Are you familiar with McKinsey Loyalty Loop? It diagrams—from the company’s perspective—how customers go through the process of buying things. Anything.
Now, we all intuitively know and live this process and the stages that comprise it. It starts with an initial set of brands to consider, followed by an active evaluation of their products and options, that leads to the moment of purchase. Then the post-purchase experience begins until the next purchase decision, or trigger, to buy again—hopefully from the same company—creating a loyalty loop.
However, from the customer’s perspective, the loyalty loop actually looks and feels much different, especially when you consider how long your customers spend in each of these stages.
Customers spend a lot of time in the post-purchase experience
However, post-purchase and product experiences go on for a very long time. Consider the below examples of the average life expectancy—aka post-purchase experience—for various products:
Thus from the customer’s perspective, the Loyalty Loop would look like something like this:
Notice how lengthy the post-purchase experience becomes.
Now, when you overlay the internal departments that are typically responsible for these segments, you see that the customer care, support, and success teams are responsible for many customer journeys that span over a long product life cycle.
These journeys are the last and most recent experiences they’ll have with a brand before they go into another purchase cycle.
Who owns these customer journeys when they traverse channels and touchpoints externally, and internally they traverse the digital team, marketing team, and customer care?
Typically, marketing owns the top of the funnel through to the sale, along with all things digital. In the past, customer care, support, and success have owned the post-purchase experience and interface with customers via voice, email, chat and social channels.
Based on this data, the lights should be blinking red for Chief Customer Officers to prioritize resources and re-orchestrate these journeys.
Optimizing for search is essential
It’s well known the majority of all searches begin with Google. Brands spend considerable resources to ensure top-ranking results for research of products and features, evaluations and comparisons, and where to buy locally or online.
Firstly, many won’t make content public at all, or will gate their content behind a login or questions like, “what’s your model number?” Often, customers don’t know this information and don’t have it handy.
In addition, as Google begins to serve up more and more video in search results, companies are failing to place authoritative and branded videos. Instead, customers are seeing videos from a competitor or third-party media source that may be using an older or different model that the customer doesn’t have. Sometimes, it’s just a local Joe looking to expand his influence or fame—not the kind of person you want making an impression for your brand.
All of these search experiences are outside the brand’s control and take traffic that a brand should otherwise own or, worse, peel away customers altogether. Further, since these touch points or engagements are happening on other websites, the brand has zero visibility, analytics or insights into these journey steps and what support content is helpful.
Make it easy once they’re on your site
After the customer has several of these false-positive results and failed experiences, they may go directly to the brand’s website. Here, they might find basic FAQs or a section to download PDF manuals, but all they really want is the answer to their question or their information need.
Unfortunately, PDFs are not easily searchable and if the customer is on their mobile phone, they are stuck pinching and zooming while their frustration increases. If they know what the problem is, they may type words, phrases, or questions into the onsite search box. However, most content management systems aren’t designed for support, so customers might be lead to a product detail page, causing even more frustration.
Thus, while the customers are trying to self-serve, the experience they typically run into ends up being high-friction, low-value.
As the T-Mobile ad underscores, the challenge companies face to improve their experiences is an internal one. It requires a company to take a customer-centric approach that is top down and bottom up, focused on delivering great customer experiences across every journey.
Now more than ever, having successful post-purchase experiences is not only vital to building loyalty and recommends but essential to putting customers back on the pathway to purchase.
Conversations about customer experience can be so … squishy.
I regularly hear talk in leadership circles about being customer-centric and an “outside in” approach. To be fair, many leaders genuinely care about CX. But do we really understand what “the perfect customer” is and how we would know one when we see them?
When you start to think about all of the possible attributes of these customers, you quickly realize these customers are groomed and nurtured—they don’t just fall out of the sky fully formed. Beyond understanding who your perfect customer is, do you know how many you have today across your entire customer base?
More importantly, do you have a plan for how, specifically, you’re going to keep these customers coming back?
Start by getting to know your perfect customer really, really well
Unicorns are beautiful and elusive beings.
And most people wouldn’t know what to do if they saw one.
The same goes for the perfect customer: how can you attract this type of person and deliver high impact experiences to grow and nurture them if you don’t know who they are? One of the first inventories that companies should take is a baseline audit of their existing customer base—to put on paper exactly what the perfect customer looks like.
Common business indicators to look for
An ideal customer will usually:
Generate sales and repeat business and cost less to serve
Have upsell/cross-sell traction
Answer emails and respond positively to customer surveys
Renew, upgrade, and adopt new versions
Participate in marketing events, communities, beta groups
Regularly provide feedback
Allow data sharing during the use of your products
Refer new customers and promote on social media
Demonstrate five-year total lifetime value growth
Are you starting to get a picture of exactly who this person is? Now take it a level deeper.
Quantify what a perfect customer is really worth
Your perfect customers—your most engaged and valuable customers—are gold. A single fully engaged or “activated” customer can be worth far more than a single transaction, or even a total lifetime value transaction.
What are the common journeys these customers take, and where are the opportunities to drive deep engagement by delivery relevant, branded customer experiences when it matters most?
Don’t just take my word for it. Once you understand the attributes of your ideal customer profile, you can begin putting real numbers behind just how valuable this person is. For example:
How many of these customers do you have today?
What percentage of your customer base is made up by this cohort?
How many perfect customers did you grow last year?
How many perfect customers did you lose?
What you’ll find is that most companies can only call about one percent of their customer base “fully activated”—the kind of customers who promote you on social media, internalize your company’s social mission, and constantly send useful feedback to help inform product improvements.
Beyond the unicorns, about ten percent of the customer base might be very active, while another twenty percent will sporadically engage you in various channels. The rest—the bulk of your customer base, really—is comprised of lurkers, detractors, and one-time transactions.
Translate customer obsession into tangible business results
The point is, drilling down into this kind of customer data will reveal significant opportunities. What would be the impact, for instance, if you could grow your population of ideal customers by two or three percent? How would this affect the bottom line this year, next year, or over the next five years?
What happens if your percentage of ideal customers shrinks?
To me, these conversations indicate a strong commitment to the customer. They will naturally lead organizations to treat each interaction as an opportunity to steer prospects, existing customers, and even detractors toward the promised land. What are the common journeys these customers take, and where are the opportunities to drive deep engagement by delivery relevant, branded customer experiences when it matters most?
This is what being customer-centric really means.
When you get this right at scale, it has the same impact as getting a five-thousand-pound flywheel spinning and generating unstoppable momentum.
Because, in the end, each of these interactions has a starting point and an ending point that centers around value realization or value erosion. Each interaction imprints memories—good or bad—in the hearts and minds of your customers. When you get this right at scale, it has the same impact as getting a five-thousand-pound flywheel spinning and generating unstoppable momentum.
Understand inflection points, listen to customers, act and measure the impact
You understand the ideal customer profile. You understand this person’s value to your organization, even what makes them tick. The question is, where does all this information go? Does it ever make its way back into your day-to-day operational processes and procedures? Or into your product features and functionality?
Are we actually doing anything with this information?
What separates truly customer-centric organizations is the internal capacity to change and pivot based on what customers are telling them. They have the authority to hold back R & D and product management cycles to accommodate customer feedback. They routinely close the loop on feedback and make sure it makes it into customer-facing teams’ day-to-day procedures, product use, and functionality education.
In short: to devote resources to a remedy.
To get there, I’m convinced that there needs to be someone at the leadership level that owns customer obsession outside of sales, marketing or customer service. Somebody that persistently asks, “How will this impact our most heavily engaged and activated customers?” and “How will this new strategy, tactic, pricing plan, merger, and so on attract and nurture more perfect customers?”
I’m convinced that there needs to be someone at the leadership level that owns customer obsession outside of sales, marketing or customer service.
If you can measure it, you can manage it, and the same goes for customer experience. To act on this data, though, requires a tangible plan for taking what customers are telling you and reflecting it in the product. It takes ACTION—regular action—from the practitioner level all the way to the highest circles of leadership.
Finally, it takes focused measurement of customer success: how many unicorns do you have, and are you focused on growing more?
This post is based on my presentation at STC Summit 2019, the annual conference of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), and incorporates takeaways from Alan Porter and John Bowie.
Customer interactions are becoming synonymous with content interactions. Today, content must be available for more than single-channel troubleshooting, documentation, training, or lead generation. All content must be available across all touchpoints to satisfy user intent at every stage of the customer journey.
But all too often, organizational divisions and siloed knowledge lead to different teams who publish different types of content in different channels.
Spoiler alert: Your customers don’t care.
Invert your perspective to outside-in
Do you care about your customers and incorporate their perspective into your strategy? Your answer is likely an emphatic YES, as it should be! However, that’s not enough to create and sustain an optimal customer experience. Committing to an outside-in approach means prioritizing customer value over what seems best for business (or your team) now.
When it comes to content experience, outside-in perspective means challenging the status quo of how you create and deliver content.
It’s time to evolve to a mature content experience that puts customer value first. What does that look like? The answer is complex in terms of the many variables involved, but simple to describe in terms of what it looks like in practice.
A mature content experience has two main components:
Seamless content delivery – customers can access the exact information they need in whichever channel they are interacting.
Feedback loop to business objectives – all content interactions are correlated to desired outcomes or analyzed for actionable insights to improve products or services.
15% support interactions will be handled via artificial intelligence by 2021 – a 400% increase from 2017
85% support interactions will start with self-service by 2022 – up from 48% in 2018
Both technology and human-controlled processes will need to improve to accommodate these interactions. On the technology side, artificial intelligence and machine learning are already getting incorporated into your tools to automate engagement.
The harder change to make will be, as Gartner recommends, to distribute consistent knowledge across all self-service and assisted channels. Consistent knowledge delivery will be a challenge to achieve because it requires people and process alignment. So we need to start the tough work now to get our content ready for the technology already en route.
Does your content pass the water test? For consistent knowledge distribution, your content needs to be able to adapt into any channel or device just like water can take the shape of any container.
Two of the most important “containers” on the path to ubiquity are conversational user interfaces (chatbots) and voice assistants (smart speakers). These mechanisms need the same content to be delivered with quite different formats—most significantly, either with or without a visual user interface.
We must prioritize the experience of the people interacting with these devices to help them get the information they need.
Incorporate Information 4.0 characteristics for your content to work best for chatbots, smart speakers, and the all-important humans. Approach knowledge as microcontent snippets that are fluid enough for all touchpoints.
While you tackle the challenge to align your teams and processes around user-focused content strategy, ensure that alignment is directly connected to your business objectives.
Content measures to consider:
Conversions – when a user completes desired goals. Identify both your micro conversions (smaller value interactions moving towards a goal) and macro conversions (completed transactions or interactions of monetary value). Measure where and how your content fits into your conversion landscape.
Leading and lagging indicators – measures of activities around content delivery (leading) and the outcomes of content interactions (lagging). Correlate the relationship between indicators to determine which leading indicators are most important to focus on (and act on) to achieve the desired lagging indicators for your business objectives.
Content measures to be wary of:
Vanity Metrics – easy-to-measure (and manipulate) data that doesn’t necessarily correlate to anything meaningful. For new web-based content, perhaps after you upgrade your dated PDF outputs, these metrics can be a good place to start measuring. But repeatedly showcasing page views, sessions, bounce rate, or time on page without correlating to value-based outcomes (like conversions and lagging indicators!) does not provide any actionable insights to improve.
After you become a pro at measuring all the right things, look for actionable insights to improve your products or services. As John Bowie of Edmentum called out in his presentation:
You can’t write your way out of a problem you designed yourself into.
Your customers give you invaluable information about what they want when they interact with your content, which includes their search queries. Evaluate content interactions through the lens of data-driven optimization to ensure a feedback loop to the organization.
Find opportunities to improve in a way that reduces customer effort, which may even eliminate the need for some of your content. This highlights why vanity metrics on their own can be unhelpful or even misleading. More content interactions do not always equal better experiences!
If you are responsible for any type of content in your organization, be prepared to disrupt your own methods to achieve a blended content experience that’s best for your users.
Connect to your customers with knowledge
Content professionals have an opportunity to provide more value to customers than ever before, but it takes enterprise-wide collaboration to execute properly.
Their self-service journey cannot happen successfully without your focus on next-gen knowledge management.
Connecting with Customers from Start to Finish
From before purchasing to long after the sale, customers constantly seek content. Learn how to be there each and every time.
Remember how quickly the stream-from-anywhere Netflix model caught fire and consumed Blockbuster whole? Or how Amazon made relics of Sears and Toys ‘R Us?
There’s a reason that subscription business models have sent so many brick-and-mortar behemoths to the trash heap: the model makes a lot of sense. Why sell CDs and DVDs when people would rather pay a monthly fee to stream music and movies on demand? It’s more convenient, it’s a better experience.
Thinking broadly, anything can become a subscription. IT security hardware and office space. Exercise, grocery shopping, and meal preparation.
Hardware-as-a-service: why buy when you can subscribe?
The automotive industry has long been first to adopt many new technologies and business models. The internal combustion engine. The moving assembly line. Computer-aided design (CAD) and surface modeling technology.
Now they’re adding subscriptions to the mix.
Why? Because they can’t afford not to. Introducing a hardware-as-a-service model addresses the car industry’s oldest elephant in the room: owning a car is kind of a drag. Between the medieval haggling at the dealership and untimely maintenance costs, it’s a famously bad customer experience.
Connecting with Customers from Start to Finish
From before purchasing to long after the sale, customers constantly seek content. Learn how to be there each and every time.
Subscriptions provide a more customer-centric alternative. At least that’s the idea behind services like Hyundai Subscription: pay a monthly or annual fee to “own” a car without having to buy it or suffer through the pains of ownership. Care by Volvo offers a similar service and handles all of their subscription services, including enrollment, maintenance, and 24/7 concierge, from a mobile app.
How to help subscribers succeed across all venues
Car companies understand that they have to own the customer relationship. Otherwise, someone like Carvana will come along with nothing but a new business model and a clever slogan (“because buying a car shouldn’t suck”) and do what Netflix did to cable television and movie rentals.
Introducing a hardware-as-a-service model addresses the car industry’s oldest elephant in the room: owning a car is kind of a drag.
Because introducing a subscription business model is one thing. Keeping subscribers and limiting churn is another thing altogether. How does a Volvo, for example, nurture and retain its Care by Volvo subscribers? And how does a Hyundai make sure its subscribers have consistently successful experiences?
How-to: Sitting in the car, Googling how to connect their iPhone using Bluetooth, max tire pressure, or what type of motor oil to use
Troubleshooting: Using their mobile phone to search the maker’s knowledge base for troubleshooting instructions on, say, resolving a low tire pressure warning and resetting the monitor
Account management: Resetting their account password to access the app or online portal
On-demand support: Sending a request for roadside maintenance or using the 24/7 concierge
Consider the following example: a customer is sitting in her shiny new Volvo XC60. She’s trying to connect her smartphone to the center display so she can blast the latest Beyoncé song. She has a lot of options. A contextual help pop-up on the in-car screen might give her the steps she needs to self-solve on the spot. Then there’s the Volvo mobile app, which she can access using a network-enabled smartphone.
The subscription model creates intensified demand for timely, low-effort, and personalized experiences across the customer journey.
The point is, all subscribers care about is that they can easily get the information they’re looking for. Successful outcomes matter far more to the customer than the venue they’re using to find them. To keep their subscribers happy (and to keep them coming back), car companies must deliver value in all these digital channels, all at once.
To own the relationship, hand customers the keys
If we’ve learned anything in the world of subscription software, it’s that a company’s success depends on customer success. Distributed sales, maintenance, and support organizations must learn to become online subscription businesses dedicated to helping customers be successful after the sale.
They are the moments in which a repeat customer is won or lost.
What companies are finding out is that they can’t support these kinds of success journeys without a way to deliver content where customers need it. Most public-facing and authenticated customer self-service and agent experiences aren’t prepared to meet the higher expectations of a subscription customer.
Meeting this demand is a big undertaking, no matter the vertical. In a time when customers hold the keys, companies have to find ways to consistently navigate them to successful outcomes. Those that cannot will find it difficult to keep customers coming back.
Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night with a gasp, covered in a cold sweat, calling out “Hey Google, how do I fix that error code on my washing machine!?”
Okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic.
But the impulse to seek self-service can come at any time. Consumers will Google troubleshooting steps during their morning cup of coffee. They’ll search for knowledge base articles while they’re riding the elevator up to work. Some will even search for self-service support content while they’re sitting on the—
In the world of knowledge management software, uptime measures the availability of various services powered by the platform, including self-service sites. That is: what percentage of a given period of time is a site or group of sites available to users—to customers, support agents, and employees?
Uptime can be affected by planned outages (scheduled maintenance, for example), unplanned outages (hardware failure, for another example), system stability, and resource allocation. Any downtime—planned or unplanned—can diminish the customer experience by making self-service sites unavailable to the users that need them.
How does the uptime of your support site affect customers?
Think about it this way: all those times that a consumer wakes up in a cold sweat, scrambling to ask Google about a washing machine error code? That person is one of many that might be seeking help from that manufacturer in a given moment.
Aside from its internal users, such as customer service agents or employees from other departments, a company’s self-service site might serve partners, customers, and prospects in many different countries and continents, latitudes and longitudes. And any one of those people might attempt to access the support site at any given time of day.
When they do, they expect to quickly find the content they need.
If the self-service site is down, though, how is that person supposed to find what they need? What is a customer service agent supposed to do when they go looking for a KB article to serve a customer only to find that the knowledge base is unavailable? And, finally, what kind of brand impression does a 503 or a 404 message make on a prospective customer looking to cozy up to a vendor by previewing the post-purchase experience?
Aside from its internal users, a company’s self-service site might serve partners, customers, and prospects in many different countries and continents.
What is good uptime for a knowledge management system?
Easy: good uptime is as close to 100% as possible. Realistically, anything less than 99.5% uptime makes it difficult for organizations—especially consumer-based companies—to reliably deliver on the 24/7/365 self-service support that customers demand.
Take a look at a quick breakdown from the SLA Uptime Calculator of how even a small percentage difference in downtime translates to minutes, hours, and days of unavailability:
99% uptime = 7 hours 12 minutes of downtime a month
99.3% uptime = 5 hours 2 minutes 24 seconds of downtime a month
99.5% uptime = 3 hours 36 minutes a month
To offer some perspective, in 2018, MindTouch customers enjoyed 99.8% uptime, exceeding the 99.5% uptime stated in the MindTouch Master Subscription Agreement. (P.S. That’s 99.5% uptime with scheduled downtime included.) That means that not only did our customers enjoy 99.8% uptime, but the customers of our customers enjoyed that availability too. This is what makes uptime so important.
Prioritize uptime, because the decision to abandon ship happens fast
Organizations, especially consumer-based ones, should hold their knowledge management platforms to similarly high standards. Why? Because anything less than 99.5%+ uptime isn’t good enough for customers. We know, for example, that if a site takes longer than three seconds to load on mobile, more than 50% of users will leave.
Now imagine a page that doesn’t load at all.
For these reasons, organizations should absolutely look at uptime when evaluating knowledge management providers. By and large, most cannot consistently deliver adequate (99.5%+) uptime. Some will plan scheduled maintenance for weekends and other supposedly “off-peak” times. For consumer-based shops, this poses a problem, because there is no off-peak time for consumers who demand 24/7/365 self-service options.
You might not be able to predict exactly when a customer will attempt self-service, true; but if your site is down or degraded when that user does arrive, it’s a missed opportunity to deflect a customer service interaction and deliver the low-effort experience that customers expect.
An organization’s body of knowledge is a lot like a library. It’s a large collection made up of various media—product documentation and help, user manuals, videos, and so on—that are grouped, categorized, tagged, and organized to make it easy for visitors to find and interact with it.
At least that’s the idea.
The question is, what kind of library does your organization have? Is it modern and well-designed, à la Denmark Royal Library? Is it ordered and meticulously maintained? Or is it an outdated and confusing place in a bad part of town that people only go to when they have to?
Put the scaffolding in place with Guided Content Framework
In the same way that libraries ought to be more than just cavernous storehouses for books, organizational knowledge ought to be more than just a flat, hard-to-use repository.
The organizations that do it right are those that put customers first—they organize and optimize knowledge content for faster, easier retrieval by prospects, customers, and internal employees. MindTouch Guided Content Framework is designed to both enable and protect this kind of experience.
Organizations ought to do more than just make organizational knowledge available in haphazard repositories. Guided Content Framework provides a hierarchical site structure—the scaffolding, if you will—that protects the way that knowledge content is organized across our customers’ sites. It is made up of three main parts:
1. Categories to help build sections and shelves
Within Guided Content Framework, categories are the highest level of the hierarchy. In a library, categories would function like sections and the shelves within those sections where groups of books and other media are kept.
On a customer site, there might be categories for different product lines, product versions, or even the various personas that comprise a company’s internal and external audiences. For example:
Category: All Enterprise Products
2. Guides to help write the books
Guides are situated on the next level down from categories. In a library, guides would be the books themselves, each one organized into a specific subsection of the higher-level category. If a guide is situated under the category for a specific product line, for example, that guide would contain all available content specific to that product line, as follows:
Category: All Enterprise Products
Guide: A Specific Enterprise Solution
3. Topics to organize books into chapters
Books are divided into chapters for a reason: chapters organize the contents of a book for easier consumption, navigation, and reference. Within Guided Content Framework, topics are like book chapters—they are subsections of a given guide that cover a more defined and specific theme. These might be represented by reference materials, how-to articles, and other more granular pieces of content. Here’s an example:
Category: All Enterprise Products
Guide: A Specific Enterprise Solution
Topic: Overview of an Enterprise Solution
How to Install a Specific Enterprise Solution
Glossary of Terms for a Specific Enterprise Solution
The organizations that do it right are those that put customers first—they organize and optimize knowledge content for faster, easier retrieval by prospects, customers, and internal employees.
Above all, make it faster and easier for users to find content
Imagine a large library where vast amounts of individual pages or chapters of books sit on random shelves without any context, markers, or cues for people to find them with. How are visitors supposed to get the information they need? And how are library staff supposed to keep things organized as the number of books continues to grow?
Just as it is difficult to navigate libraries without sections and shelves, bodies of organizational knowledge are difficult to navigate without an underlying and protected site structure. Guided Content Framework ensures site-wide adherence to fundamental best practices when it comes to how content is organized. Just as importantly, it will continue to maintain proper hierarchy and structure no matter how much content an organization adds.
Poor page speed, a lack of search visibility, and inadequate click navigation can hinder the ability of customers to find what they need. Proper site structure helps customers find and navigate to the content they need faster. This is due to the faster loading times and simplified navigation that result from an intuitive content organization.
Yet, people aren’t the only consumers of content. Bodies of content that are properly structured, organized, and tagged make it easier for search engines to crawl them. This way, when customers search Google, your content has a better chance of appearing on page one of the results.
Just as it is difficult to navigate libraries without sections and shelves, bodies of organizational knowledge are difficult to navigate without an underlying and protected site structure.
2. Improve the scalability of knowledge operations
Consistent and sound content structure is key to ensuring speedy and stable site experiences, too. Guided Content Framework automatically protects this structure: as you continue to add content, it will intuitively connect and link related pages. This kind of scalability is a must when it comes to multi-site deployments and the need to maintain large bodies of content in multiple countries and languages.
Most importantly, though, Guided Content Framework helps protect the user experience. It is your internal and external customers, after all—your prospects, existing customers, and employees—that need content to be successful with your product or service.
This kind of scalability is a must when it comes to multi-site deployments and the need to maintain large bodies of content in multiple countries and languages.
So, what kind of library do you have? Do you provide a modern, engaging, and intuitive experience like the Library of Congress? Or is your body of knowledge a flat, disorganized amalgam that sends customers down dark corridors and dimly lit basements to find what they need?
The answer will give a good indication of your customer experience. Guided Content Framework can help.
Learn more about Guided Content Framework
We’re so pleased to announce the MindTouch Spring ‘19 launch. This launch includes three new solutions:
Capture Manager for Service Cloud
OpenID Connect Ready
The theme of the Spring ‘19 launch is twofold: content creation and identity and access management (IAM). Read on for more details about each solution, including how MindTouch users can get these implemented on their own deployments.
Capture Manager is designed to enable knowledge creation across an organization, all while improving operational processes and efficiencies. Using Capture Manager, agents and other internal teams can quickly capture and author useful content through a structured authoring process that follows KCS best practices. Highlights include:
Enhanced authoring process
Faster time to publish
More ways to improve knowledge
With Capture Manager, we know it is vital for you to understand and measure how and by who knowledge is being created. Through the Capture Manager Report, you will be able to monitor Page Create, Page Update, Confidence Changed, Visibility Changed, and Flagged events across the MindTouch Site. Learn more about Capture Manager.
Capture Manager for Service Cloud
For customers currently using Salesforce Service Cloud, Capture Manager for Service Cloud is a KCS v6 Verified integration that brings the features and benefits of Capture Manager inside of Service Cloud. This integration also includes some functionality that can help make it quicker and easier for agents to access, search, view, and create content “in the flow.” Learn more about Capture Manager for Service Cloud.
OpenID Connect Ready
This solution is all about helping you deliver personalized knowledge experiences based on customer profiles. When deployed on a MindTouch-powered site, OpenID Connect Ready leverages user information to securely sign users from any internet-enabled device or application and personalize the content they see. Learn more about OpenID Connect Ready.
Looking to get KCS certified?
MindTouch has certified KCS trainers and experts ready to help you and your team get certified
If you are a MindTouch customer and have questions about these new features, or want to enable them, please contact your Customer Success Manager (email@example.com). As always, stay tuned here for updates about future launches.
NOTE: These new solutions require configuration and will only be enabled by request
The practice of Identity and Access Management (IAM) introduces many questions about an organization’s business processes and technology solutions. The decision to use a particular Single Sign-On (SSO) technology takes into account concerns such as:
Do the cost savings from centralizing authentication into a single location outweigh the sunk cost of implementing SSO?
The decision is not only made in the context of a MindTouch site deployment, but also takes into account how all user identities and applications across the organization will be affected. As an integration point for both SAML SSO and OpenID Connect, MindTouch provides recommendations regarding which of these two supported SSO technology paths are best suited for a MindTouch solution.
The definition of the SAML SSO (Security Assertion Markup Language) specification predates OpenID Connect by many years. SAML SSO was developed to provide an authentication workflow that centralizes the sign-in experience into a single portal, while establishing trust between the portal and all applications through strong cryptography and digital signatures. The result is an identity and access management solution that reduces an organization’s IT costs and minimizes potential breach points.
SAML SSO has some significant limitations. The specification was developed before the proliferation of native mobile applications, therefore the authentication workflow is limited to locations that only web browsers can access such as websites and web applications. SAML SSO also lacks an intrinsic data transfer and storage consent mechanism.
Applications redirecting users to an organization’s Single Sign-On portal cannot include the details of which user identity items need to be shared with the application. As a result, a user is not informed of what identifiable information is being shared with the application. This lack of transparency may be acceptable between an organization’s employee and the applications deployed for the workforce but quickly becomes problematic when handling consumer identities.
SAML SSO was developed to provide an authentication workflow that centralizes the sign-in experience into a single portal.
SAML SSO is an arguably complex and extremely verbose specification to implement. It is possible to implement the specification incorrectly, leading to long development cycles or poor application security. It is never recommended to build your own SAML SSO identity provider software, but rather deploy a solution from a reputable identity provider vendor such as Okta, OneLogin, or Ping Identity.
Pros of SAML SSO
Highly reliable and secure when implemented correctly
Most common solution available in the market
Provides an encryption and signature verification mechanism in the event that an HTTPS connection is unavailable or compromised
Cons of SAML SSO
Complex XML-based schema and specification
Limited to websites and web applications
Lack of user identity data transfer and storage consent
SAML SSO is an arguably complex and extremely verbose specification to implement. It is possible to implement the specification incorrectly, leading to long development cycles or poor application security.
OpenID Connect is the latest Single Sign-On specification of the OpenID Foundation. The OpenID Foundation’s earlier SSO specification, the OpenID Authentication Protocol, failed to succeed as an adopted standard as it shared some of the complexities that SAML SSO has been criticized for, while not delivering any improvements.
The current specification, OpenID Connect, is built upon a proven authorization protocol: OAuth 2.0. By leveraging the OAuth 2.0 protocol, OpenID Connect provides the mechanism allowing applications to include the details of which user identity items need to be shared with the application. As a result, an OpenID Connect-powered single Single Sign-On portal can provide an identity data transfer and storage consent agreement, privacy policies, or terms of service for the user to review before continuing the Single Sign-On flow.
The OAuth 2.0 protocol is not limited to websites or web applications, therefore OpenID Connect is not either. If your desire is to personalize the consumer experience, based on consumer identity, across web-connected products and applications, OpenID Connect would be a sound future-facing technology decision.
Though the specification is less verbose and simpler than SAML SSO, it is not recommended that you build your own OpenID Connect identity provider software. Consider deploying a solution from a reputable identity provider vendor such as Okta, OneLogin, or Ping Identity.
Pros of OpenID Connect
Works with native mobile applications or IoT devices
Includes a mechanism for user identity data transfer and storage consent
Relies on HTTPS for encryption and trust which greatly simplifies implementation
Uses industry standard JSON Web Tokens (JWT) to store and verify identity data
Cons of OpenID Connect
Less common solution in the market (as of 2019) resulting in less industry knowledge of best practices
HTTPS is the only layer of encryption and trust between an application and identity provider. In the exceptional case of a compromised TLS/SSL certificate authority, the Single Sign-On integration should not be trusted
An OpenID Connect-powered single Single Sign-On portal can provide an identity data transfer and storage consent agreement, privacy policies, or terms of service for the user to review before continuing the Single Sign-On flow.
Choose Single Sign-On Technology Wisely
Adopting an open standard for a Single Sign-On solution is never a bad technology decision. In general, a successful Single Sign-On rollout across an organization greatly enhances the workforce’s productivity by removing the burden of multiple application username and password combinations.
An organization’s IT department can spend less time meeting security compliance and identity governance requirements by reducing the surface area of systems that require auditing. Reducing the number of systems that store user identity data or credentials also reduces potential breach points if these systems are ever under attack from malicious actors.
Finally, centralizing the storage of consumer identities, and providing this data to applications such as MindTouch, provides both an opportunity to personalize the end-user experience of the application as well as an audit trail of where and how consumer identity data is shared.
With the shadow of GDPR falling over nearly all aspects of an organization, the ability to know where consumer identity is stored within an organization’s systems can result in faster responses to consumers’ GDPR subject access requests.
Set up OpenID Connect for your MindTouch site
If contact center queues are any indication, consumers have needs. They have needs, darn it! Vastly diverse, wildly specific needs that must be met before they even become customers. Just look at the rise of user-generated content, which has given way to sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp—customers want to know all the details in advance of any kind of purchase.
It’s during these phases that we see companies jolt, jostle, and jockey to be seen. They pull out their megaphones with above-the-fold spend on print and television; and they’re increasingly directing spend below the fold on digital ads in social channels, or product placement with Instagram influencers. For good reason, too: companies that fail to capture awareness risk losing out to competitors.
While this familiar rigmarole can be fun to watch (Apple vs. Microsoft, anyone?), companies that win the customer start with the customer. They look outside in, making a close study of both the needs people have during the awareness, familiarity, and consideration phases and how they go about fulfilling them.
Increasingly, it is content that moves customers through these phases. And it’s not just sales and marketing materials that move the needle. Today, public-facing product help content, social media, and even community posts help move the needle. Here’s a closer look at three common pre-purchase needs that demonstrate the growing importance of content quite clearly.
It’s about understanding the post-purchase experience to help make pre-purchase decisions.
1. Get informed
Washing machine and refrigerator aficionados aside (you know who you are), few consumers begin a purchase journey as experts. Most begin by seeking information to satisfy their … well … ignorance. A quick Google search is the easiest way to begin.
That shiny new Internet of Things (IoT) home security device? Let’s figure out just what in the heck IoT is first before cracking open the piggy bank. The meanest margarita-makin’ blender on the market? Let’s get a list of top brands to compare, contrast, and evaluate based on reviews from our fellow imbibers.
This will give us a better idea of different features and benefits to look for. Again, all of this information-seeking usually begins with a search engine, leading customers to some combination of branded website, community, educational, and product help content.
87% of smartphone users alone start with a search in times of need. Think With Google
2. Address objections
One of the most common objections that customers have is—you guessed it—price (who knew that self-driving cars were so expensive!?). Yet customers will raise objections around other friction points, too.
For example, how complicated is the setup and installation process? What about ease of use and reliability? And why isn’t there any authoritative information available online?
Consumers in this stage will be looking for any content that either helps them overcome objections or serves to validate them. Can they find more information to address their objections online? And if customers need to reach out to the company, is the customer service experience forthcoming, friendly, and helpful?
Customers in this stage will be looking for any content that either helps them overcome objections or serves to validate them.
3. See what being a customer is really like
Which brings us to the third pre-purchase need: before people decide to put their hard-earned dollars down, they want to know what awaits them as paying customers. They want to ensure they will have a successful product experience.
What is the customer experience really like? How will I be supported when issues arise, or I need help? What kind of resources—be they community, online help, or otherwise—will I be able to find? It’s about understanding the post-purchase experience to help make pre-purchase decisions.
View the change not as a loss of power over consumers but as an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time, giving them the information and support they need to make the right decisions.McKinsey, The consumer decision journey
Be there or be square
There are two aspects of this pre-purchase behavior that should pique the interest of so-called customer-centric companies:
First, as McKinsey points out, pre-purchase need fulfillment is non-linear: consumers seek info wherever and whenever they feel so compelled (and not in any particular order). One might begin their research on a brand’s website; another might wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and ask Alexa for the top washing machines according to Consumer Reports. In the store, in the car—the permutations are endless.
Second, much of this pre-purchase need fulfillment is driven by content. That person waking up in a cold sweat, panicking about which washing machine to buy? The answers they get from Alexa are powered by content. Same goes for the simple Google search at any stage of the game, which will return results from things like branded websites, help content, customer reviews, and video.
To satisfy these pre-purchase demands, companies need to create and surface the right content—not necessarily to “control” these experiences, but to serve up the content their potential customers actually need. That delivering timely pre-purchase content begets the inside-out metrics that keep companies alive—things like increased engagement, new opportunities, and decreased churn—only sweetens the pot.
The range of customer self-service experiences is today very broad. More than ever, people have choices when it comes to answering questions and solving problems on their own. Despite a heavy preference toward quick Google searches, branded websites, and chatbots, customers are still forced to interact with a familiar relic of yesteryear:
Portable Document Format (PDF).
Yes, our old friend lives on in the world of self-service, for better or worse. And many customers are still asked to trek into the curious land of PDF to solve problems and answer questions.
Here are three of their harrowing stories.
Misadventure 1: A case of appliance troubleshooting gone wrong
Our friend Carol recently purchased a shiny new washing machine from a leading consumer goods brand. Before handing over her credit card, Carol read the latest from Consumer Reports, peppered a floor rep at her local brick and mortar with detailed questions, and even perused a few user manuals. Finally, she bought her washing machine of choice, only to find herself tussling with the dreaded error code just one month into ownership.
As most consumers do, Carol headed straight for Google to search for her error code. After failing to find anything specific from the washing machine brand, she then searched for the model name hoping for a quick answer. Instead, all she found was a generic knowledge base article linking to a humongous PDF user manual for the washing machine.
Once the PDF finally finished downloading, Carol searched the document for her error code (Control + F), which she happened to locate on page 89. Unfortunately, all she found was troubleshooting steps she’d already tried (and that didn’t work). Though she didn’t want to, Carol finally had to call customer service for help.
Misadventure 2: Big trouble in the little knowledge team
Tanya is the knowledge base manager at a software company. Her team of technical writers is in charge of updating all of the setup guides and user manuals for her company’s entire suite of software products. All of these assets are published and made available as PDF documents. It’s a tedious, time-consuming process. And with new versions rolled out biannually for more than ten distinct products, Tanya constantly finds her team neck-deep lengthy and outdated PDF manuals.
Unfortunately, Tanya’s troubles extend beyond her own team. Colleagues in customer support depend on updated documentation while assisting customers. Technical leads from new and existing customers reference PDF documentation when launching the product in large-scale environments. Both groups struggle with PDFs, complaining that they are hard to find and often out of date. Eventually, it all comes back to Tanya and her team in a flurry of complaints, feedback, and document update requests.
Misadventure 3: He’s got a bad case of pinch-to-zoom (and that ain’t good)
And then there’s Reggie. Catch him if you can! He’s constantly on the move and relies on his smartphone for everything. Weather updates. Client communications. Social media and news.
One morning, while Reggie is scrolling through Spongebob memes on the subway, he receives an email from his new homeowner’s insurance provider. The email contains instructions for setting up access to his online account, which he needs to do quickly so he can change his billing address. One problem: the instructions are buried in a PDF setup guide attached to the email.
Reggie sighs audibly. It’s not the best experience for a mobile user sitting in an elevated train barrelling toward downtown. Reggie pulls the screen closer to his face and squints at the PDF, pinching to zoom with two fingers, double-tapping to zoom back out, scrolling and then pinching and zooming again. Sweat gathers on his furrowed brow. How is someone supposed to read these PDF instructions and follow along on his mobile phone? Nevermind, thinks Reggie. I’ll figure it out when I get home.
Either that or he’ll email the company directly.
Meet knowledge management—every customer’s deus ex machina
Each misadventure in PDF land shows how easily this kind of self-service experience can pigeonhole customers and lead them down frustrating dead ends. The question is, what would have been a better self-service experience for each of these woebegone wanderers?
Take Carol, for one. What if that KB article she arrived at was dedicated to the exact error code she was looking for? And what if that article included a quick step-by-step solution right then and there, without making her open a PDF? She might have even found what she needed using a simple Google search.
For Tanya, things would be so much easier if her team could keep and update content in a single system. This would limit (or eliminate) the need for constantly revising and republishing lengthy PDF documentation. Not to mention, her team could extend these smaller pieces of content to all the places that agents and customers use to find digestible product knowledge.
Finally, there’s poor Reggie. What his insurance company should have done was send him a direct link to setup instructions that were simple, mobile-optimized, and easy to follow. He might have set up his account right then and there on the train instead of waiting until he got home, where frustration might have led to a support call.
The self-service woes facing all three of our antiheroes could be mitigated by a standalone knowledge management platform. It’s a way to centralize, update, and keep content current across all self-service channels. And it ensures that customers, agents, and knowledge workers alike—all the Carols, Tanyas, and Reggies of the world—can easily find right answers, at the right time, no matter where they are.
The land of PDF is a curious place, indeed. Although the PDF might still have its place in places like sales and marketing, it is a thing of the past in terms of next-generation customer engagement and proactive customer self-service.
It’s time to lend Carol, Tanya, and Reggie a hand—to unlock those PDF documents by moving their content into a comprehensive knowledge management platform.