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Your Customers Can Search, But Do They Find?

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Enterprise Search [May 2008]

Oftentimes when customers come to your website, they are there to find an answer to an issue—a resolution to a problem. Many companies seem to think that attaching a robust search engine to a content source is enough to do the trick.

But companies that consider customer self-service a strategic asset see that inbound customer exception in a different light. They realize that customers don’t want to search for the best result; rather they want to find a resolution, and find it quickly. It may state the obvious, but it is important to note that, while issue resolution must incorporate a robust search technology, that technology must also be intelligent enough to interpret the underlying meaning of the customer query. Furthermore, a holistic view of issue resolution also considers the nature of the content that customers are presented, and empowers your organization to proactively monitor and perfect the resolutions presented to customers.

That simple text entry box, which usually is prominently displayed on every page of your website, has a daunting task. When a customer enters a search term, typically no more than two to three words, that box must launch a query into available content sources to find the right answer as quickly and efficiently as possible. On a typical website, the underlying enterprise search engine scours your content sources, and presents the best possible documents that reflect the queried terms. This is not much different than popular Web search tools. Customers are left to fend for themselves and interpret which query result actually provides the best possible resolution to their request. In today’s competitive environment, leaving customers to fend for themselves is not enough.

Understanding the Customer’s Query
For leading customer-service organizations, that text entry box needs to be smart enough to interpret the purpose of the customer query. In some instances, query terms are not exact matches to terms within your content. In these cases, the underlying technology must be robust enough to interpret the keywords and present results that contain similar terms or concepts. Such contextualized results reflect a knowledge management approach to enterprise search. By returning results that have concepts that are common to the query, your customer’s chances of a speedy resolution increase substantially.

That search box must also understand that many queries are best answered by invoking a process, not just returning search results. For example a customer may initiate a request that asks for "password reset." Instead of returning a set of results, the search box should understand the purpose of that query, and spawn the password reset process, or resolution wizard. As with contextualized search, speed to resolution is the real key to success.

When the query submitted into the search box is considered too broad, which is often the case with single-word queries, the underlying technology can improve speed to resolution by not only providing the best possible content, but also by topical categorization of relevant content. Content that is clustered, acting as a filter, reduces the result set and improves the speed to resolution.

Successful Search Depends on Robust Content
Even the most dynamic search technology is dependent on a robust set of content sources. Your customers can’t find content that isn’t reachable. Often overlooked when considering search technology, content ultimately makes the search experience dynamic and productive for your customers. Simply exposing product manuals, technical notes and formally authored content to
a search engine is not sufficient. Dynamic content management involves an ongoing analysis of customer queries to better understand where content gaps exist and aligning content management processes to help close those gaps.

By enabling a true knowledge management-driven search process, customer support administrators should be empowered to analyze search query data and proactively focus on developing new content, or improving existing content, to increase the number of successful resolutions for customers.

The goal for your customers is finding the right answer. The goal for your organization should be providing that right answer in a fast, accurate and consistent manner through a dynamic knowledge management process. By integrating a robust enterprise search with a proactive content creation and maintenance process, you’ll be able to deliver on the customer’s expectation of finding the right answers quickly.

KNOVA, a Consona CRM solution, maximizes the value of every interaction throughout the customer lifecycle. Built on an adaptive search and knowledge management platform, KNOVA’s suite of applications integrates with CRM implementations to help companies increase revenues, reduce service costs and improve customer satisfaction. Industry leaders including AOL, Ford, HP, Novell, McAfee and H&R Block rely on KNOVA’s award-winning service resolution management applications to power an intelligent customer experience on their websites and within their contact centers. For more information, visit

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