Within an organization, knowledge bases (KBs) of known product issues and their resolutions are typically created and managed by customer support teams. Their obvious use is to maintain different types of methods for addressing various client issues. KBs thus become an important tool in an organization’s armamentarium used for supporting its customers. But clients are unable to access these resources directly—rather they need to go through a customer support employee. Given their central function in addressing clients’ problems, how can KBs of known product issues become a tool in the hands of customers?
Here are some thoughts to consider…
Recognizing the role played by customers in the creation and development of KBs—KBs of known issues store client experiences, so providing customer access to these information pools is essential. Clients are the best testers of a product, as they employ it in real-life situations. As a result, clients create awareness not only about the product defects, but also about the best use cases for optimal product development.
Utilizing the skill of a technical writer to continuously improve upon the quality and manner of the presentation of information—KBs that have been developed for internal use within an organization need to be altered in order to become an effective tool for customers. This is not best left in the hands of a customer support employee, as persons in such a role tend to employ jargon and shorthand notations that clients might find confusing. Once the language is clarified, clients can research resolutions to known issues directly in KBs, without the help of a customer support employee.
Ensuring that the KB system is improved upon by integrating customer feedback—as a consequence, resolutions to customer issues will not be passively stored without having been properly tested and validated by clients. A problem might have several answers depending on the clients’ specific environment and therefore resolutions need to be examined frequently in order to reflect the diversity of possible fixes. Organizations can investigate how to build upon the basics within the KB to tackle increasingly complex and relevant customer questions.
Direct customer issues toward an in-house–developed online community—while the use of online communities, such as forums, is of obvious relevance (for gathering customer feedback), in order to monitor the accuracy of the information received, an in-house online community may be needed that can compete with existing forums and provide superior answers in a language that is clear and concise. The increasing number of forums, blogs, chats, etc., that can be started by any individual poses a problem for businesses. Monitoring all discussions that occur simultaneously on so many platforms is not an achievable goal. However, designing a platform where customers can interact and contribute toward an accurate KB can ensure that customers will not want to engage elsewhere. It is essential that not only companies remain open to communicating via various channels, but also customers understand the importance of addressing technical problems in specialized online communities. Technical problems require expert intervention that is difficult to monitor on multiple channels. Another advantage of hosting an in-house online community is avoiding any possibility of clients being encouraged to investigate a competitor’s product.
Are customers an underused resource for customer support? The answer is unquestionably ‘yes,’ as they typically gain much expertise in the functionality of products. Clients can become intuitively familiar with product workarounds, (for example, if a product does not accomplish certain expected tasks properly, clients tend to find ways to bypass the defect and achieve the expected behavior of the product), and suggest creative solutions to problems that have yet to be conceived.