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2 Posts authored by: ashleyfurness

design-570.pngWhere communities, public-facing knowledge bases and other forms of self-service used to be more of a "nice to have" rather than a must-have; these channels have become among the most preferred avenues for customer service. Despite this trend, I talk to companies all the time that still drag their feet on making investments in these channels. While they understand the inherent value at a high level (deflecting tickets from the call center), they're seeking proof -- in dollars and cents.


Recently, I decided it was time to respond to these objections -- "show them the money" as it were. So, I devised a formula that companies can use to literally calculate the value of the service they provide through these channels, relative to what it would have cost had these customers called or emailed a customer service representative. This includes customers that are helped by reading an article, finding a solution in FAQs, or asking a question and receiving a response from the community. After much thought (and interviews with seven experts), here's what I came up with:

Depending on what self-service vendor you use, the “c” variable might be number of “likes” or “thumb ups” that an article receives, rather than votes for “this article helped me.” If your system uses a “star rating” method for user engagement, measure the quantity of articles with high ratings (three or more stars on a five-star scale, for example). The “.10” in the blue bracket accounts for the percent of page views that resolve a customer issue on average (on the conservative end). The remaining site visitors are likely browsing articles, doing research, or ultimately calling support.

Now, I don't mean to assume with this formula that self-service doesn't provide value to companies in other ways -- feedback for product development, for example, or providing another platform for marketing material. I just wanted to draw a direct line between these channels and the value they provide to the customer service organization, which is essentially crowdsourcing your customer service.


Creating this kind of value isn't just a matter of making these channels available. In the same way you apply KPIs in call centers, self-service channels require constant measurement to identify opportunities for improvement. Each of the variables in my formula are calculated using a performance measure. "Average percent of issues resolved by customers, rather than employees," for example, should ideally be more heavily weighted to customers. Also, the number of issues that receive "this article helped me votes," should tell you which articles are the most popular. Both of these findings are valuable for helping take actions that improve the overall customer experience.


  • What KPIs do you use to monitor and improve your self-service channels?
  • How else do you measure the value of your self-service channels?


I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I would like to announce my official resignation from the social enterprise app skeptics' club. For a long time I considered the business case for social networking in a corporate environment dubious at best. I just didn't see the return on investment.  But then I actually talked to some Jive users, all of whom claimed measurable gains from these tools in a variety of areas. Here are five ways they derive value from socialized business, beyond increasing collaboration.

Augment Communication Transparency, Efficiency and Accountability

PerkStreet Financial COO Jason Henrichs recently said he most enjoys the increased oversight that comes with social enterprise apps. Since all conversations are on the platform rather than trapped in someone’s inbox, management has a continuous view into the team’s progress. This also prevents work duplication and redundancies because everyone is literally on the same page. Also, since users can easily rope others into the conversation with the "@" and other shortcuts, users reported drastically reduced emails, meetings and inter-office calls. FlexJobs founder and CEO Sara Sutton also said  her social enterprise apps better fit communication into your workflow.

“Instead of emails that feel like you have to respond immediately, putting it on [Jive] ensures that only [staff] who have the time to check out the job will do so,” she says.

Streamline Project Management

Software developers at PerkStreet Financial also use socialized enterprise apps to facilitate scrum meetings, a key component of the agile software development methodology. Rather than hold their daily morning standup meetings in person, each member of the 37-person team posts “what I did yesterday,” “what I will do today” and “barriers to moving forward” using the hashtag #scrum.  The tag allows users to quickly see what everyone is working on and chime in when appropriate. With Jive, users can also employ shortcuts such as an “!” to pull information into the thread from CRM and other enterprise systems.

Find Experts Faster

Jive surveys show sales win rates increase an average of 23 percent, and time to find experts falls 34 percent.

Centerstance Inc. Managing Partner Greg Lueck says these platforms help his sales staff answer deal-specific questions expeditiously. He recalled one situation where a partner needed someone certified in Cast Iron software integration who spoke Mandarin. The resource manager working with the partner posted the query in Centerstance’s news feed.

“They had an answer within 30 seconds… in Mandarin,” Lueck remembers. In this and similar scenarios, the employee would have otherwise “relied on a central repository of all company’s experience that is located in one person’s head, or nowhere at all.”

Better Leverage Information and Insights

Social enterprise vendors have invested heavily in social and adaptive intelligence. These sophisticated algorithms suggest articles, files and experts based on the user’s position, connections, group memberships and resources they’ve previously accessed.

“Imagine you have 10,000 people in an enterprise. Sales materials, RFPs are constantly flowing through system… Jive makes the most of this information by channeling it to the right people,”
according to Jive Product Marketing Director Tim Zonca.


Generate More, Better Ideas

Jive provides several means for employees to contribute ideas–from responding to queries and surveys, to posting ideas in a group discussion threads. Users receive gratification when co-workers and leadership “like” their contribution. Then, they are continually rewarded as they watch project teams bring the idea to fruition.

Is Your Company Socialized?

From what I’ve learned, the question is no longer if socialized business will become the norm, but when. How do you derive value from social enterprise apps? Join the conversation with a comment here.


Ashley Furness is a Market Analyst for Software Advice. She conducts expert research and runs the company’s CRM blog. Her professional experience spans journalism, sales, advertising and SEO marketing. She’s a seasoned writer having produced copy forNew York Times-owned North Bay Business Journal and theAustin Business Journal, among other publications. You can follow her @CRMAdvice on Twitter.

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