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In part one of this series, I showed you how Google is quickly becoming your primary support portal. While this can cause anyone in the support services industry to be more than a little nervous about their perceived value to customers, I also explored and debunked some common myths surrounding the importance of having a publicly accessible knowledge base.

In this second part, I’m going to tell you how you can start utilizing your customer’s natural inclination to Google answers to your advantage and increase your value by providing easily accessible answers to support related questions. 

Get Some Data

It’s easy for others to object to opening your KB in the abstract. Gathering data makes your case for putting knowledge on the Internet more compelling.

Who Speaks For You?

Given that people will use Google as their initial support portal, it’s useful to know what they see when they go there. Take the top ten or twenty queries you get on your knowledge base, and enter them into Google (adding a company, product, or module name, as people would do to narrow down their Internet search). What do you see? Who speaks for you?

It may be that other parts of the company—marketing or tech pubs—answer the questions. Maybe LinkedIn groups or forums. Help desks. Consulting firms or systems integrators. Maybe even competitors.

Look at their answers, and then look at the answers you have inside your knowledge base. I’m guessing yours are better, more helpful, and maybe even put your company in a better light. This “before and after” picture can be a compelling visual for others in the company.

Google Keyword Data

Of course, the customer experience on Google only matters if people are, in fact, going there. So far, all I’ve offered is “proof by assertion” that Google is your support portal, but you can get real data.

(Note: to do this research, registration is required: you’ll need to sign up for a free Google AdWords account.)

  1. Go to
  2. Select “Get search volume for a list of keywords…”
  3. Enter your search phrases, with variations separated by commas
  4. Click “Get search volume”
  5. You’ll see a month-by-month chart telling you exactly how often these searches were entered in Google—not even counting, for the moment, volume on Bing, Yahoo! and others.

Compare these volumes with search volumes on your own support portal. Where is customer demand really coming from?

Ask Your Customers

At a recent industry event, I was part of a panel providing “constructive feedback” to a support executive from a big, somewhat old school tech company. During the session, I was delighted to hear that they’d taken the plunge and put their knowledge base out on the open Internet. After congratulating the executive, I asked, “Was it a difficult decision? What made the company open to doing this?”

He said that there had been strong resistance to opening up the knowledge base. What made the difference was when the general manager of the biggest division said, “Just do it.  Now.” He did this not because of any kind of analysis, but because customer after customer told him that’s what they wanted.

So, ask your customers. If they want your knowledge base to be out on the web, advocate for them, and make sure that senior executives get the message.

You’re In the Customer Success Business. Own It.

We often ask our customers, “Why does your organization exist?” After some reflection, the answer always is something like, “so our customers can be successful, which makes them recommenders, as well as more likely to keep buying.” One had an especially nice way of saying it: “We want our customers to receive, and perceive, value.” I think this is exactly right. Whether you have a formal Customer Success team or not, all support professionals are in the customer success business.

Knowledge is the key enabler of customer success. Armed with the right knowledge, customers can fix problems, learn how to accomplish tasks, and even achieve business goals they had no idea your product could help them with. And, with an online knowledge base, they can do this in a way that’s convenient to them, 24 x 7, and infinitely scalable. Knowledge is power, and empowered customers are loyal customers.

So, how are you going to get customers the knowledge they need and want? The obvious answer is, put it wherever they’re going to look for it! Increasingly, that’s Internet search.

Drive customer success. Put your knowledge on the open Internet. Invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so your KB articles come out on top, because if someone is asking the question, you really should have a shot at delivering the answer.

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David Kay

About Author David Kay

David Kay is principal of DB Kay & Associates, a consultancy that provides thought-leading advice in knowledge management, self-service, and social support to the high-technology service and support market. DB Kay customers include IBM, Microsoft, Research In Motion, Tektronix, TI, Intuit, and Cisco. David is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and webinars. He was recognized as an Innovator by the Consortium of Service Innovation, and is a KCS Certified Trainer. DB Kay & Associates is a TSIA Consulting Alliance Partner.