• 09:50:27 am on June 19, 2008 | 6
    Tags: , , , , , ,

    Customers today pull information they need to make purchase decisions and for customer support from web sites, expecting higher quality of information. Unfortunately, support organizations have been caught unprepared. Researching how to better adapt to this new world led me to try to understand what has worked for other companies:

    • Wikipedia’s success rests with its user community taking collective responsibility for the accuracy of the content
    • eBay realized that users trust the collective voice when rating suppliers
    • Amazon understood that purchase decisions where based on customer reviews and their reputations
    • Facebook, saw their success tied to an ease for forming communities

    We can use these principles to help shape successful customer service interactions.

    • Think about loosening the strings around your content. Let your agent community take collective responsibility for the accuracy of knowledgebase information. Let agents flag inaccurate content or author new content
    • Reach out to your user community and integrate your knowledgebase with discussion boards. Let users recommend information to be added to the knowledgebase, ensuring that it organically grows with customers changing demands
    • Expert users who know the product as well as their customer service agents exist. Let these experts post content directly to your knowledgebase, and use ratings and reputation for author ranking
    • Let users rate solutions, vote on important content, append comments and use their feedback to optimize the information delivered during the service experience
    • Let users subscribe to content and receive it in the format they prefer
    • Be proactive with communication to your users. Push knowledge and alerts out, even before customers experience a problem

    All these strategies help you engage in a two-way conversation with your customer base and your agents. Which ones do you think work best for you? Can you tell us why? Do you use other strategies?



  • haimtoeg 4:54 pm on June 19, 2008 | # | Reply


    This is a really interesting point which I have been contemplating for a while now. Wearing my enterprise support hat, I think we need to introduce one more element, risk, to the content discussion. I believe firmly user generated content allows vendors to leverage a much larger base of knowledge and experience for the benefit of the user community. However, the more critical and urgent the customer’s decision is, the less likely they will be to rely on user generated information and require vendor’s assistance and backing. In other words, user generated content is fine when installing your wireless router at home, when your new enterprise system is about to go live and something goes wrong you’d want the vendor’s most knowledgeable technician on the phone with you until the problem is resolved. So, there is a balance that needs to be found and maintained between transforming support into a content generating organization and being able to provide a reliable, repeatable experience to your customers when they really need you. I don’t know how to strike this balance, and I suspect it is highly individual, but was wondering if anybody had any experiences they can share.

  • Lars Gustavsson 12:14 am on June 20, 2008 | # | Reply

    Haim, Kate.
    I agree with both of you:

    Ericsson’s Network Support organisation has 3 tiers. We have a few thousand Service engineers working with support. With >60 support centres situated on all continents we are a global organisation.

    We use the KCS concept (see http://www.serviceinnovation.org/ourwork/kcs.php) for our Knowledge management needs. We not only encourage all support engineers to contribute new content and flag inaccurate/incomplete content – it is their responsibility to do so.
    New content frames are to be created for each customer request that is not matched to existing knowledge at the initial contact. If the call has to be escalated, the frame is also escalated. The support level that provides the technical answer is also responsible to complete the solution/knowledge article, and this generally works ok.
    We do not use “peer reviews” – we have coaches that check that the contents follows our standards. We might very well introduce peer reviews similar to eBay in the future.

    50% of the knowledge articles are completed by first line, and then reused by their sister organisations in other countries, as well as higher support tiers. With centralized knowledge authoring we would miss out on lots of this knowledge, or have to escalate more calls to 2nd and 3rd tier.

    Does this mean that we would turn off our telephones and expect our customers to solve serious problems (E.g. Loss of 3G phone coverage for an entire city or corruption in databases for all prepaid customer for a network operator)?
    Of course not. We do not even contemplate to put the knowledge about such emergencies outside our firewall, as the solutions tends to be quite complex, and mistakes/misunderstandings can aggravate the situation. But we do intend to publish knowledge for the day-2-day questions and other problems with manageable impact, freeing up time for our Support organisation to work with new problems and to concentrate on the customer relations.

  • Haim Toeg 1:08 am on June 20, 2008 | # | Reply


    This is really interesting input on the success of KCS, which I support fully. However, have you ever contemplated user generated contents? How did that turn out?

  • Lars Gustavsson 2:16 am on June 20, 2008 | # | Reply

    Our Network support does not do it, but our now divested Enterprice division did (do?). The Customers (=resellers of our Enterprice products) raised their issues, and answered them amongst them selves. We had moderators from the Support community to ensure that no dangerous suggestions was left public.

    Would I allow Customers to author knowledge? Yes I would like to try if/when we can get the proper value argumenation and pricing structure for this. (Who knows better than the customer what issues they have?)

    Our main problems with giving external access to our knowledge is not tools or customer related – it is to have full acceptance from sales and support management (Maintain support revenue) as well as Support engineers (Job security). But that is another subject.

  • Haim Toeg 2:19 pm on June 20, 2008 | # | Reply


    You make an interesting points about the challenges. Frequently challenges shift from being external to being internal and seem to do it in line with the size of the organization. Job security is a big one, it’ll take a lot of convincing and repeating the same story.

  • Kate Leggett 4:25 pm on June 20, 2008 | # | Reply

    Folks- This teaches me to be on planes when I post to our blog. I apologize for the delayed response. I have two points to make:
    1) You need to map the types of issues that you receive to the best channel to support these issues – from a company driven cost and compliance analysis, and from a customer-driven satisfaction and loyalty perspective. Haim and Lars, you are right – some issues may not be best supported by community contributions.

    Secondly – I am a firm believer of KCS as well as community generated content. Companies cannot create ALL the content that is needed by customers. Companies cannot translate ALL the content that is needed in the languages that customers require. Loosening control of your content is very cost effective as long as you can convince your sales and marketing team that this is the way to go.

    Check out my other blogs on the eVergance site about community generated content and tell me what you think.

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