectively your customers are using your content, you’re getting a high level readout on what your areas of opportunity are. Reporting on these trends will provide you with feedback on what you need to improve, but it won’t provide enough detail for you to make the course corrections that will take your content to the next level.

To get the right diagnosis, you need to ask the right questions!

To get the right diagnosis, you need to ask the right questions!

A deeper analysis of your articles will get you to the root cause of low performing support site content. Concise paths to resolutions, effective article structure, an easy-to-follow brand voice, and media that adds value are all examples of important attributes of a high-quality knowledge object. These, and other attributes, can be quantified and compared to industry best practices or your own top-performing articles. By observing these metrics, you can identify quick wins to make your knowledge more accessible, more useful, and more satisfying.  Here are a few examples of common Knowledge Base woes that you can solve by measuring small aspects of your article quality.

 

This article didn’t help me!

How often do your Knowledge Base users say, “This article didn’t help me!” while the answer is a mere six lines down in the page? If you’re nodding your head as you read this, the answer is simple: Too many!

It’s long been known that most people scan an F-shaped pattern when reading web content. Titles and introductions catch the eye, and then readers skim down the page, pausing at headings and picking up mostly the first few words of each line.

To diagnose this issue, try this: Review a sample of support articles that contain accurate information, but that your readers have called out as unhelpful. Tally how many of them use scannable, quick sentences listed under informative headings. Does the data surprise you?

I can’t find the right article!

Do you hear “I can’t find the right article!” when you know the knowledge your readers need is in there? If that’s a trend in your support content, the quick answer is that your content is either not searchable by your site’s search, or not findable to your readers.

Most Knowledge Base search tools weight the title heavily, so skillful use of keywords will help get your readers to the right article. Once they find the right article, the title confirms for your reader that they’re in the right spot. Good titles are only a few words, but they pack a great punch.

If you want to evaluate how titles contribute to your content’s success, this exercise will help: Identify a handful of articles that have surprisingly low view or use counts, or are related to issues that drive a large amount of customer contacts. Then, take a sample of articles that are used frequently and have a higher resolution rate. Review the titles of each of these articles. What differences do you find? How can you revise the lower performing articles to mirror the top performers?

The two examples above should give you some food for thought on how to measure your support site against industry best practices. Now that you’ve identified both the problem by measuring your customers, and the solution by measuring your content, you’re well on your way to evolving your Knowledge Base to be more useful and more effective.