Have You Refreshed Your KB Lately?

Like many people, I spent much of Christmas day doing tech support, setting up new toys Santa brought me. My favorite is a 3G Microcell cell phone tower from Cisco and AT&T that plugs into my DSL line and gives me–are you ready for this–FIVE BARS of cell service. A miracle for this mountain dweller, who has spent the last 5 years running out of the house and down the driveway to get more than 1/2 bar anytime someone called me on my cell. Another great toy is a Zomm, a Bluetooth ‘wireless leash’ for my phone. If you spend half your life searching for your cell phone, as I embarrassingly do, this is the gadget for you. It now hangs permanently around my neck and starts beeping anytime I’m more than 20 feet from my phone.

While setting up both of these systems was fairly easy, I did run into small problems with each and accessed self-help to solve the issues. And I ran into the same problem I have any time I attempt self-help–my problem doesn’t exist in the knowledgebase. It is beyond frustrating. You encounter a problem that many new customers are likely to run into, and there is nothing online to address it. Usually, you can find hundreds–or even thousands–of conversations in a forum about the problem, yet the knowledgebase contains not a single reference to the issue.

And that brings me to the point of this post. Having just pulled the latest and greatest self-service success numbers from the TSIA Benchmark for a white paper, and finding the average has now dipped to 39%–an all time low–I ask myself: are we doing all we can to ensure customers are successful with self-service? And the answer clearly is: no way, Jose.

It seems that most self-service systems I use are filled with content that has been prepopulated–what companies anticipate customers will ask, not what they actually ask. How often are you reviewing your most commonly ask questions, including discussion forum conversations, and making sure those issues exist in, and are easily found in, your knowledgebase? This is a critical step in knowledge maintenance, and my experience tells me it is overlooked by many companies.

So here is my challenge to you. Identify your top 10 most frequently asked questions by customers. And run a report to get this information, don’t assume you know what those 10 issues are! Then go to your self-service knowledgebase and try to find the answer to all 10, using simple user-oriented search terms. Even a truer test? Call one of your favorite customers and ask them to search your knowledgebase for all 10 issues, since they won’t know the automatic tags or search terms to use. If you can find all 10, you get my admiration and sincere thanks on behalf of customers everywhere. If you can’t find all 10, you have just identified a project to attack in 2011. And I’d encourage you to make it a priority.

Hope all of your new Christmas toys are up and running and delivering value, and if you do run into problems, you may want to start with the discussion forum–with a score of 3.5, it is kicking the knowledgebase’s ass. 😉

Happy New Year to everyone, and as always, thanks for reading!

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16 Comments on “Have You Refreshed Your KB Lately?”

  1. Dbkayanda Says:

    Wow! What great (and terrifying) data.

    I know everything reminds me of the value of KCS, but (ahem) this really reminds me of the value of the KCS. What if your Christmas vendors searched the same knowledgebase you used every time they got a call? What if they captured knowledge in the knowledgebase if it weren’t already there? What if they migrated that content out to you, and thousands of other customers, without costly and delaying review queues…relying instead on mechanisms that build quality into the process?

    Your recommendation is great: build self-service content based on customer demand. It’s not only possible, but optimal, to do that with every customer contact.

    dbk, would buy the Bluetooth leash if it also worked with car keys, wallet, coffee cup…

  2. jragsdale Says:

    You are so right–this clearly indicates separate KBs for customers and agents. I naively assumed we had solved that problem already! Heaven help us.

  3. John M Perez Says:


    What did Support Policies imply? Articles related to Customer Support policies like billing, etc?

    • jragsdale Says:

      The full title is “customer support policies and procedures.” This section could include overviews of all support channels, entitlement, for-pay options on the consumer side, SLAs, etc. I admit is a pretty vague category.

  4. yahoothurry Says:

    amazing data set – actioning my team to do the same soon. Great post!

  5. […] Ragsdale’s Eye on Service « Self-Service KB’s Rate LAST in Online Resources: Have You Refreshed Your KB Lately? […]

  6. […] Source: TSIA Benchmarking Study –  John Ragsdale Eye On Service. […]

  7. Shawn Santos Says:

    Thanks for the great post John.

    Although I was initially surprised that KB is at the bottom of the list (after all, what tech company doesn’t offer a KB for customers?), after thinking about it in more detail, I always find myself going to the discussion forum first. Why? Because forum content is written by people who are actually using the products–and experiencing the same problems that I have–versus the typically outdated handful of answers in the KB that the company thinks will apply to me.

    However, I agree with DBK: there is much underutilized value in KB. Forums need to be mined for trends and resolutions, and that information needs to be posted in a more organized fashion to the KB–with the customer’s real problems in mind.

    On a related note, I’m wondering if Quora will make it on the list of top self-service resources in 2011? Although it’s still a baby, I see a lot of potential for Quora to add value to CS in bold new ways.


  8. […] In a recent installment of his Eye on Service blog, John Ragsdale tells a sad story that’s all the sadder because […]

  9. […] In a recent installment of his Eye on Service blog, John Ragsdale tells a sad story that’s all the sadder because […]

  10. […] support.  I posted a blog on this previously when John Ragsdale offered up a great blog that initially posted his findings on lower Self Service adoption and usage of company knowledge bases.  The key reasons for the […]

  11. […] self-service, most studies show that customers are successful less than half of the time (sometimes far less.)  So clearly, there’s plenty of failure to […]

  12. John Swindlehurst Says:

    Hi John,

    I was wondering if you are going to update your blog to call out the issue with the TSIA data being displayed incorrectly. As noted within our email discussion, the “Most Used Self-Service Resources” data was actually reverse, and the Knowledge Base is truly the most used resource.

    I would hate to see people getting the wrong impression about the quality of Knowledge Bases, and how they are still an important tool within service service.



  13. […] I get it from a consumer standpoint. I’ve blogged before about how difficult it is to find the solution to consumer technical FAQs. But for a company who is constantly introducing new fees to make higher profits from customers, […]

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    Have You Refreshed Your KB Lately? | Ragsdale’s Eye on Service

  15. Scott Bideau Says:

    I’ll make a bold statement: ignorance is bliss for the company, but BS for their customer.

    To many companies see the reports they built, often the wrong reports, and think everything is ok.

    Too many customers have the experience you reference and wonder, “do I really want to spend $300 with this company?”

    Later in the customer’s journey throughout the deepest corners of the Internet on forums powered by 14-year old hackers, the customer starts to question if they now know more about this product than the company’s own support department does – a scary proposition when you’re asked to install that next “automatic software update.”

    This often leads to consumer-driven workarounds like putting a custom DD-WRT firmware on a “name brand” router. The vendor no longer controls the product or the user experience. There’s no “first call” to resolve. FCR becomes first case rebellion, to their competitor.

    Thankfully, I’ve had the chance to work with companies that get it. Their successful understanding and capitalization of these principles drives me each day to convince more companies to do the same.

    Coincidentally, I’ve tracked the stock performance of the companies who understand good service. I’m not just talking about the Nordstrom’s or the Ritz Carlton’s….but also the companies who don’t delight their customers, but simply deliver effective, low-effort answers. Had they all been placed in an ETF or mutual fund, it would have been one of the few to outperform the market average year over year. Proof that good service does pay.

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