Documentation \ research on 'un-googling' user's search habits #search #call-center #usability


Michael Hutchens
 

Hi folks,

I've just started a new role as a Knowledge Adviser within the ICT component of a government organization. We are using ServiceNow to store customer-support related information. A key challenge that has been raised with me from a number of different users is "I can't find the information I'm looking for". Obviously this statement requires unpacking as it can be a result of a number of different challenges:

1) ServiceNow search configured sub-optimally
2) Knowledge gaps
3) Knowledge articles don't being sufficiently search-centric (either through metadata, article content, or categorisations)
4) Users not understanding how to effectively search (training)

These are all things that I'm persuing, but #4 is what I'm most interested in here - I think that users are applying 'Google-style' search habits to our internal closed environment, and their expectations are not being met (e.g. searching for single words such as 'Outlook', rather than using 2-3 keywords and refining them as they go). As part of a wider training plan, I'm looking for research, articles, or opinions on this topic that I can socialize with my users. If anyone is able to point me in the right direction, or provide some thoughts, I'd be most appreciative :)


Dan Ranta
 

Michael - this is a tough question to answer succinctly.  You will get lots of replies here on this one - lots of good ideas.  Let me start with a basic point.  There are generally two ways to find content - Search and Browse.  Don't forget of about helping your users browse.  Think about wikipedia in this sense and the way articles are arranged in portals (or portal spaces).  When done well, you give a use the ability to have "knowledge accidents" (or serendipity) when browsing.  Next, in my experience, creating a google search within a company is a fantasy.  Not possible for a number of reasons.  However, improving search can be done in a number of ways.  I have seen several examples, but I do not have to technical expertise to explain them.  I am a huge wiki fan and this may be radical for you, but I would consider shifting the knowledge from ServiceNow into a wiki.  Of course, MediaWiki is the best, hands-down.  Based on what you have said, I can see this helping solve many of your challenges.


On Thu, Jul 2, 2020 at 2:19 PM Michael Hutchens <m.hutchens81@...> wrote:
Hi folks,

I've just started a new role as a Knowledge Adviser within the ICT component of a government organization. We are using ServiceNow to store customer-support related information. A key challenge that has been raised with me from a number of different users is "I can't find the information I'm looking for". Obviously this statement requires unpacking as it can be a result of a number of different challenges:

1) ServiceNow search configured sub-optimally
2) Knowledge gaps
3) Knowledge articles don't being sufficiently search-centric (either through metadata, article content, or categorisations)
4) Users not understanding how to effectively search (training)

These are all things that I'm persuing, but #4 is what I'm most interested in here - I think that users are applying 'Google-style' search habits to our internal closed environment, and their expectations are not being met (e.g. searching for single words such as 'Outlook', rather than using 2-3 keywords and refining them as they go). As part of a wider training plan, I'm looking for research, articles, or opinions on this topic that I can socialize with my users. If anyone is able to point me in the right direction, or provide some thoughts, I'd be most appreciative :)


 

Hi Michael,

There are several good blog articles associated with the ServiceNow Knowledge Module and that assist with search. Also there are some supplementary cases available on The KCS Academy website that touch on search and how KCS provides optimal search through capturing the context (and customers words) when creating articles.  

Since ServiceNow is a KCS Verified product, the internal staff at ServiceNow also publish 'inside stories' on how they have assessed knowledge for their own customer support teams. Some of ServiceNow's clients and associates within the Consortium for Service Innovation (CSI) community publish stories about their use of KCS using ServiceNow as a platform that also may be useful. There are some Case Studies (see link below, that do that). 

Here are a few resources that may be useful:


There is an additional case study on KCS written by ServiceNow that's not on The KCS Academy website that I'll share soon.

Kind regards

Beth

Beth Coleman
CATALYNK Limited
NZ:+64 21 325 461 | AU: +61 1 800 717 644 | US: +1 510 629 5119


 




On Fri, Jul 3, 2020 at 8:19 AM Michael Hutchens <m.hutchens81@...> wrote:
Hi folks,

I've just started a new role as a Knowledge Adviser within the ICT component of a government organization. We are using ServiceNow to store customer-support related information. A key challenge that has been raised with me from a number of different users is "I can't find the information I'm looking for". Obviously this statement requires unpacking as it can be a result of a number of different challenges:

1) ServiceNow search configured sub-optimally
2) Knowledge gaps
3) Knowledge articles don't being sufficiently search-centric (either through metadata, article content, or categorisations)
4) Users not understanding how to effectively search (training)

These are all things that I'm persuing, but #4 is what I'm most interested in here - I think that users are applying 'Google-style' search habits to our internal closed environment, and their expectations are not being met (e.g. searching for single words such as 'Outlook', rather than using 2-3 keywords and refining them as they go). As part of a wider training plan, I'm looking for research, articles, or opinions on this topic that I can socialize with my users. If anyone is able to point me in the right direction, or provide some thoughts, I'd be most appreciative :)


Michael Hutchens
 

 
Thanks so much for your thoughts Dan - most useful :) ServiceNow has a categorization system for knowledge articles that in theory should help people find the content they are looking for, but in our environment that categorisation suffers from bloat at the moment, and isn't reflctive enough of our operating environment. It needs a review. Do you have any suggestions about how a categorisation system might be developed to more accurately reflect the needs of users?
 
In my mind, the benefit of having a knowledge component within an ITSM tool is that you can synergize your service management practices to achieve better outcomes. Creating a strong relationship between Knowledge Management and Incident Management should result in a decrease in 'time to resolve' rates for tickets, and happier customers. I like the simplicity of wikis, but I'd suggest that for us, moving knowledge from ServiceNow into a wiki would create a new information silo and make it more difficult to achieve that synergy.


Michael Hutchens
 

Hi Beth, thanks so much for pointing me to those resources :) I'll spend some time absorbing those case studies. Much appreciated!


Stephen Bounds
 

Hi Michael,

Aprill Allen is an expert in this space and I hope she'll be able to chime in with her thoughts soon. But you should definitely check out KCS as a methodology for optimising exactly this aspect of your ICT service desk.

ServiceNow is a "KCS verified" product, which means it can align very closely with the KCS recommended approach. But it's tool-agnostic so you wouldn't be locked into a particular product.

Cheers,
Stephen.

====================================
Stephen Bounds
Executive, Information Management
Cordelta
E: stephen.bounds@...
M: 0401 829 096
====================================
On 3/07/2020 8:21 am, Michael Hutchens wrote:

 
Thanks so much for your thoughts Dan - most useful :) ServiceNow has a categorization system for knowledge articles that in theory should help people find the content they are looking for, but in our environment that categorisation suffers from bloat at the moment, and isn't reflctive enough of our operating environment. It needs a review. Do you have any suggestions about how a categorisation system might be developed to more accurately reflect the needs of users?
 
In my mind, the benefit of having a knowledge component within an ITSM tool is that you can synergize your service management practices to achieve better outcomes. Creating a strong relationship between Knowledge Management and Incident Management should result in a decrease in 'time to resolve' rates for tickets, and happier customers. I like the simplicity of wikis, but I'd suggest that for us, moving knowledge from ServiceNow into a wiki would create a new information silo and make it more difficult to achieve that synergy.


 

Hi Michael, 

The ServiceNow Service Catalogue page, and knowledge management in the Service Portal are useful in identifying current state and improving knowledge search using ServiceNow's existing capabilities. Very little customization needed.

Kind regards,

Beth 

Beth Coleman
CATALYNK Limited
NZ:+64 21 325 461 | AU: +61 1 800 717 644 | US: +1 510 629 5119


 




On Fri, Jul 3, 2020 at 10:24 AM Michael Hutchens <m.hutchens81@...> wrote:
Hi Beth, thanks so much for pointing me to those resources :) I'll spend some time absorbing those case studies. Much appreciated!


Andrew Gent <ajgent@...>
 

Wow! I guess I have been out of KM longer than I thought. I spend most of my time on information and UX architecture. So I had a very different reaction to this question than I am hearing from others. So please take this for what it is, a sort of "outsider" perspective on a human/social dilemma. 

I took as a starting position the problem you clearly enunciated:

I think that users are applying 'Google-style' search habits to our internal closed environment, and their expectations are not being met

But, after that, I headed in a completely different direction than you. Specifically, from a usability perspective, why would you try to "train" users to match the tool -- which seems a very costly and uncertain goal -- rather than customizing the tool to accommodate their expectations? 

The problem you face is that you literally can't untrain the googlization of your users. Why? Because outside of your work environment, the google paradigm is what they deal with everywhere, all the time.  So you are asking them to do something unnatural for a specific situation. Kind of like trying to teach  Americans (who drive on the right) to drive on the left -- but only when driving through one town!

So from a UX perspective, what is likely to be a more successful approach would be to move the technology to meet their expectations. Or, at least, acknowledge them and provide guidance on how to improve the results.  

I'll say right now I don't know ServiceNow. So some or all of what I am about to say may or may not apply. I am just giving possible examples.

So if the users' current search habits produce wrong or too many results, you could simply provide guidance suggesting additional terms they might consider adding, categories they might be interested in, or simply automatically adding terms based on best guess to show them how more terms would help. If you require specific keywords, doing synonym replacement rather than giving errors can help. Or providing a list of possible matches in the keyword list.

I'm not saying you have to provide Google-style searches. But it is always a good idea to acknowledge the user's expectations (avoids the "I can't use this" response), and then try to guide them towards more effective behavior.

I apologize if I sound like I'm lecturing. I just wanted to provide an alternative perspective on a problem we run into a lot in other environments.

Best,

Andrew Gent


 


Aprill Allen
 

Hi Michael,

Firstly, thanks @Stephen for calling me into the thread. @Beth has given you some resources on the platform front. @Dan has covered the fact that users like to both browse and search, so it's good to offer both. 

With respect to your specific question about training on search effectiveness. You are right, that we have been spoiled by Google. To @Andrew's point that we should meet the customer in the ways they want to be met...that would be ideal, but sadly our corporate platforms do not have the personal contexts that Google has on all of us. Google can take one or two words and serve up exactly what someone is looking because of the sheer volume of data they have on relevancy and personal context. Our corporate platforms do not. Enterprise search platforms with machine learning do go some way towards that over time, but they still need human intervention.

So, that is to say, you do need to train your colleagues how to effectively search. They way they do that is by providing 5-7 words in their key phrase. This will improve the likelihood they'll get want they want in the list. When you couple that with authoring articles to have the customer's words (and failed search phrases) in the title and problem statement (as @Beth said) you will have far better success. EVen better when you can tune your search engine on the customer-side to only search the title and problem/question/issue fields. Someone who is searching for something they don't know the answer to won't be using the words we use in the resolution. If we provide results based on resolution text, it'll undermine the relevancy for the user. Different story for agents using the knowledge base for internal search.

Great role you've got, by the way! :)

--

Aprill Allen
Founder and Managing Director | Knowledge Bird
KM Consulting & KCS Training
M: +61 (0)400 101 961
knowledgebird.com


Stephen Bounds
 

Great insights Aprill,

I was literally just talking to a colleague about the need to present information differently internally and externally, and the opportunities presented by the third discovery paradigm of interactive navigation (ie chatbots / virtual assistants) for internal search.

We're pretty impressed by one case study in particular where, after discovering that internal staff were using a public chatbot to discover website information while talking on the phone with clients, the government organisation tuned the bot to respond differently based on IP address to ensure an appropriate response.

Cheers,
Stephen.

====================================
Stephen Bounds
Executive, Information Management
Cordelta
E: stephen.bounds@...
M: 0401 829 096
====================================
On 3/07/2020 11:16 am, Aprill Allen wrote:

Hi Michael,

Firstly, thanks @Stephen for calling me into the thread. @Beth has given you some resources on the platform front. @Dan has covered the fact that users like to both browse and search, so it's good to offer both. 

With respect to your specific question about training on search effectiveness. You are right, that we have been spoiled by Google. To @Andrew's point that we should meet the customer in the ways they want to be met...that would be ideal, but sadly our corporate platforms do not have the personal contexts that Google has on all of us. Google can take one or two words and serve up exactly what someone is looking because of the sheer volume of data they have on relevancy and personal context. Our corporate platforms do not. Enterprise search platforms with machine learning do go some way towards that over time, but they still need human intervention.

So, that is to say, you do need to train your colleagues how to effectively search. They way they do that is by providing 5-7 words in their key phrase. This will improve the likelihood they'll get want they want in the list. When you couple that with authoring articles to have the customer's words (and failed search phrases) in the title and problem statement (as @Beth said) you will have far better success. EVen better when you can tune your search engine on the customer-side to only search the title and problem/question/issue fields. Someone who is searching for something they don't know the answer to won't be using the words we use in the resolution. If we provide results based on resolution text, it'll undermine the relevancy for the user. Different story for agents using the knowledge base for internal search.

Great role you've got, by the way! :)

--

Aprill Allen
Founder and Managing Director | Knowledge Bird
KM Consulting & KCS Training
M: +61 (0)400 101 961
knowledgebird.com


John Coles
 

Michael,

Approaching your work from an ISO 30401 perspective, you will want to understand the Context of your Organization first. Since you are using ServiceNow, then more than likely, you have dozens or hundreds (maybe thousands) of Agents using ServiceNow. If that is the case, then start here ... https://www.serviceinnovation.org/kcs/

The ServiceNow platform is optimally designed for the Knowledge-Centered Service methodology (KCS). The KB should already be integrated with the SNOW ticketing tool, which allows for great analysis through the "ReUse" metric, and provides great flexibility for creating/editing content "in the workflow."

The Challenges you list are primarily people challenges. With that in mind,
1) Configure and tune the search engine. Establish a regular tuning programs as well as do spot checks to validate the tuning
2) Identify the knowledge gaps, and then take action to add it or notify someone who can add it
3) Configure and tune the search engine. Establish a regular tuning programs as well as do spot checks to validate the tuning
4) Coach and train the user base on how to search. (e.g. Walk-up coaching tool).

There is not one tool on Earth that can do those things without engaging your people. I'd advise against using a Wiki or replacing the Search Engine or KB until you have clearly defined the Context of the Org, and looked at your challenges in more detail.

If you would like to talk it through, let me know. I'd be happy to discuss it further with you.


Good Luck,
John


Michael Hutchens
 

Morning all,

Thanks so much for your responses :) I've received a lot of great feedback, from a number of different perspectives. I feel that it's given me a more expansive view of this problem.

Agree that the KCS methodology makes a great fit in my environment. Knowledge Management programs have been tried here (including KCS) at least twice in the past 5-7 years, so I'm deliberately avoiding using the term 'KCS', or any acronyms for that matter, outside of familiar business or layman's terms.

@BethC: Thanks so much for the links to those ServiceNow configuration documents, that'll be most useful in conversations with the platform administrators.

@AndrewG: Viewing this problem from a UX perspective is a super interesting take, thanks so much. Agree that I need to acknowledge the user expectations. And while tools configuration in terms of search is definitely something that I have a degree of control over and something that I need to optimize, I'd suggest that in a closed environment, 'driving on the opposite side of the road' is largely a reality that I need to address as well.

@AprillA: Thanks for that advice, and the summary. I like the benchmark of 5-7 keywords in a single search, and I particularly like the potential of limiting search to a smaller number of article fields. I'll take both of those suggestions onboard and integrate them into my efforts.

@JohnC: Great breakdown, thanks so much. Do you have examples of what a regular tuning program might look like?

Regards all,
Michael


James Robertson
 

Hi Michael,

There have been a number of practical recommendations from others on how to get the most out of ServiceNow.

To make a more basic suggestion:

Have you conducted task-based usability testing with actual users? This will give you a new depth of insight into not just how they search, but how they find information and complete tasks more broadly.

This will empower you with a list of practical improvements, a new depth of understanding in how your users work, and evidence that you can take to management to support investment decisions.

(Without this type of direct insight into user behaviours, it's all too easy to put in a lot of work that ends up missing the mark.)

Regards,
James

On 3/7/20 6:19 am, Michael Hutchens wrote:
Hi folks,

I've just started a new role as a Knowledge Adviser within the ICT component of a government organization. We are using ServiceNow to store customer-support related information. A key challenge that has been raised with me from a number of different users is "I can't find the information I'm looking for". Obviously this statement requires unpacking as it can be a result of a number of different challenges:

1) ServiceNow search configured sub-optimally
2) Knowledge gaps
3) Knowledge articles don't being sufficiently search-centric (either through metadata, article content, or categorisations)
4) Users not understanding how to effectively search (training)

These are all things that I'm persuing, but #4 is what I'm most interested in here - I think that users are applying 'Google-style' search habits to our internal closed environment, and their expectations are not being met (e.g. searching for single words such as 'Outlook', rather than using 2-3 keywords and refining them as they go). As part of a wider training plan, I'm looking for research, articles, or opinions on this topic that I can socialize with my users. If anyone is able to point me in the right direction, or provide some thoughts, I'd be most appreciative :)
--
Step Two James Robertson
Founder and Managing Director | Step Two
Ph: +61 2 9319 7901 | M: +61 416 054 213
www.steptwo.com.au