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TSIA Research continues to highlight the importance of measuring customer effort to determine how easily (or difficult) customers are able to utilize and consume technology services. Given the results from TSIA’s annual channel preference surveys, we know that self-service and social support, such as communities or forums, have continued to receive focus and investment because these channels improve support efficiency and drive customer engagement.

A foundational TSIA business objective is to provide our members with high-quality research materials offering prescriptive advice and best practices that solve industry business challenges. Delivering research materials and member-contributed content through an engaging experience that encourages learning and knowledge sharing across the technology and services industry is a TSIA centerpiece.

In this blog, I will showcase several recent examples of how TSIA has applied its own recommendations and best practices to reduce our members’ efforts in consuming and sharing TSIA information and knowledge, while encouraging member-to-member collaboration, interaction, and knowledge sharing.

TSIA Business Challenge #1: Improve Member Experience in the Member Resource Center (MRC)

TSIA’s Member Resource Center (MRC) enables members to self-serve to find industry research and best practice recommendations across TSIA’s research practices. If TSIA has done its job properly, the MRC experience should allow members to easily and effortlessly search through and locate the high-quality research information that TSIA produces each year, right? Well, until 2020, many members would have answered that question with a polite “no.”

The actual MRC experience reflected a higher customer effort level to search and locate the relevant research articles and information needed to self-serve and solve business challenges. To help drive customer consumption and adoption of research materials, the TSIA Product Management team realized that a different approach was required.

Unified Search to the Rescue!

TSIA Product Management turned to TSIA’s own research vault to determine what best practices were available to improve self-service search and adoption for the MRC. And without much effort at all, the Product Management team began to learn all about unified search.

For those that might be unfamiliar, unified search implies that the search appliance is directly indexing content in each repository, including natural language searching or linguistic analysis to broaden search terms beyond exact words typed as a search query. This enables the search to include similar concepts and synonyms.

The use of unified search, an industry best practice, improves the self-service search capability and provides a reliable and repeatable mechanism for determining self-service deflection rates. Additionally, unified search provides powerful functionality that helps conduct:

  • Content gap analysis
  • Usage analysis
  • Relevancy analysis

The Product Management team worked closely with one of our TSIA partners, who specializes in search technologies, to implement a unified search solution for the MRC to improve search functionality. The following MRC analytics provide positive indication of how our unified search solution is helping members use the MRC more efficiently:

  • Average click rank improved by 33%
  • Search event click-through improved by a 3X factor
  • Content gap percentage was reduced by 62.5%

Metric Definitions:

  1. Average click rank: on average, how far down in the search results is the actual item the user clicks on? A click rank of 5 means that, on average, the user clicked on the fifth returned search item.
  2. Search event click-through: the percentage of searches that convert into an actual user click or selection.
  3. Content gap percentage: the percentage of all the searches where no content was available for the search engine to return.

These improvements have been realized from using a unified search solution, and also by using the following best practice techniques:

  • Updating site maps for TSIA.com and the MRC, allowing us to keep indexes current and ensure that more pages are showing up accurately in member search results.
  • Using A/B testing to improve query pipelines. Our unified search solution allows us to manipulate the ranking (order) of query results by adjusting the ranking weight of various components, such as “item last modified,” “key word in title,” or “keyword proximity.” By testing various ranking weights, we can identify what’s working best using the unified search reporting tools, and then adjusting the search behavior. This is an ongoing process.
  • Using our unified search solution’s machine learning model allows us to predict and recommend the most useful content to users in the query suggestions.

These results demonstrate the importance of implementing unified search on the MRC. Since unified search has become a recommended best practice by TSIA, we are hopeful that whenever you access the MRC your member (customer) experience is noticeably improving, year-over-year. If you haven’t yet considered how unified search can improve your self-service portal customer experience, we recommend opening a new inquiry or contacting your Member Success Manager to receive TSIA unified search best practices.

So, one question remains from TSIA Business Challenge #1 – where are we heading next? Our immediate focus is on improving personalized recommendations. And as you may have guessed, we will again be leveraging our unified search solution’s machine learning model to suggest content to users based on what similar users are reading.

TSIA Business Challenge #2: Increase Member-to-Member Collaboration

Since joining TSIA, I wish I had a nickel every time a member stated that one of the key values they receive from TSIA is the ability to collaborate, learn, and share best practices with other members experiencing the same types of business challenges. Then, in the next breath, they state how much collaborative benefit they receive by attending TSIA’s fall and spring TSW and TSIA Interact conferences.

But who could have predicted a global pandemic that would temporarily interrupt our members’ ability to attend live conferencing? Fortunately, TSIA indirectly anticipated this scenario and initiated several solutions in response. Let me explain.

In late December 2019, Dr. Jeremy DalleTezze scheduled a brainstorming meeting with several TSIA team members representing cross-business unit disciplines to discuss “People & Process for Online Communities.” This brainstorming meeting focused on how a TSIA-based community forum could further broaden and expand opportunities for members to come together and collaborate.

Knowing that a high percentage of companies have deployed online communities and forums to encourage peer-to-peer support (customers helping other customers) and provide direct support (employees helping customers directly), it seemed logical for TSIA to introduce its own community.

Communities to the Rescue!

In hindsight, that December 2019 meeting became the seed that germinated into what we now know as TSIA Exchange, “A Community for Technology and Services teams to navigate a global pandemic together” and “A community for Product, Sales, and Services teams to navigate business challenges together.” Our luck was truly opportunity and preparation coming together, and the rest is history!

But in order to quickly launch a new community solution that would achieve the expected high level of success and service that TSIA desired, our Product Management team needed to turn to our own body of research and identify the key best practices for launching and growing a new community solution. Here’s how we did it:

#1 - Establish a culture of community engagement.
At its core, TSIA believes that it’s not enough to simply ask questions and passively wait for an answer. To get the answers to life’s most challenging questions, TSIA believes that you need to be an active participant. And those who proactively participate in the process by bringing their challenges, expertise, and data to the table – to be the answer – set the pace.

So, to help set the pace for TSIA Exchange, TSIA identified 96 “Founder Members,” a group of highly engaged individuals who would help establish and maintain a culture of community engagement. Our Founder Members committed to invest a minimum of 1 hour per week to ask questions, comment and react to discussions, respond to those who commented on their posts, ‘officially’ accepting answers when questions have been properly answered, and responding to @mentions and direct messages for assistance and advice.

Additionally, while the community initially started with the mindset of navigating a pandemic together, the longer view was to encourage and allow our global community to navigate business challenges together.

So, to help achieve this community engagement objective, our initial learning identified the need to keep categories broad until they had content, and then let the content dictate the development of additional categories, which has resulted in a self-sustaining mode of ongoing topic freshness and applicability throughout the Exchange community.

#2 - Create a community that recognizes its participants.
Who doesn’t like to receive positive feedback and recognition? (I know, rhetorical question!) Understanding how people are motivated by recognition and status, TSIA designed a badging and ranking system to help drive member participation and adoption of the TSIA Exchange community. As members participate in questions, answers, discussions, comments, and reactions, they earn badges, points, and higher ranks.

The following graphic summarizes the main recognition badges that participating members can receive:

recognition badges

For each reaction, question, answer, etc., points are awarded which allow Exchange participants to be promoted through 5 levels of rankings:

- Enthusiast ✭: 25-49 points

- Scholar ✭✭: 50-99 points

- Expert ✭✭✭: 100-499 points

- Maven ✭✭✭✭: 500-999 points

- Guru ✭✭✭✭✭: 1,000+ points

We love seeing our members participate, grow, and expand their reach into the Exchange community. And if you have an itching question about any business challenge you’re facing, I’d encourage you to post it at TSIA Exchange today.

#3 - Ensure discussions continually progress using community moderation.
Moderating discussions with focused or dedicated resources is a community best practice that ensures customers’ questions are answered and responded to within a reasonable time. Additionally, moderating discussions with knowledgeable and skilled resources helps to ensure that customers receive technically accurate responses to their questions.

To provide a robust moderator solution, TSIA turned to its experienced Member Success team. To ensure all member discussions progress in a timely manner, TSIA decided that responses should be provided to the community within 24 hours of posting the question.

To achieve this response time goal, TSIA Exchange moderators @mention relevant and actively engaged Founder Members, asking for any insights into unanswered questions. If no response is provided by a Founder Member (or other members) within 24 hours, the moderator will @mention one of its many TSIA SMEs, and post any related public content that addresses the question. 

It has been truly rewarding to see how TSIA Exchange is growing into a highly engaged community with high-level industry leaders who are producing quality discussions and additional opportunities for member-to-member collaboration. Check it out at exchange.tsia.com.

Closing Thoughts

It’s not always easy to adopt your own best practices and solutions, but doing so usually results in better innovation, culture, and customer satisfaction. So cheers to drinking your own champagne and relying on TSIA industry best practices. We do too!

Learn More at TSIA Interact

Plan on registering and attending TSIA Interact, May 4-6, 2021. TSIA Interact is the only virtual, immersive learning experience where leaders from across the technology and services industry share insight and guidance for today’s ever-changing world. And if you haven’t joined the TSIA Exchange, today is when your luck could change!

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Dave Baca

About Author Dave Baca

Dave Baca is the director of support services research for TSIA. In this role, he provides membership and advisory designed to help member companies optimize their Customer Support organizations (including help desks, call center, and tech support) to achieve and deliver desired customer and organizational outcomes.

Prior to joining TSIA, Dave held various senior leadership roles in Customer Success and Support Services at leading companies such as basys and ANCILE Solutions, collaborating with internal Product Management, Technology, and New Customer Implementation teams. Dave is passionate about helping Customer Support organizations transform and achieve industry-leading results.

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