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Knowledgebases and the Role of Self-Service in CRM

PhaseWare CEO, Hoyt Mann, Discusses His Full-Serve/Self-Serve Approach to CRM
An interview by The Business Software Advisor

There’s a lot going on at PhaseWare these days.  In addition to the release of the newest version of their popular CRM product, Tracker 3.1, PhaseWare recently hosted a webinar called “Organic Knowledgebase Creation”.  Between the event and the new product, PhaseWare is showing businesses how to integrate exceptional “hand holding” customer service with the element of self-service.  I interviewed Hoyt Mann, President and CEO of PhaseWare, about both the traditional customer service and the shape of the new self-service model.  Here’s what he had to say:

Advisor: You’ve got a new product!  What features of your new Tracker 3.1 set it apart where customer service/helpdesk solutions are concerned?

HM: Two of the most exciting features in Tracker 3.1 are assisted knowledgebase search and self service subscriptions.

With assisted knowledgebase search, incident deflections can happen with the Self Service Center and automated email responses.  When a customer uses Self Service Center to submit an incident the assisted knowledgebase search offers links to possible knowledge base solutions prior to incident submission.   For each incident submission initiated through email, the Event Engine automatically responds with links to potential knowledge base solutions.  

Subscriptions help customers stay on top of the latest information by receiving automatic notifications.  These customers are notified via email or RSS feed of new content posted to Self Service Center related to their interests.

Advisor: You mentioned that Tracker facilitates a “hand-holding” experience in customer service. What do you mean by that? 

HM: Assisted knowledgebase search helps customers help themselves.  Every phone call and email that comes into a customer support department costs the company resources.  Most support departments I know of are being asked to do more with less. This request is a significant burden on the support department and to accomplish this goal tools need to be put in place.  If a support department can reduce their support calls 20% by deflecting incidents through a self-help portal, then there is a direct 20% increase in available resources.  These resources can be re-allocated to address the needs of a growing organization without adding resources.

Advisor: PhaseWare recently produced a webinar on organic knowledgebase creation that emphasized the customer participation component in the service process. Can you offer our readers any major do’s and don’ts in regards to facilitating customer service with knowledgebases and other customer-powered troubleshooting methods?

HM: PhaseWare’s approach to building a knowledgebase is that every forum topic, download, FAQ, knowledgebase solution, notice and announcement contains information that could possibly solve someone’s request for help.  Our advanced search gives users the ability to return results from all of these areas.  Searchable content is the key to any knowledgebase system.  If you are asking your customers to search in multiple places for the answer to their questions it increases the risk that the customer will get frustrated and lose confidence in the self-help tool.

Advisor: Certainly empowering the customer with self-service tools like a knowledgebase is a powerful complement to the full-service model of an application like Tracker.  Would you recommend that companies try to implement a “self-help” system in conjunction with a full customer service software solution? 

HM: Let’s face it; customers want answers to their questions quickly and on their schedule.  Sometimes, their schedule is outside normal business hours.  Self-help is a necessary tool for every company trying to be competitive in our current economy.  Customers are expecting 24x7x365 support and there are plenty of companies that are not prepared to offer that level of service.  The next best thing is to have a self-help system to augment a full customer service software solution.  Self-help gives customers more tools to help them resolve their issues with expediency. 

Building a relationship with business customers, that has complex products and services, require customer support tools to manage multiple communication channels efficiently and effectively.  PhaseWare has these tools and self-help is a key element.

 [Photo courtesy of techcrunch.]