The Wonderful World of Wikis Is Changing the Face of CRM

Sydney, 1 October 2007 - Best known for underpinning Wikipedia, open-source software known as wiki has mushroomed as the core of "Web 2.0," a wonderful world with significant implications for CRM.

A wiki (pronounced wick-ee or wee-kee) is, as Wikipedia defines it, a type of web site "that allows users to easily add, remove or otherwise edit and change some available content, sometimes without the need for registration."

At their core, wikis enable collaboration across a "community," so community members can share or build together commonly interesting content. There are already at least three major CRM applications for wiki software: one that augments or replaces portions of knowledge management (KM) used by contact center technical support or customer care staff; one that extends the collaboration to one's customer base, especially "early adopters" and savvy users; and one that serves to support blogs and other communities to solicit feedback from current or potential customers.

Wikis have helped a high-tech company I'll call TechOne completely revamp its knowledge sharing for better customer—and employee satisfaction.

‘The 'experts' were taking, not the customer's point of view but, rather, the company's preferred approaches.’

Just as most high-tech firms do, TechOne has anxious customers calling, sending emails or launching chat sessions asking for help to be able to use TechOne products in their jobs or home businesses. TechOne constantly encounters new issues or angles that executives haven't seen before (the blessing and curse of being on the "leading edge" in technologies).

Over the years, TechOne has promoted some of its most skilled tech support reps to collect and synthesize new issues and proposed solutions; route them to subject-matter experts (SMEs) in marketing or product development for their approval or improvements; and then post answers in the company's homegrown knowledge management tool to the entire rep population to help future customers. At one time, the company could turn around reps' proposals in a couple of weeks, but the lag time gradually increased, thanks to the increasing number and complexity of technical issues that needed to be screened and posted.

Traditional KM


Not only was TechOne failing to keep up with customer demands, but also its traditional KM development methods had two other flaws: (1) the central group of ex-reps collecting the issues was no longer "current" with the real issues, and (2) the "experts" were taking, not the customer's point of view but, rather, the company's preferred approaches.

As a result, tech support reps were frustrated and resorted to hunting for answers on their own rather than using the KM tools, and customers often got conflicting and inconsistent responses and answers, forcing them to fend for themselves, call, email or chat again—or simply replace TechOne's products with competitive products that promised more "user-friendly" operations and support.

TechOne explored ways to accelerate collecting and routing the new issues and posting the answers in the homegrown KM, plus ways to license off the shelf KM software, but none of these answers was fast enough to satisfy its own reps and its agitated customers. Finally, the company turned to the collaborative wiki software as its solution.

Wiki KS has allowed TechOne to enable tech support reps to post directly, into a new field of the KM tool, customer issues and their proposed (and provided) answers for all techs to search and find immediately and for the SMEs to check for accuracy—but not to vet—before posting. If another rep thinks he has a better answer, or if the SMEs think that they have a better angle, wikis allow overwriting and editing with full version history for all to see.

As a result, TechOne totally overhauled the process, leading to much more timely solutions available for reps plus deeper engagement by the company's reps plus closer review by the SMEs, who no longer held up reps from supporting customers with the most accurate solutions.

Wikis can replace or augment traditional KM data collection and posting methods to improve speed and quality, enable cross-site collaboration and sharing and build more meaningful solutions. Plus, wikis can increase both agent satisfaction and customer satisfaction.

Author: Bill Price, President of LimeBridge in the US