Keeping Information Fresh

Should I or shouldn't I? We've probably all been in the situation where we have a quick question to ask of a supplier. Thanks to the explosion of the Internet, rather than pick up the phone we may have made the brave decision to self-serve and try to find the answer to our question on a Web site. Grrrrr...where is it? Navigating a Web site is normally fairly straightforward and this, combined with a certain sense of achievement upon finding the right spot, gives us the confidence to continue on with our voyage. So, where do you go next? It is often the case that the point on the site that allows you to search for information or ask questions is as difficult to locate as the organization's contact telephone number. Many Web sites don't seem to give due consideration to the wide variety of people who will be using them. Nevertheless, with perseverance and a reasonable amount of clicking and grumbling, you should be able to locate the point to ask a question or search for information.
Did they understand me? With your fingers hovering over the keyboard it's decision time...should you enter a couple of keywords or actually type a proper question? Finally you make your decision, and like many visitors take the easy option and just enter a few keywords. Regardless of the format of your question, most search engines will at least return a selection of possible answers. However, the answers returned are not always what you were looking for, and in some cases are not even in the right ballpark. Why is this? Given the wide variety of search tools available, suppliers should clearly indicate the preferred question format. Who is this written for? All too often organizations seem to miss a couple of tricks. The best intentions to provide accurate information fail, because these firms don't take the time to understand how visitors will ask questions. Without understanding the manner or likely format of a question, the likelihood of a close-result match is low. And even if due consideration is given to how things are asked, the same level of insight is not necessarily transferred to the formatting and wording of the answer. Even if the search function understands what the customer asked, if the customer isn't able to discern which of the answers returned solves his or her problem, the results are disappointing or frustrating. So, the first important lesson in the Good Content Guide is making sure that the search technology works effectively and is able to successfully interpret what the customer is asking. The second lesson is ensuring that the content is written in such a way that the customer will be able to understand (and apply) the solution being offered. Is this information up-to-date? It doesn't matter how well the search engine works or how easy it is to use the ask-a-question function, if the content is out-of-date or simply not there, the customer's journey is doomed. The cultural aspects of implementing a knowledge solution, for both contact center agents and customers, need to be an area of focus. Additionally, establishing solid business processes and addressing cultural issues for those who manage the content are just as vital. If your content is constantly in a state of flux, or you experience frequent peaks and troughs relating to the movements of your business--or even if you have a relatively stable knowledge source where changes are an infrequent occurrence--ensuring that up-to-date information is always available is critical. How do you do it? In reality, many of the systems available will provide you with a certain level of support in ensuring that content is kept fresh. But this is only part of the solution. Business process, cultural change, ownership, and proactive contribution will also play major roles in achieving this objective. Good business-aligned processes will help drive the workflow of obtaining, authoring, reviewing, and publishing content in a timely fashion. Mechanisms must also be in place for encouraging and receiving proactive knowledge contributions and updates. Organizations must establish a knowledge culture, wherein a sense of pride is derived from not only delivering excellent person-to-person customer service but realizing the huge value associated with sharing knowledge, keeping knowledge fresh, and empowering customers to serve themselves. Having employees take ownership of associated tasks is not an easy job, and it can take some time for this ethos to permeate the organization. But by empowering your staff and customers with fresh, accurate content, you can significantly improve customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and brand allegiance, while dramatically reducing costs. Therefore, you should:
  • ensure that your search technology helps you to understand what questions your customers ask and how they ask them;
  • ensure that your content is written in a manner that enables customers to find it and use it;
  • ensure that the right steps are in place to keep your content fresh;
  • start thinking today about establishing a Knowledge Culture within your organization. Knowledge is power, and those customers who feel empowered will remain loyal. About the Author Stuart Mills is the vice president of international services at Primus Knowledge Solutions, a provider of knowledge interaction and electronic communication management software solutions. Mills has more than 15 years of consulting and leadership experience in the software solution industry. His previous experience includes both management and participation roles at organizations like Applix and Co-Cam, both of which focus on solutions for the contact, call, and technical center environments.
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