Finding Answers With Self-Service

By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2003-04-21 Print this article Print

Support solutions pick up where FAQs leave off, meld technologies.

Probably a vast majority of the visits to company Web sites are to find the answer to a question. For the most basic questions, often a standard FAQ will work fine.

But when the questions move from the common variety to complex queries about specific issues (such as technical support or integration issues), most FAQs come up short. Typically, the next step is to either submit a question through e-mail or pick up a phone and call customer support—but neither option is completely satisfactory.

Many organizations attempted to find a middle ground by making the knowledge bases that the support staff used accessible to customers through a standard search interface on the Web. This was more cost-effective and informative than telephone or e-mail solutions but was still imperfect, especially given the regular failings of standard search technology.

These shortcomings have led to the development of what are now called self-service support solutions. These solutions combine search engines, knowledge management technologies and standard help desk procedures to make it possible for users to find answers to even complex questions without having to pick up the phone. In many ways, these systems give customers and end users many of the same tools and data access that support staffs themselves use to answer questions.

In this package, eWEEK Labs takes a look at two of these self-service solutions: We looked at DoubleClick Inc.s implementation of KnowledgeBase Solutions Inc.s and RightNow Technologies Inc.s eService Center. We tested eService Center by combining standard Labs testing with actual use of the product.

We found that although neither of these products will replace your support staff, they can make a big difference both in how your customers get answers and in the quality of those answers.

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr Rapoza's current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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