"Building an FAQ Page" blog post for Kayako, FAQ philosophy clarification by Jon Meyer Meyer

It's been a great month working at Twilio! My coworkers are fun, enthusiastic, and wonderfully geeky where, if I say it loud enough, any major sci-fi/fantasy franchise, comic book, or Monty Python reference won't go unmissed. 

Also, Kayako has published my most recent blog How to Build an Amazingly Helpful FAQ Page. In this post, I boil down some key things that you want to put into your FAQ page - if you must have one.

As we get to now each other, it'll seem I'll contradict myself about FAQs. Truth is, FAQs are very much like going bar hopping: pacing yourself with a set of rules for yourself and you'll survive the morning; go nuts and you'll wake up wondering how and why you drank so much.

With FAQs, smaller, tight lists is better than massive ones. This prevents a content hangover for your readers. However, many sites don't achieve this for a variety of reasons: lack of time, pressure from coworkers, or adding one hot issue on top of many older hot issues that should have been retired from the FAQ list.

And one last point on FAQs as the coffee kicks in: "FAQs" should not be confused with the whole of your knowledgebase. It's not uncommon for people to call their whole KB the "FAQS" (I've heard this with multiple clients and companies). FAQs are short lists of questions commonly asked questions (one could say 'promoted') which is made up of articles from your knowledgebase. I'll toss this into the Evernote and write a more thorough entry. But if you're going to scale and measure your KB, consider this distinction.

Talk to you soon and be awesome!

New Knowledgebase blog, New Job by Jon Meyer Meyer

First, I have another blog hot off the press for Kayako: Even Your Knowledgebase Needs a Content StrategyThis entry covers writing for the right people: your customers and building a strong strategy to serve them. 

Second, I have been hired as Knowledge Leader at Twilio! It's a great, high energy team and I'm looking forward to working with them. This will not affect my blogs for Kayako, but leaves many of the topics I have in my Evernote for this blog on the table. 

However, I will be attending Gainsight's Pulse in this May. If you are there, give me a shout on Twitter or feel free to find me if you have any questions about self-service. It's going to be a great event and I'll do my best to find time to share insights from here, on LinkedIn, or Twitter.

First Published Post: Performing Knowledgebase Audits by Jon Meyer Meyer

Things haven't slowed down that much these past few months, but I haven't stopped writing my ideas on giving customers the best possible self-service expereince. 

Most of that writing has been with Kayako, a very innovative CRM company and great bunch of folks in the UK.  I'm happy to announce they have published my first of many posts, What Goes into a Knowledgebase Audit

My of posts for Kayako will be what my personal blog was created for: heavy focused on the importance of self-service and customer experience. I will still update this blog with topics that are customer service related, but may be just outside of Kayako's scope. 

Looking forward to spreading more customer advocacy through better self-service! 

What the Great "White/Gold Dress" Debate CAN Teach Us About Customer Empathy by Jon Meyer Meyer

...Aaand We’re Back (again)

It’s been crazy with a lot of writing and consulting projects, so sorry for my absence this month. But, remember that I put ‘Crazy Talk” in the title of my blog and this entry might be exemplary and may require trading your late Friday coffee buzz for your favorite libation. It being after 5 o’clock Friday here in San Francisco, please feel free to put a little umbrella in your drink.

Who Wore It Best?!?

 No doubt many of you have had your personal social media feeds filled with arguments about that famous white and gold dress…or is it black and blue? The discussions were so heated, there were apologies from people about how they handled their opinion of the dress’ color.

 Halloween Costume Tip: I perceive that you're just as tired of this dress as I am and it will be inflicted on us again come October 31st.

Halloween Costume Tip: I perceive that you're just as tired of this dress as I am and it will be inflicted on us again come October 31st.

If you’re still wondering what color the dress is, you probably didn’t even know this topic caused Internet wars between friends that are usually reserved for politics, religion, and vaccination. Wired did a great piece on the science of phenomena as well as blogger Noah Nelson on how the dress debate is a metaphor of how we discuss larger social issues.

Spring-boarding off go Nelson’s observations, it had me thinking that understanding what the customer perceives as white and gold, is clearly black and blue to the contact center staff. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for some agents to consider customers, well, dumb. As a reviewer of customer input to improve resolutions and their experience, I have also honed quite a strong sense of empathy to customer’s perception as well.

And there is the crux: perception.

Based on the Wired article, the dress appeared gold and white to many as a simply optical illusion. It’s no different than instantly perceiving a black car to be blue if parked next to a lake on a sunny day.  Since it is captured in a still photo, we don’t have that ability to move about our environment to see the colors shift and adjust our perception.

This is similar to what customers see when faced with a question or technical error. It’s broken. This is the error message. I just want to __________. How products and services communicate failures are one-dimensional snapshots - just like a photo of an optical illusion.

Meanwhile, back at the Contact Center….agents have the context of the error, which in their head, is sometimes silently punctuated with ‘duh’ when explaining to a customer. Try the latest update. Have you tried turning it off and on again? It’s in our knowledge base. 

I have also seen this in customer experience when working with design and support teams for web contact centers. The design team does an amazing job of making it look beautiful and engaging. The support team explains that’s not how customers think when approaching a support site. The design team cites their experience as designers from a marketing perspective and focus groups. The support team cites their experience as working with customers as individuals and their frustrations. Perceptively, both are correct. In the end, we come to a better understanding of each other’s work and deliver a great product for customers.

Is Empathy Scalable?

The best way to break the perception barrier is with empathy for the customer, which should not be confused with condescension. So how do we scale empathy? How can we put that into 5, 10, 20 languages in a multichannel environment? 

For my money, it’s not about a list of popular FAQs (whose metrics are skewed by their mere existence on the front of your support page); or having an agent lead in with a long introduction of promising the most excellent service that they are pleased to offer on this grandest of days to achieve the highest level of satisfaction in the history of billing requests (and good day to you - thanks for your question!). If we are going to go the extra mile by offering omni-channel support firing on the cylinders of self-service, then each of those channels have to listen, confirm, and help rather than welcome, offer, listen, confirm, attempt, offer, and attempt again.

Try this as an experiment the next time you mystery shop or use a contact center. Here is an a very simple example using the dress scenario:  

Listen: what is the customer typing or saying the issue is? “I have a black and blue dress. It’s the wrong color."

Confirm: Rather than ask for an order number, start with “I’m sorry to hear that. What color was is supposed to be?” or “Is it the wrong dress or just the wrong color.” After that, the agent can get the order number/customer info. The point is to validate the customer first. If this were self-service, the article would have a description section, “When ordering a white and gold dress, it arrived as black and blue.” This validates the customer’s experience and shows even an automated system is empathetic.

Help: This is of course where the solution happens. The resolution language should cater to the skill set and demographics of the customers. Again avoid condescension.

So is this crazy talk or is there something to grab on to here? I’d love to talk about it with you.

Ideas on Customer Care for Social Media by Jon Meyer Meyer

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By now, you have read tons and tons of blog articles on Social Care (aka, Customer Care on social media channels). Many companies know there is tremendous value in support triage and proactive responses for keyword mentions on social media.  Depending on which report you review, it’s clear that Social Customer Care will be a major consideration in your Customer Support experience for some time. 

Some customers choose social media because it’s easy: they can reach out via their mobile device and get instant support. For others, it’s a great place to vent and try to publicly spread their dissatisfaction. If it's exceptionally good or bad, there’s also the chance it will be shared on Reddit, which will give your company a harp or a pitchfork.

Below are some tricks (some are pretty standard in this field but are mentioned for first timers/growing companies) that I found most valuable when doing this work while managing support requests on social media for some companies with 150 million+ user bases. 

1. Pre-shorten your top 50 links (knowledge base, app stores, update pages, policy pages) for Twitter and Facebook and share it with anybody who has access to company social media. This is Marketing, PR, etc. It'll help them as well to understand top issues and have answers if needed. Preferably, your shortened URLs can be tracked for metrics reporting. If you’re really fancy, separate them by social channel to gauge long-term performance and click-throughs. (Note: I prefer this as to just using referring pages in an analytics tool. You want to compare the life of a support generated social link as opposed to a helpful community member who did some digging in your company’s FAQ/knowledge base). Like and good FAQ, be sure to keep it updated weekly!

2. Post hours of operation for social: Put up your hours of operation, not just for customers to reference, but also for your agent’s reference to customers. This helps reduce traffic during off hours, but also reduces stress off the agents as it becomes a company statement they can fall back on for testy customers. Of course, for those who need help i-m-m-e-d-i-a-t--l-y, you might want to consider an off-hours policy for critical weekend or off-hour issues if 24/7 support isn't available.

3. Escalate publicly, handle privately. This is common sense and repeated often in these lists. If you have been unsuccessful to solve the issue with a link, require deeper trouble shooting, or private information (email, full name, phone number, etc.), it's a no-brainer to handle this offline via direct or private message. However, you will need to state clearly that this is the best way to resolve the customers issue publicly for a couple of reasons:

A) Twitter users need to follow your handle to engage in a direct message. 

B) Facebook messages from non-friends go into an "Other" box that does not trigger an alert and will be easily missed.

If you do not see a follow up from the customer via a private message, remind them that you are awaiting their response to know you are interested in answering their question. 

4. Proactively follow up. A big part of that is making sure customers have been taken care of is to simply ask. One of the best ways to do this is request a follow up from the customer. There are two scenarios for this: 

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A) After submitting your first response, ask them to let you know how it worked. This tells the customer and your followers know you are not afraid of a conversation to resolve the issue.

B) If there is an escalation involved, confirm you escalated their issue *and*, depending on your service level agreement and team handling it, let them know it's ok to reach out to you again for a progress update. In most cases, they will be handled perfectly by your team. However, the customer also knows they can reach out to you first if they need more assistance.

5. Fast empathy. Empathy is critical to relationship building with your customers who contact you. This is a great future topic for support in general. But for Twitter and Facebook, I prefer a statement of acknowledgement and a follow question or solution. I'm not a fan of being too cute and fuzzy (again, another post), but remember you are acknowledging their bad experience, which can be totally unrelated to your brand or product.

In most cases, a quick "Yikes, that doesn't sound fun. Have you tried this yet? <link to solution>“ or "I'm sorry to hear that. Give this a shot and let me know: <link to solution> or "Not a problem. Private message me your email so I can get your refund started." Whatever fits your company's voice is the best route, but a little levity goes a long way for all involved.

Note: If you have any sort of cross-selling, up-selling, or retention initiatives in play, save that for the escalation agent and avoid the topic in social media conversation unless that is what the customer is asking about.

6. Get cozy with Marketing. In many cases, Customer Support and Marketing will share the same handle or page. Each department should talk about their roles to customers and who answers which types of questions. It’s easy for each department to fall over each other for an angry customer, but it’s equally important that the proper skill set works to address customers’ issue. This agreement should be clearly laid out in the company’s internal social media guidelines, with an escalation process between departments and contacts, and signed off by department heads for alignment. If your company is medium to enterprise, Marketing has a very close relationships with PR and Legal as well, so make sure they have been included in the conversation. 

Important Note: It’s not uncommon for Marketing to feel obligated to engage customer issues. While simple questions and escalations are easy pickings (especially with the Top 50 spreadsheet mentioned in #1), any follow up questions/comments are where things can get messy. Ideally, Marketing should let Support handle all support-related queries. 

I’m sure everybody has their own ideas and best practices to add to this. What should be added to this list? Feel free to comment or tweet to share your thoughts.