Archive for October 2012

Knowledge as a Service: A Conversation with Wade Pfeiffer, President and CEO, Safeharbor Knowledge Solutions

October 29, 2012

Last week I had an opportunity to catch up with someone I like and respect in the KM industry, Wade Pfeiffer, President and CEO of Safeharbor Knowledge Solutions. I first knew Wade when he was COO and CFO at Talisma, then became SVP and General Manager when Talisma was acquired by nGenera CIM (nGenera is now known as Moxie Software). Wade joined Safeharbor as CEO early in 2011. Safeharbor is at the center of a number of KM related trends, including being one of the original providers of what I think will be one of the hottest KM developments in 2013 and bey0nd: knowledge as a service. Here’s a peek at our conversation:

John Ragsdale: According to my annual member technology survey, companies are not happy with their knowledge management tools. In fact, the average satisfaction score for KM was 3.32 on a 5 point scale—the lowest score in the entire survey. Having been in this industry for a long time now, why do you think so many companies are unhappy with their knowledgebase?

Wade Pfeiffer:  The main issue I hear from folks is dissatisfaction due to low usage. The reason their knowledge base is underused is generally due to poor content, bad search results, or that the tool itself is cumbersome and hard to use. So, while companies understand that a knowledgebase is important, they may not put enough thought into their ongoing needs and therefore simply roll one out and hope for the best. Even companies that followed best deployment practices and placed all their data into a knowledge base may not go back to review and refresh their information.

We see a lot of prospects that have a significant amount of clutter and out of date information in their knowledge base tools, or even redundant data. For example, companies often duplicate information because they can’t find it using their outdated toolsets or other reasons and thus create unneeded data and further confusion. Many knowledge bases are huge and the cost associated with going through their existing content and “cleaning it up” can be daunting.

So, users do a quick search of the knowledge tool, find the interface difficult to use and get results that are not often helpful, so they don’t continue using it, and then it’s a hard sell to get them back in there again. Having a well-integrated, well designed, easy to use site, and taking the time to make sure the content you are sharing is relevant is a huge factor in ensuring satisfaction with the Knowledge base. As is continuing to optimize that content, and understanding that customer and business needs change, so the content you are giving them will also change.

BTW– this is where our Knowledge Management Services folks are great. They are inexpensive and specialize in quickly clearing out and improving old knowledge bases and have worked with most knowledge management tools out there.

Lastly, pricing has decreased a lot over the past few years and many knowledge management tools are often still expensive and/or lacking in feature/functionality and intuitiveness. In fact, many knowledgebase applications don’t deliver a user friendly experience. Employees might have access to a wealth of content that has been indexed and stored in the knowledge base, but searching and editing documents, setting up workflows and collaborating with the team, and other tasks are made difficult because the application is not intuitive.

Intuitive applications, such as SmartSupport – our new, state of the art, knowledge base and forum platform – offer solid functionality, ease of use, simple customization and great pricing.

John: We know KM is critical to improve efficiency and lower operation costs for support centers, which is the driver behind the unprecedented planned spending for knowledge management: 74% of our support services members have budget for new or additional KM tools in 2012-2013. With so many companies having been burned by a bad KM project, any advice on what they should be looking for to increase the likelihood of project success?

Wade:   First – start out with a good tool; make sure that you get the functionality you need.   Second – you need to review all your data. It is not rocket science but it does take time. Here is a list of things that need to be considered when deploying a new project:

  1. Look at your top call drivers and/or top questions that get asked, make sure as much of those questions and answers are available in your KB as possible
  2. Use the information you have in your surveys, if a customer suggests that a link be added to a piece of content or to your site, make sure that it gets added.
  3. Go through your existing content and remove outdated stuff, and review and update the rest of your content with all the most current information.
  4. Style guides and consistency; your knowledge base writers should be using the same terms and styles in all the content.
  5. Don’t over explain your articles, make sure that your content is easily comprehended without too much technical information. Most users don’t understand those terms. The average user of self-help sites prefers a 8th grade reading level.
  6. We use graphics, callouts, and we break content up into smaller bits of information so that it is easier to follow for customers and employees. We use numbered steps, notes and warnings.
  7. Once implemented, look at your data from your site at least monthly, go back through and address the concerns of your customers and try to find ways to improve your articles.
  8. Knowledge base success is a never ending process, it has to be continually looked at and improved.
  9. Use a product like our SmartTEST Article Optimizer to increase the performance of your knowledge base by systematically improving the articles and proving out ROI.

John: Let’s talk about knowledge as a service. Clearly, with so many companies having bad experiences with KM, we have to realize that not every company has the internal expertise to launch and manage a ‘best of breed’ KM program. I have been looking for a strong “knowledge as a service” player, but the few I’ve talked to seem more focused on IT help desk than external technical support. Could you talk about Safeharbor’s services and how you are helping some large companies reinvent their KM programs?

Wade:  All of our customers are looking to improve their internal and external knowledge bases. Our goal is to improve overall usage, call deflection (where appropriate) and customer satisfaction.  We offer an overall knowledge experience. It’s kind of like a smorgasbord. Customers can choose what they want, how and when they want it.

No matter which solution companies are using, we are available to help at any point in the support service process using our best practice first-hand knowledge. We help organize and manage the knowledge bases of complex enterprise Fortune 500 knowledge base environments as well as small and mid-size businesses. We provide various services from inputting information into a knowledge base toolset all the way to being a best practice resource for any existing knowledge management environment. In fact, we work with all different types of companies to help with some or all of the following:

  • Content assessment
  • Content creation and testing
  • Analysis and reporting
  • Knowledge base and contact center alignment
  • Taxonomy
  • Best practices

Depending on each customer’s needs, our knowledge management team can:

  • Examine some or all of their content
  • Test to determine if the content matches their service issues
  • Provide guidance on filtering out old articles
  • Assist with the development of new articles

We take care of our clients, and, even after initial set up we work with them based on their needs, even as often as on a daily basis to help them improve their content.  We usually meet with them at least once a month and go over the previous month’s reporting and look for trends over a trailing 3-6 months. We make optimization suggestions based off of the numbers, case/call data, and survey responses.

John:  Earlier your mentioned Safeharbor’s new SmartTEST™ Article Optimizer. I read about it on your website, and it seems to automate some of the maintenance headaches related to knowledge. How does the Article Optimizer work?

Wade:  The SmartTEST Article Optimizer is a patented application we built to help knowledge base administrators substantiate their hard work and maximize knowledgebase ROI with real data.  With SmartTEST, administrators set up basic or sophisticated content experiments to determine which version of the support-page performs better and why. SmartTEST analyzes a wide range of user actions and behaviors and systematically improves support content through A/B testing methodologies and article-to-article comparisons.

SmartTEST dramatically challenge assumptions about the “best” way to present knowledge base content and substantiates the work invested in a knowledge base with quantitative test data.  The experiments reveal vital information about user behavior and content performance and can be easily automated. This means that administrators can continually strengthen their knowledgebase portal without second-guessing their work or wasting time on areas of the knowledgebase that do not need improvement.

SmartTEST is a must have tool for companies that rely on knowledgebase software. An optimized knowledge base saves money by lowering support requests and also improves customer satisfaction. Most importantly, the optimizer allows administrators to prove out their hard work and justify current and further improvements in knowledgebase with quantitative test data.

John: One of the things that initially gave Salesforce.com such visibility and popularity was their 30 day free trial offer, which convinced a lot of sales reps that SFA was more than a tool for management, and drove companies to select a tool that their employees loved. I see Safeharbor is now offering a free 30 day trial. With all of our members shopping for KM, do you think they should give it a try? Will the free trial give them a peek of all your capabilities?

Wade:  The 30-Day Free Trial gives new users access to most of the robust features of SmartSupport that current customers enjoy, including: custom templates, forms, alerts, forums, interactive troubleshooting guides, community forum management, SmartTEST and more. Companies looking for a knowledge base can get their hands on these powerful tools by visiting http://www.safeharbor.com/smartsupport-trial/ 

One of the strengths of SmartSupport is how intuitive and user friendly it is. This aspect is hard to demonstrate on paper. The free trial lets users see for themselves how simple and clean the application is.  Another unique aspect of our platform – which demonstrated that we are more than just a KB application – is our community forums management capabilities. SmartSupport offers forum integration and makes it really easy to manage both support channels from one place.

New users should definitely give the 30-Day Trial a try. We’ve made it really easy for new users to equip their site with a knowledge base and community forums application that is highly customizable, powerful, and easy to use.

John: It was great to catch up! Thanks for the information, and for sharing your thoughts on the KM industry.

Wade: My pleasure! Thanks for having me.

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TSW: The Shift To Mobile

October 17, 2012

Yesterday was Day 2 of Technology Services World at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and I hosted a workout session on mobile applications that was a lot of fun. Due to a speaker cancellation  I had to pull together a panel at the very last minute (last Friday!), but the results were terrific. The focus of the session was creating mobile versions of applications for customers and employees. I’m starting to get more questions from members, so wanted to pull together some experts to share their experiences and answer questions from the audience.

My panelists were:

  • Karin Ondricek, Director, Product Marketing, Lithium Technologies, Inc. Lithium, the leading provider of community and social solutions, released mobile applications to allow both customers and employees to interact with the community any time, any place, boosting the collaboration potential.
  • Bill Platt, SVP Operations, Engine Yard. A TSIA member, Engine Yard provides a mobile development platform, so Bill had lots of technical information on the intricacies of developing mobile tools, and the gotchas most companies encounter when they try to build it themselves.
  • Don Brass, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, LogMeIn. TSIA members primarily know LogMeIn as a remote control and desktop sharing solution, but they also have a whole line of mobile products for consumers and the enterprise. I use LogMeIn on my iPad to access my home computer, so I’ve stopped bringing my laptop on some trips. They also offer a Rescue product allowing you to remotely control mobile devices–a huge benefit for supporting mobile customers, or employees.

We kicked off the discussion with the top mobile application FAQs I’ve received from TSIA members:

  • Who should build it? Internal development or a specialist firm? What I learned yesterday is that you may want to own the UI and feature set, but few companies are able to build the back end part of the application. The hard part is making sure the data and processing is happening on your server–not the mobile device–and still offer fast performance.
  • What platforms should we cover? This is a hard one for many companies, because you want to cover as many devices as possible to encourage adoption, but the droid world remains unstable, with 50+ OS versions to deal with, and lots of device specific requirements. The panel’s advice was to survey customers to find the most popular devices and prioritize your development list.
  • How much functionality is enough? Recreate everything or basic flows? Everyone seemed to agree that going with minimal functionality in the first version makes sense, so you can get your feet wet in a small pond before jumping in the ocean. But again, consider involving customers to make sure some key feature isn’t left out, dissuading adoption.
  • How much support traffic is generated for mobile application help/support? Is self-service enough, or is assisted support required? None of the panelists have found that support volume increases measurably with the introduction of a mobile app, perhaps because the primary demographic for mobile users are also more prone to try self-service or peer support, not assisted support.

I’d like to thank the panelists for stepping in at the last minute and doing such a great job, and I’d also like to thank the audience for their interest and all the great questions and comments.

And as always, thanks for reading!

TSW Day 1 Top Attended Sessions: Big Data, Social Media, Rev Gen

October 17, 2012

Greetings from Las Vegas! I’ve heard the weather is beautiful outside…though I doubt I’ll leave the Mirage until I head to the airport on Thursday! TSW is going great, with over 1,000 attendees. I always look forward to getting the stats on which breakout sessions had the most attendees, as it is a clear way for attendees to “vote with their feet” on the topics that matter. Yesterday at 4pm we had our breakout series called the “Power Hour.” Each session is presented by a TSIA researcher or exec, covering hot topics across service disciplines. Here were the top 3 attended Power Hour session in order of attendance:

  1. How Social Is Transforming Tech Services: Pre-Release TSIA Research Uncovers Leading Trends and Best Practices. Shawn Santos, our director of programs and our research lead on social media, always is a big draw. His data on adoption, staffing, ownership and business impact of social media and online communities is pretty amazing, and as far as I know, a unique data set in the industry. In fact, Shawn has collected enough data from enough companies that we are looking at introducing some social media benchmarking early next year–stay tuned.
  2. Big Data: Three Inspiring Stories of Service Analytics. I had a suspicion I would have one of the top attended session when they brought in 2 more rows of chairs, and there were still people standing in the back of the room. This session launched my new research report, “Market Overview of Service Analytics. Creating Actionable Insight in Three Categories: Business Analytics, Customer Analytics, and Consumption Analytics,” with some creative and informative presentations from 3 panelists: Jennifer Batley from Walker Information; Tom Duly from YIDATEC; and David Lowy from Moxie Software. Jennifer did an interactive game with live electronic voting–very cool, illustrating the importance of analyzing all customer touchpoints to assess the strength of the account. Tom presented some very interesting operational dashboards, showing cost and productivty improvements with Asian outsourcing, specifically some data on doing busienss in China. David talked about how data is “hidden in plain sight,” and gave examples of mining available customer data to impact not only service, but product management, sales and other divisions.
  3. SRG Power Hour: The State of Offers and Pricing. Presented by Julia Stegman, who launched our Service Revenue Generation (SRG) discipline at TSW Vegas last year, this session included some of the “hot off the press” benchmark data Julia has gathered from her members, along with emerging pacesetter practices on service and maintenance sales and renewals.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the top attended sessions from today. Thanks for reading!

Service Analytics: Big Data Success Stories

October 15, 2012

When I kicked off my major research project this year on Big Data back in May, I figured I was going to end up recommending every service organization hire a data scientist and become experts on big analytic platforms. Today at Technology Services World, my Big Data research findings are being published for TSIA members, “Market Overview of Service Analytics. Creating Actionable Insight in Three Categories: Business Analytics, Customer Analytics, and Consumption Analytics.” Surprisingly  there are no recommendations for hiring data scientists, or necessarily investing in an enterprise analytics platform.

What I found in my research interviewing more than 20 partners and members about service analytics is that the application vendors, from quality monitoring to knowledge management to Professional Services Automation (PSA) are including more sophisticated analytics into their base applications (often an OEM of a ‘best in breed’ analytics product), allowing business users to create and drive some very innovative dashboards and reports, without the need of a data scientist.

My Market Overview of Service Analytics includes case studies from SYKES, Aptean, Verint Systems, Compuware, RIM, Avaya and others–9 case studies of service analytics in all. Each explains how many data sources are involved, the intent of the analytic, and how the results have enabled companies to drive business results. Most members I talk to about Big Data all have the same question: where do we start? Hopefully this report will provide a look at real-world examples of Business Analytics, Customer Analytics, and Consumption Analytics to help TSIA members get started.

Today at 4pm, I will lead a Power Hour session on the topic, “Big Data: Three Inspiring Stories of Service Analytics,” with more case study examples from Walker Information, YIDATEC, and Moxie Software. Come join us, hear what other companies are doing, and then head back to your company next week with a “get started” plan for Big Data!

TSIA members can access my full report on TSIA.com.

Thanks for reading, and hope to see you for Power Hour today at 4pm!

First Up at TSW: Interviews of TechBEST Best in Satisfaction Finalists

October 15, 2012

TSIA’s Technology Services World Conference opens today at the Mirage in Las Vegas at 12:45 with my interviews of the TechBEST finalists for Best in Satisfaction on the Solution Stage in the EXPO. This new awards program is an update to my old Recognized Innovator Awards, and is based on the results of my annual Member Technology Survey.  In that survey, members report what products they are using and how satisfied they are with them. The three finalists for the TechBEST Best in Satisfaction award received the highest average satisfaction score from their customers in the survey.

The three finalists are:

  • Aptean. Aptean (formerly Consona) provides an enterprise CRM platform, Onyx, as well as a comprehensive set of “Resolutionary” applications built around Knova, full-featured knowledge management for enterprise customer service and support. KCS Verified and especially designed to handle even complex queries across channels, Knova includes tools for knowledge authoring, self-service, assisted support, CRM, social communities, advanced analytics, and integration with Onyx and other products. Aptean applications and services enable 9,000+ customers, in 100+ countries, to satisfy their customers, operate more efficiently, and stay at the forefront of their industries. Learn more at http://www.aptean.com.
  • Bomgar. Bomgar provides remote support solutions for easily and securely supporting computing systems and mobile devices. The company’s products help organizations improve tech support efficiency and performance by enabling them to securely support nearly any device or system, anywhere in the world, including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and more. Bomgar offers the most secure remote support solution on the market, with an appliance-based design that keeps system access and data safe and sound behind your own firewall and security measures. Bomgar also offers mobile apps that allow service desk reps to provide support from an iPhone, iPad, or Android device. More than 6,500 organizations across 65 countries use Bomgar to rapidly improve customer satisfaction while dramatically reducing costs. For more information about Bomgar, please visit http://www.bomgar.com.
  • Verint Systems. In the enterprise intelligence market, Verint® solutions help organizations use the voice of their customers to drive operational excellence, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and optimize enterprise performance. Verint Enterprise Workforce Optimization Solutions, including its  fifth-generation Impact 360® Workforce Optimization™ suite, enable organizations to capture, analyze, and act on customer, business, and market intelligence. Verint Voice of the Customer Solutions unite customer feedback on expectations, preferences, and experiences across communication channels, enabling organizations to drive business strategies and corporate performance. Its software helps contact centers, customer sales and service operations, and financial compliance environments address a wide range of goals, including workforce performance, process adherence, product/service enhancements, business process improvements, revenue generation, cost reduction, liability management, financial/regulatory compliance, and a world-class customer experience. For more information, visit Verint at http://www.verint.com.

In today’s Solution Stage interviews, I will ask each of the finalists to talk about their approach to customer satisfaction, and give us some insight on how they garnered such high ratings from customers. On Wednesday at the closing awards ceremony, I will announce the winner, who received an average store of 4.51 on a 5 point scale (1 being “highly unsatisfied” and 5 being “highly satisfied”).

Also, don’t forget about the 2nd TechBEST Award, for Best in Show. This award is voted on by TSW attendees using the TSW mobile app, with attendees selecting the best presentation they saw by a partner in the EXPO.

Congratulations to each our finalists, and I look forward to seeing everyone for the TSW kickoff at 12:45 today in the Expo!

Getting Ready for TSW: Overview of Some Cool Technology Sessions

October 11, 2012

TSIA’s Technology Services World Conference kicks off Monday at the Mirage in Las Vegas, with three full days of breakouts, keynotes and Expo presentations. As I’m TSIA’s technology guy, I wanted to highlight some of the tech-focused sessions at the event, and you don’t need to look any further than the Services Technology Advantage Case Study Track, which takes place on Tuesday from 9:45-10:45am, with multiple technology case study sessions to pick from. Here’s a peek at your choices:

  • Hit Me with Your Best Shot! Starting with KCS on the Road to True Customer Success. This is not your normal tale of implementing Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) with a particular vendor of choice. This is the first chapter in the continuing story of TSIA member Riverbed’s goal to create a truly customer intimate support experience. The first leg of the journey is the implementation of KCS, but, rather than being your typical newbie presentation, this focuses on Riverbed, Stone Cobra, and DB Kay & Associates bringing years of KCS and systems expertise to the table to finally do an implementation “the right way” and having everything go smoothly.
  • How Companies Drive Transformation: Learn How Smart Services Leaders Drive Effective Transformation within their Organization. The road to Services Transformation is not for the faint of heart. Before organizations embark on their transformational journey, they need to clearly understand what the catalysts are within their organization that are driving transformation. The panelists will reveal what the catalysts for transformation were within their individual organizations. They will also discuss what “levers” they are using to drive transformation and why they believe that the following levers will affect change. Focusing on professional services and professional services automation (PSA), this session is hosted by Compuware, with panelists from NCR and Vertafore.
  • HP Snapfish: Improving Customer Connection and Conversions through the Use of the LivePerson Platform. Snapfish by HP is the number one online photo service, with more than 90 million members in over 20 countries and 2 billion unique photos stored online. Today, the Customer Care team for Snapfish uses LivePerson’s LP Chat and LP Insights in managing their business to improve conversion rates and customer satisfaction throughout the purchase process. For all the B2B companies interested in chat, this session shows how a consumer firm handles large volumes of chat traffic with great satisfaction scores and even incremental revenue!
  • Leader to Leader: How Actionable Insight Transforms Service Operations. When information needed to serve customers is hard to reach, support becomes harder than it needs to be and service levels and customer satisfaction suffer. Customers demand to be “known” by and get quick, relevant responses from the support organizations that they rely on. This requires that support teams sift through and make sense of an overwhelming social and enterprise content clutter of customer information that is scattered across systems and teams. It’s an increasingly time-consuming and nearly impossible task for agents and managers. Join this interactive panel led by Coveo, with panelists including Tokyo Electron America, to learn how to empower your team to get the right insight, every time in one view. Panelists will share case studies on how they leveraged the collective knowledge of their support systems and people to transform support performance, improve FCR, reduce ACHT, increasing customer and employee satisfaction.
  • Social Media Customer Care Best Practices. Many companies are planning to allocate staff and technology to support social customer care, but are struggling with how to operationalize it. Learn how a leading contact center outsourcer, Telvista, is using the voice of the customer (VOC) in its social media centers to enhance loyalty and brand reputation, drive better decisions, and reduce costs. Some of the primary topics that will be addressed in this interactive session include how do you develop a social customer strategy; what does it take to deliver social customer care; how can I measure customer sentiment as part of VOC; what are some examples of how social care drives real-world voice of the customer success; and what are seven recommendations regarding starting a successful social care program? This session is sponsored by Verint Systems.
  • Streamlining the Global Services Organization at Bullhorn. Join this session to learn how Bullhorn, a leading provider of software and services that improve the way employees and employers come together, partnered with NetSuite to automate and streamline a global, multi-currency professional services organization. They will discuss how unifying resource and project management, project accounting, forecasting, reporting and time and expense management helped Bullhorn move away from dependence on cumbersome, disjointed Excel spreadsheets; accelerate and streamline revenue recognition; automating customer subscription to billing for professional service revenue; unify global operations serving more than 100,000 customers across 126 countries, and foster end user adoption.

Look forward to seeing everyone next week! Safe travels to Las Vegas. And as always, thanks for reading!