Webinar - Bridging the Gap Between Education and Support Services Organizations

Maria Manning-ChapmanMaria Manning-Chapman Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭

We received multiple questions during today's live webinar that @David Baca and I didn't have time to answer. We will be posting our answers to those questions here, and of course gladly welcome new questions as well.

If you missed today's live webinar, simply click the link below and you will be able to listen to the on-demand version at 2pm PT.


  • David BacaDavid Baca Director, Support Services Research Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭

    Question 1 from Timothy: What is Unified Search?

    Answer from @David Baca - you have asked a very important question, Timothy! Unified search is a specific type of search engine that indexes content in any repository and offers a single search output across one or many content repositories. "Intelligent" Unified Search engines add artificial intelligence and Machine Learning and allow the unified search engine to 'learn' over time what content to retrieve for each query, with each subsequent search becoming more accurate. Unified Search also allows the following KM functions to be executed efficiently: content gap analysis, usage analysis, relevancy, analysis, and self-service deflection calculation. Using Unified Search is considered by TSIA to be an Industry best practice that is proven to help drive self-service adoption and a self-service deflection (amongst other benefits that I referenced, above).

  • David BacaDavid Baca Director, Support Services Research Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭

    Question 2 from Jennifer: Our organization has a customer support portal and our education team will review frequent support cases to try to address these concerns when creating customer learning. Do you have any other suggestions on how we can identify what our customers struggle with?

    Joint response from @David Baca and @Maria Manning-Chapman: (Dave) As we mentioned in the webinar, having Support create their 'Top 10" most frequent 'how to'/"questions related to the product" list and sharing that with the ES team will help the ES team to create new learning content or bolster the existing learning content to more fully address each of the 'Top 10" 'how to/questions related to the product' questions. Additionally, leveraging Support reporting for incident type categorization can identify 'hot spots' of incident activity that may be the result of under-educated customers, which can in turn, help to identify focal points for education content development/bolstering, by the ES team.

    (Maria) Data, data, data. The more data that ES shares with SS and the more data that SS shares with ES, the better. If you want to try and offer the customer a seamless experience, it starts and ends with data. As mentioned, reviewing incident reports to determine what customers priority pain points are is a good place to start.

  • David BacaDavid Baca Director, Support Services Research Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭

    Question 3 from Patrick: Is there a recommended ES role that would own these KPIs? e.g. Is this a unique role or is there a way to scope the effort involved in tacking this? And, is there a best practice approach to refining existing content to reduce tickets? e.g. Just passing the feedback to designers or having a specific ID that implements support related feedback?

    Answer from @Maria Manning-Chapman: Ideally, there is a data analyst on ES staff who is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and reporting findings to ES staff and stakeholders. In the absence of a data analyst, generally, an Operations Manager is the keeper of metrics. Regarding content to reduce support tickets, although reactive versus proactive, the best place to start is with the Top 10 List. Addressing the Top 10, even though after the fact, means that if content has been developed to close a gap, or existing content has been improved, ultimately, it should drive down the number of questions about that topic and would lead to call reduction. However, we all know that a new Top 10 list will materialize. I would suggest incorporating a person from support, who is most knowledgeable about a particular product, into the content development process, as a subject matter expert (SME). This enables SS to provide input about content from a support perspective.  

  • David BacaDavid Baca Director, Support Services Research Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭

    Question 4 from Kami:  Is most of the Education content geared for pre-sales or for those new to the product? It seems less frequent to have education content available for established customers, Is there guidance on how to entice customers to use education content to help them self-serve?

    Joint response from @David Baca and @Maria Manning-Chapman : (Dave) It has been my experience that education content is geared for both prospective customers (pre-sales) and for customers who have recently licensed new product solutions and are in need of quality learning content. However, newly licensed customers are only one target audience, especially for SaaS-based products where new releases every 2 weeks result in new or redesigned functionality, thereby requiring additional education learning content to keep experienced customers educated in as real-time fashion as possible.

    And a best practice for Support to adopt is that anytime an assisted support case can be solved by leveraging learning content (regardless of where that content is stored), to include a link in the case response that points to the specific learning content that answers the customer's "how-to" or "question related to the product" case. When customers begin seeing that their answer is readily available via the self-service search feature (preferably using Unified Search), or navigating directly to the LMS, the customer will begin to understand that they can solve their own questions by accessing the same learning content repository.

    (Maria) All curriculum and content should align with a product adoption curve. A learner's needs in the first year they use a product are very different in their 4th or 5th year of using a product. Learning should occur throughout the lifetime of product ownership. Established customers have just as great a learning need as a new user to the product, it's just that the nature of the content will be different, more advanced, for example. As pointed out in the Mentor Graphics case study, a great way to get customers using content is to point them to it via a self-serve mechanism, or directly, by a support engineer, if providing assisted support. Additionally, your company website should prominently feature the education organization so that customers can readily see that training is available to them and via search, they can easily find applicable content.

  • David BacaDavid Baca Director, Support Services Research Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭

    Question 5 from Ingo: For a long time It is really strange to me, that this link between ES, CS and also Sales is missing. From the way of selling (ES always underestimated) to the processes and workflows, to financial and business impact connections and integration/interfacing the different systems. 

    Q) Isn't it correct, that better education results in more higher level how-to questions? Is this then used to analyze for future features and feed back to product management?...just to close the cycle.

    Join response from @David Baca and @Maria Manning-Chapman: (Dave) Yes, I would agree that the more knowledgeable customers are in any given product, the more complex questions (i.e., higher level how-to questions) they will submit to Support. And as more complex 'how-to' questions are submitted, that begin to outpace the functionality that Product Management has released, that the likely outcome is the identification of new features/enhancements that need to be submitted for consideration within Product Management's lifecycle planning process.

    (Maria) Another great feedback loop for Product Management is the ES instructor. Instructors hear all kinds of things while training customers. They hear what customers, like, don't like, functionality that is missing, etc. There should be a formalized process in place for ES to communicate these findings to the product team.

  • David BacaDavid Baca Director, Support Services Research Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2020

    Question 6 from Matt: Do software companies put the how-to support content in the same platform as the product documentation? Or are they usually separate?

    Answer from @David Baca: A frequent practice is to make both 'how-to' KB articles and Product Documentation accessible from the same self-service portal website. And frequently, the 'how-to' Knowledge Base support content is accessible from within the self-service portal via a "Knowledge Base Link" and the Product Documentation content is accessible via a separate "Product Documentation" link. And if Unified Search is being used, the 'how-to' KB articles and the Product Documentation can be in separate content repositories on the back-end, and the Unified Search result will retrieve applicable content from either or both content repositories in response to customer search queries from the self-service portal.  

  • David BacaDavid Baca Director, Support Services Research Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2020

    Question 7 from Thom: Can you recommend any Knowledge management tools for Education and Support to collaborate?

    Answer from @David Baca: Since TSIA does not recommend tools or product solutions, I am unable to provide you with a recommended collaboration solution for your Education and Support collaboration needs. That said, the focus has really shifted away from proprietary knowledgebases, and toward using intelligent search tools to find the content wherever it is stored. That way everyone can use their favorite tool or content system, and everyone can easily find it.

    Support most often uses the KM module of their CRM system, with Salesforce being the top installed. For Education, they tend to do their authoring in a learning management system. So your likely biggest barrier will be getting agreement across the groups on what to use and how to collaborate. A lot of companies just use SharePoint because most every company has licenses for it.

  • David BacaDavid Baca Director, Support Services Research Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭

    Question 8 from Darcy: As you see more partnerships between Education & Support - are you seeing a decrease in Education being a revenue line?

    Answer from @Maria Manning-Chapman: No. Collaboration between ES and SS DOES NOT mean that ES revenue decreases. In fact, as shown in the example in the webinar, collaboration between the two organizations can in fact increase revenue, as illustrated by the ES member that leverages a quarterly report from SS to identify ES lead opportunities.

  • David BacaDavid Baca Director, Support Services Research Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭

    Question 9 from Chuck: Are you finding that your customer organizations are moving towards "Customer Success" as a business unit as opposed to just a strategy? If so, do ES and SS normally fold into the CS unit?

    Joint response from @David Baca and @Maria Manning-Chapman: (Dave) When Customer Success first hit the software industry several years ago, we saw many Support organizations folding their Support organizations/support functions into the CS business unit. But, as time has progressed, we are seeing less of CS absorbing the Support org/function and in fact, the reversal of this back to Support being its own stand-alone business unit, and working collaboratively with CS to help drive/encourage adoption, expansion via cross-sell/up-sell, and retention.

    (Maria) I am seeing a similar situation in ES. There is a question in the ES benchmark that asks to whom the ES leader reports. A few years ago, there was initially a bit of an uptick with ES reporting into CS, but not so much currently. The two most popular reporting structures for ES is ES reporting into a PS leader or ES reporting into a Global Services leader. It is important however, for ES to work with the CS organization to ensure that ES is integrated into the CS strategy.

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