Testing a self-service solution in a labs environment can be a tough proposition. After all, as a lab for a publication, we dont actually have any customers seeking support. Nor do we have products for which support is necessary. Sample knowledge sets and volunteer "customers" can help in testing, but its hardly a real-world equivalent. Then we realized we do have a real-world equivalent. Because eWEEK Labs analysts review products and analyze almost every technology sector, we often receive technical questions from readers.So to test RightNows eService Center, we implemented an Ask eWEEK Labs section on eweek.com. (A link to this can be accessed at www.eweek.com/labs.) The Ask eWEEK Labs page was hosted by RightNow, but we customized the look and feel to match that of standard eweek.com Web pages. On the Ask eWEEK Labs page, we requested that readers submit questions that were technical in nature on products and technologies that were covered by the Labs. We specified that users should not send opinions or feedback on columns or reviews or ask questions about how to get products reviewed. We implemented the Ask eWEEK Labs page in November and have received questions from readers on a regular basis since then. In doing so, we were able to get very close to a real-world self- service implementation. We also gained a much greater appreciation of the work that support personnel have to do (sticking to product reviews seems like a good idea). As mentioned above, the customer interface for eService Center is excellent and easily one of the best weve seen or used. To find answers, we could use a search interface or browse through categories. We could attach supporting documents such as error logs when asking a question. When viewing an answer, we could rate its effectiveness and choose to be notified of updates via e-mail. In the My Stuff area, customers can manage personal settings and keep track of questions they have requested. In addition, all the features of the user interface worked well across multiple browsers, including Internet Explorer, Mozilla and Opera. Things arent as good on the management side. As the main administrator of the eService Center system, we could define a wide variety of settings for our system. This included creating user accounts and groups and assigning roles, or profiles as they are called in the product.
Questions can range from broad queries about product lines and options to specific help requests about products weve reviewed. These questions arent very different from what any tech-sector company might receive from customers.