Highlights from opening day of SSPA Best Practices Conference

After months of planning and preparation, today was the opening of our Spring Best Practices Conference, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center. We had several pre-conference workshops today, including mine:  “Web 2.0:  Key Elements for Success.”  I had a great group of members in the workshop, the majority of whom already have a discussion forum for customers in place, and are now looking at even more advanced concepts, including having customers author support content with Wikis.  I opened the session giving some stats on forum adoption as a support channel, which obviously differs greatly by age group.  I featured three guest presenters, as follows:

  • Neil Beam from Sage Software gave us some valuable insights from the launch of their customer communities, powered by Lithium.  There are a lot of concerns about customers posting incorrect or negative content–definitely my most common Web 2.0 inquiry topic–and Neil provided a very forward looking view:  In a Web 2.0 world, collaboration is king, so if you don’t allow customers to create and comment on content, you will ultimately lose them.  Sage is implementing processes to allow customers to submit support content right along with support agents.  For those of you attending the conference, Neil will be presenting his full case study on Tuesday at 3:15.  Check it out!
  • Jay Friedman discussed his 10 best practices for launching communities, and having been involved in both huge consumer communities (including eBay) and non-support communities (he was co-founder of SonicSwap, a music sharing community) he had some great knowledge to share.  There were great conversations on topics ranging from executive commitment for communities, to creating celebrities with reputation models, to open vs. closed approaches to user access/registration.  Jay is currently VP of Marketing for Audible Magic, which provides information services for digitial media–talk about a hot area of Web 2.0. 
  • Chris Kollas, Vice President, Business Development, Wetpaint, joined us to talk about the world of Wikis and how they are being used as an extension (and in some places, a replacement) for the traditional structured knowledgebase. Wetpaint has adopted the term ‘social publishing’ to describe what they offer, which I like.  Though the early Wetpaint sites were largely entertainment (including most of the TV networks), they are now finding success in high tech, including Dell and Oracle.

I thought the Wiki session would be a bit forward looking for members, based on the reaction to my blog post on the topic, but several attendees were either already using wikis with customers or had a project in the works. I’m not sure why some people have such passionate feelings about wikis for customers being bad, but frankly with the current success rate of traditional self-service at 40%, according to the SSPA benchmark, clearly the current approach isn’t working.

Following the workshop, the conference officially opens with a reception in the Technology Expo, which at 44 exhibitors is our largest ever.  Stay tuned for more info this week, I will be highlighting top attended sessions and emerging trends I’m hearing from member 1:1’s.  Thanks for reading, and hope to see you tomorrow for my keynote address!

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5 Comments on “Highlights from opening day of SSPA Best Practices Conference”


  1. Were a company’s reputation is on the line, supporting content cannot be wrong for even a moment, let alone hours or days. Wikis and other community-based content generation sites with open or quasi-open publishing rights are great for driving out answers to unknown issues, but there comes a point where some content needs to be placed in a controlled environment that users can quickly find accurate, highly cross-referenced and succinctly written answers to specific questions.

    I see a clear need for integration for KBs and these open sites, but they serve very different purposes and have very different implications to an organization’s brand.

  2. jragsdale Says:

    I understand your concern, but as someone said in my session yesterday, to avoid user authored content because of possible incorrect information would seem to imply that internally authored content in a structured knowledgebase is 100% correct. And no one in my audience said that was the case. Today’s customers, particularly the younger demographics, want the “wisdom of the crowds,” not the corporate line. You should check out the white paper I did with Lithium on generational differences in attitudes for support–Gen Y and the NSG groups don’t want information from companies–they want it from their peers, and accept the risk that goes along with that.

  3. Chuck Van Court Says:

    When everyone is responsible for accuracy, then no one is responsible for accuracy. Saying that editorially controlled content is not 100% accurate to rationalize taking on the exposure of having content controlled by the “wisdom of the crowds” is a risk for many companies that is not prudent for some types of content, depending on who uses it and how it is used. That does not mean that you do not expose community-generated content that is created by unbiased users of the content and the related products and services, it just means that there also has to be a place to quickly get accurate, succinct, consistent and highly cross referenced answers. All generation want to get information outside of the corporate line and I agree that it is important to give it to them. I just disagree that it is an either/or proposition.

  4. jragsdale Says:

    Totally agree it is either/or! I did an article awhile back about moving established processes online first, like beta trials. Having a ‘tips for uprade’ section of the online documentation that users are encouraged to help build is a good example of user authored content. And maybe they can submit suggestions, or have a discussion about the company authored content–adding a bit of detail to upgrade procedures.

    I don’t see all the content companies have spent a decade or more creating going away. I do hope they will make it easier for customers to suggest edits, though. Some companies put such requests through the same process as a bug or enhancement request–it shouldn’t be that hard.


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