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At MindTouch, we are fanatical about our customer’s success; and our customers are fanatical about their customer’s success as well. We don’t get to praise the great work our customers do often enough around here, so I thought it would be nice to catch up with one of our customers to see how they’re making their customers shine. I spoke with Scott Wieser, Applications Engineer at Biamp Systems, to see how he is helping Biamp to create a strongly branded experience to engage their buyers and customers through the content produced by technical communications.

Before MindTouch

Biamp Systems is a manufacturer of audio electronics primarily used for commercial applications, from concert halls and corporate meeting rooms, to airports and stadiums. Biamp has been a MindTouch customer since 2013. Scott was one of the main drivers behind Biamp’s initiative with MindTouch. With such flexibility and scalability in their products and the technically savvy customers whose job it is to install the systems, Scott and Biamp knew providing the best content possible was a must-have.

“Our biggest need was real-time content.”

Before MindTouch, PDFs were the primary way to create and distribute product documentation. But the time and effort it took to update documentation meant things like typos went unchanged. But Scott recognized the importance of their content to their brand and their customer’s success. Typos and slow updates wouldn’t do for the Biamp customers.

Building the Foundation for Customer Success

“We settled on “Cornerstone”, because we want our customers to think of the site as something that can always be relied upon as a solid foundation of knowledge and information.” 

The content that companies produce to support their products and customers is often seen as a costly “necessity.”  But companies like Biamp Systems who are fanatical about their customer’s success know that this content is the foundation for their customers to engage with the brand.

That’s why Biamp Systems’ help center is branded as Cornerstone.  Biamp has done a lot of work to maximize Cornerstone for their customers and their brand. It has a similar aesthetic to the company’s main website, tying their product and help content together with the brand. They’ve also brought critical tools like command string calculators to Cornerstone, further bolstering it as the go-to spot for their customers.

From Tech Docs to Customer Engagement

“We strive to keep Cornerstone purely technical, with no sales spiels allowed, and somehow this has paradoxically turned Cornerstone into a great sales tool.”

Many companies sign up with MindTouch as a way to manage their technical documentation and help content. But by delivering authoritative content to customers online through MindTouch, Scott and his team are able to make customers and buyers more successful.  By making content easy to access and understand, they’re lowering the amount of time and effort it takes for their customers to become product experts. The unexpected bonus has been how MindTouch has helped drive more traffic to their site and engage prospects in the buying process.

“What has surprised me has been the continual growth of traffic to Cornerstone. It’s growing at a consistent rate month-over-month. If I had to guess 18 months ago, I would have said it would have plateaued quickly once our customers knew that it was there and they would use it at a minimal level. But it hasn’t shown any signs of plateauing.”

There’s something of a Field of Dreams moment for many of our customers: “If you build it, they will come.”  Community forums and Google searches can only get customers so far until they need the authoritative content only the company can offer.  And the great work Scott and Biamp have done with Cornerstone ensures that their customers keep coming back.

Controlling the Brand

“When you get into forums, you know the person you’re talking to, or you’re only one or two degrees removed. There’s an attitude of ‘Why am I going to answer this guy’s question when he is probably in direct competition with me?’”

The community that Biamp Systems serves is relatively small. In order to stand out above the crowd, they needed their product documentation to shine so that their stellar products and stellar customers could shine as well. While Biamp gave forums a try, they weren’t the right solution to help them control their brand online. Scott wanted the Biamp Systems technical content to reflect the professionalism and authority of brand.

“If I come across a typo in a document, it makes me question why I’m reading it, and I question the accuracy of the information. So a silly little typo is really indicative of the brand as a whole. And that’s why MindTouch was so important for us. We recognize the importance of the content to our customers, and we needed the best way to create and present it.” 

What Scott and Biamp have done with their Cornerstone site is transform their technical documentation into an easy-to-use resource for customers and buyers to engage with the brand and educate themselves about Biamp’s products. Scott and his team are committed to consistently improving the experience for their customers. If you visit the Cornerstone site, you’ll notice they highlight a new or valuable article to help educate customers about important updates or new articles. It stands as a testament to the pride and the value of the work that Scott and his team do to make their customers successful.

Scott Wieser is an audiovisual engineer with extensive experience in system integration and design, along with a background in audio recording, live sound, and musical performance. Scott has served as an Applications Engineer for Biamp Systems since 2010, and he currently manages the company’s technical support knowledge base website, Cornerstone.

Connect with Scott on LinkedIn

 

 

Via Shutterstock

As we discussed last week, your customers now prefer web self-service to any other channel of support. Odds are that your company has, or plans to have, some form of self-service. But if we dig into why your customers prefer self-service, it might have you rethinking why and how you offer your customers self-service.

We Prefer Self-Service Information for the Same Reason We Prefer Self-Service Soft-Serve Ice Cream

If you’re like most people, you’ve racked up thousands upon thousands of unused minutes with your cell phone provider. That’s due in large part to 64% of Americans owning a smartphone (around 205 million people). Smartphone ownership has fundamentally changed our relationships with information and companies. Ten years ago information resided in the hands of the companies and institutions. But now everything we need is in our purses or jeans pockets. We’ve gone from mom doling out a single scoop of ice cream for dessert to all-you-can-eat ice cream in just under a decade.

Visit any buffet with one of those giant, sticky metal ice cream dispensers and just watch how everyone approaches it differently. There’s the Leaning-Tower-of-Pisa-maker who tempts the laws of physics; there’s the flaunting-my-self-control person who takes just enough to crest over the edge of the cone; then there’s the this-is-my-Mona-Lisa person who crafts a McDonald’s-commercial-worthy spiral.

Our smartphones have trained us to expect three things in life. (I say it this only half-jokingly: there is a worrisome element of conditioning our cell-phone use has on us. Even the suggestion of waiting in line has people whipping out their phones. But I digress.) Those three things are convenience, timeliness, and control. And I think these things help explain the trend towards online self-service.*

Timeliness: Meeting the Needs of Our Inner Child

I think most people would agree that the generation breaking into the workforce right now could be called Generation Now. “Soon” just takes too long these days. But this attitude extends beyond teens and twenty-somethings. As we grow more accustomed to information being just-in-time thanks to our smartphones, we will continue to believe everything in life should be this way.

Phone and email support can’t measure up to the timeliness of online self-service, because they’re measured in hours and minutes (respectively) while self-service is measured in seconds and minutes. When it comes to support, seconds win any day of the week.

Don't let your self-service be a first-world problem meme. Via knowyourmeme.com

Don’t let your self-service be a first-world problem meme. Via knowyourmeme.com

Convenience: Amazon.com Is My Best Friend

The bad (and good) thing about business hours are that, for most companies, they only last for 8 hours of the day. But customers need support around the clock–especially if you’ve got an international presence.  Even if you have 24-hour support, it just feels better to visit amazon.com at 1 a.m. versus the 24-hour Wal-Mart.

The convenience of phone and email support vary wildly depending upon the day of the week and the time of day.  Online self-service on the other hand is a consistent and convenient experience, no matter when customers look for support.

Control: Omni-Me

There’s a special sense of control that comes from having your world at your fingertips. My work, friends & family, entertainment, and schedule are all accessible through my phone. There’s a feeling of omniscience that comes from owning a smartphone. While it may not seem like it, take away a smartphone from many people and anxiety sets in (it’s called nomophobia, seriously).

With email and phone support, the customer gives up control to the company. While sometimes this is necessary because problems are unique, many support questions are repeated—and thus, avoidable with self-service.

Online Self-Service: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

The shift towards online self-service should have companies celebrating in the streets. Unlike call centers and email support, doing online self-service right transforms the support and product knowledge into a gift that keeps on giving to you and your customers.

Customers clearly want to take support into their own hands. Most questions don’t justify the time spent waiting on the phone or for email when a quick Google search could answer it. By creating the best possible online self-service experience, one that is built for how customers interact with information (aka searching Google), you’re setting your company and your customers up for success.

First of all, online self-service keeps your customers engaged with your brand and on your website (not a competitor or third party site). You’re positioning your company as the authority on your products, as well as making your company a convenience, rather than a nuisance.

Plus, online self-service can be constantly improved, even with insight from other channels. By making your online self-service site the location for all of your content, you’re streamlining knowledge management and making it available for customers and employees in real-time.

But the real gift is the insight into your customers that simple off-the-shelf web analytics can provide with online self-service. By tracking the articles your customers view, the order they view them in, and how long they view them, you’ve got a much clearer picture of their experience with your products (can’t do that with a PDF).

For both customers and companies, online self-service offers so much to gain. By focusing on creating a stellar self-service experience, you’re putting your customers and company on a fast-track to success: customers can easily become product experts, and you can become experts on your customer’s experience with the products.

*THE ENORMOUS CATCH: Online self-service is only timely, convenient, and control-granting if you give your customers a good experience.  Otherwise, the script flips and they turn to online self-service for an inconvenient, time-wasting, frustration-filled prelude to calling support.


On June 4th, 2015 MindTouch will no longer support Pro Members using Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.  This change is taking place to improve our product experience and to help encourage the advancement of web technology.   From our analysis, this change should have little to no impact on your organization.  Rest assured, this will not impact your end-user experience as MindTouch will continue to provide
support for the read-only view in Internet Explorer 8.Browsers

We encourage all MindTouch users to use the latest browser version for system security.  We agree with the statement of Microsoft, the creator and developer of Internet Explorer, “For customers not yet running the latest browser available for your operating system, we encourage you to upgrade and stay up-to-date for a faster, more secure browsing experience.”  In accordance with plans set forth by Microsoft and other industry leading vendors such as Salesforce, MindTouch will continue to strive for very best in internet security and technology.

To learn more about Microsoft’s future developments with Internet Explorer and their deprecation plans for IE8, IE9 and IE10, please review the following material:

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please contact the MindTouch Customer Success Team.

Image credit Top10Reviews

Feature Update: Search
  • MindTouch 4 customers will notice that the search results interface has been updated.  Along with a smoother, sleeker interface the optimization also includes the following changes:
    • The pro-member page rating icons have been updated to match the page feedback icons.
    • Previously, the classification filtering options would not display on the search results if a carousel was not visible.  In some situations, this dependency could limit the search experience.  This update will provide your customers with the option to filter results by classification in the absence of search carousel.
    • The interface update will help in the future development of MindTouch search and efforts to provide an optimized experience for different screen sizes.
 
Bug Fix for Authors
  • When entering a page summary in the page settings interface, modifications to the summary text would remain in place after cancelling the entry.  This experience could lead to confusion as to whether the modifications were saved or not.  Modifications to the page summary will now be removed upon cancellation.

Bug Fix for Site Administrators

  • When managing users with a third party authentication providers such as LDAP or Active Directory, user role changes in the control panel would result in an error. 
Tip for Site Administrators
New and Updated Documentation
Customer Success Is Goin' Mobile

On April 21, Google updated their search engine algorithms to favor mobile-friendly webpages accessed through smartphones globally and across all languages (in other words, a seriously huge update).  While this has many marketers and webmasters scrambling to update their websites, people who value customer success could stand to learn a thing or two from Google’s recent changes

Though they don’t call it customer success, Google’s changes are all aimed at increasing their customer’s success with their product—a goal with which many companies struggle. Google’s mission is to provide their users the best experience and the most relevant, up-to-date, and valuable content possible. The algorithm changes are their way of improving their customer’s chance at success. Here are some things they’re concerned with that every customer success practitioner should be as well.

1. Customer Behavior is Changing 

The days of desktop-based web-surfing are quickly disappearing. Customers rely on their mobile devices more and more to do work, make purchases, and learn. In fact, 60% of all online traffic comes from smartphones and tablets (comScore).

Companies looking to promote their customer’s success need to be able to provide the best experience possible, regardless of what device is used. By meeting the shifting behaviors of consumers, companies can provide more engaging experiences by being always-available, always-helpful (because who doesn’t have a smartphone on them at all times?).

This is how people act nowadays, statistically speaking.

This is how people act nowadays, statistically speaking.

2. Customer Experience is King

By understanding their user’s behavior, Google is now ensuring that they are optimizing the typical user experience—which means boosting mobile-friendly pages while devaluing pages that are clunky on mobile devices. 

Gathering customer data isn’t enough when it comes to ensuring customer success. Companies need to take action on that data to create the most intuitive, frustration-free customer experience.

3. Content Should Be Relevant, Valuable

Google has moved beyond links and meta keywords to evaluate how relevant content is to their users. Many of the recent updates have been aimed at providing searchers content that is relevant to them, including factors like location, and authoritative.

Nothing is more valuable to your customer’s success than the help content and product documentation your company produces. To help promote customer success, it is vital that the content your company produces is up-to-date, authoritative, and easy to navigate. While marketing material has it’s function, focus on maximizing the help content and product documentation that will make your customers product experts 

4. Trust is Earned, Not Purchased

Many of Google’s search algorithm changes are in response to the way people (read: marketers) tried to game the system through link spamming, doorway pages, and keyword stuffing. The result was a lot of useless results that didn’t match the searcher’s intention.  Through their updates these past few years, Google has clearly signaled to site owners that only valuable, relevant content (that is mobile-friendly) deserves to be in the coveted top three results. Google recognized that their customer’s trust in their product was critical.

For companies with complex products, customers often turn to the company for assistance to be successful with the product. It may be through email, phone calls, or (likely at first) through Google search. But if you can’t deliver the value they need, customers won’t trust you to get the job done. That’s when they turn to third-party sites, and in the worst case, your competitors.

Just because a customer purchased your product, it doesn’t mean that you’ve earned their trust.  That process begins in the sales process, and continues on through onboarding and support.

5.  Constant Improvement is the Only Option

As stressful as the constant changes to their search algorithms can be (especially to marketers), Google understands the importance of constantly improving their product to make their customers more successful. There has been a big push from Google to deliver search results that respond to the searcher’s intention, rather than just the keywords entered. And Google will certainly continue to develop smarter algorithms to provide even better results in the future to make their customers more successful.

Companies are always working to improve their products. But a company that focuses on customer success wants their customers to constantly improve with the product. This is a difficult goal to achieve when your company produces complex products and services without the content the customer needs available to them at all times, wherever they are. 

A Culture of Customer Success

There are many more lessons that the success of Google’s search can teach companies, but when it comes to “customer success” these are the key elements. Any company looking to promote customer success will note how all of the points here reflect the culture of the company, and not just the product. Customer success is not just a marketing term or a re-branding of customer support. It’s a cultural approach that infects every aspect of the organization. It’s knowing that the customer’s success means your success. 

 

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If you haven’t heard by now, today, April 21, is officially Mobilegeddon: the day Google changes its search algorithms to favor mobile-friendly websites.

Companies who value customer success know that Google is a crucial point for prospective and current customers. But while the online FAQs and PDFs might work for laptops and desktops with ample screen space (but really, they’re not okay), the fact is that 60% of online traffic comes from smartphones and tablets (comScore). And anyone who has opened a PDF on a smartphone knows it is an awful thing to try and manage.

Meeting Customers Needs

Google recognizes the shift in consumer behavior. And if your company values their online real estate, then you’re going to want to make the shift to mobile-friendly as soon as possible.

Odds are, your company already has a pretty mobile-friendly home page.  But a quick evaluation of most company’s online help centers shows how poorly constructed they are for a desktop experience, let alone a mobile experience. The product documentation and help content in these help centers is often given the short end of the stick by companies because they believe this content is useless for leads and conversions.

Customer Success in the Mobile Age

But the “success” of customer success is about providing customers every available resource to become product experts, whether they’re prospective customers validating your solution, or current customers looking to learn how to use your product.  Ample research shows that customers prefer to do research online before buying, and that they prefer to self-serve online.

The help content that you put online in downloadable PDFs and a clunky assortment of break/fix articles is now less likely to be found by your customers using smartphones (which is a lot of your customers). Not only are you frustrating them, you’re increasing the likelihood of them turning to a third-party source for support or validation, and increasing the likelihood that they will call support (and nobody likes that).

So if you’re serious about customer success (you should be), then Mobilegeddon should be a call to arms to transform your product content sitting in Word docs and PDFs into the mobile-optimized content your customers (and brand) need to survive. 

Want to Learn More About Mobilegeddon?

If you’re interested in learning more about the Google’s mobile friendly shift, you should check out these articles:

Google’s blog post on the shift towards “Finding more mobile-friendly search results

Google’s guide to Avoiding Common Mobile SEO Mistakes

Search Engine Land’s Guide to Mobilegeddon

Now What?

If you are ready to deliver the content your customer’s need to be successful in a mobile ready format, then sign up for a product tour with MindTouch to see how we will transform all of your product and help content into mobile-friendly, SEO rich online real estate. 

Recently, MindTouch, Zuora, and Salesforce hosted an event at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, entitled “Engaging the Customer—A Full 360 Approach,” for local business leaders to get together and discuss how they’re disrupting industries and engaging customers throughout the whole customer journey.

The headliners for the night were Aaron Fulkerson, CEO at MindTouch, Ron Huddleston, Senior VP Global ISV & Channel Alliances at Salesforce,  and Richard Terry-Lloyd, Senior Vice President at Zuora. 

Check out some images from the event!

Though the event brought together businesses from all industries, it was great to see a common belief in the importance of customer success and customer engagement across all of these different spaces. 

We are looking forward to the next one!

Bug Fix for MindTouch Editors

  • When creating a hyperlink to an absolute URL, the title attribute would display as “undefined”. The title attribute displays when a user hovers over a hyperlink. In the next release, a link to an absolute URL will display the url in the title attribute.
  • When creating a new page with a content template, MindTouch would display an error in place of the selected template. This situation would only occur if the page was newly created and not previously saved. In the following release, you will be able to add content templates to a new page as expected.
  • Previously, the page settings interface would display formatted text (bold, italic, etc) that was pasted into the page summary field. This experience may have been misleading because the page summary field only permits plain text. In the upcoming release, formatted text will display as plain text when pasted into the page summary field. 

New Training Videos

New and Updated Documentation

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[Warning: No Spoiler Alerts] Even as I sit in an office overlooking downtown San Diego on a clear spring morning, I know winter is coming. This isn’t winter in George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, of course, but instead winter in the realm of Google. The way Google’s search algorithms work are about to undergo a major shift (or two) that will make controlling your brand on Google Search an even bigger priority

In the spirit of the return of Game of Thrones to TV and Google’s Lannister-esque machinations (okay, not really), I thought it might be fun to bring a little fantasy to the way we talk about Google Search.

Not that winter. The bad sort of winter.

Not that winter. The bad sort of winter.

Most companies understand how important it is to have a strong presence in Google Search results. They purchase relevant keywords to their brands through pay-per-click and game their home pages to rank higher in these strategic keywords. These efforts are like sending out the cavalry to scout out enemy territory.  These keywords bring you into direct conflict with your competitors.

 Any good King of the North would send out these cavalry expeditions to explore unknown lands with the hope of conquering new territory. Competing in this space is crucial to developing brand awareness around the keywords that matter the most to your company.  But when the majority of your SEO strategy for Google Search revolves around this outbound, scouting effort, it ignores a crucial element.  If the entire army is out roaming the hills, who guards your castle?

What is the castle in this metaphor?  The castle is your brand in Google Search. Sure, sending out the cavalry through PPC ads is great when customers don’t know about your brand. But what happens when they do know about your brand? When they knock on the castle gates, who answers?

The idea of branded search is this: I’m your prospective customer who is looking to validate the capabilities of your product.  Or, I’m a current customer looking for self-service support.  The natural thing for me to do is to open up a browser window and search Google for “[Company Name] + search terms.” For example, “Acme Software add new user.”  What do customers find when they search this? 

If your company is like most companies, what customers will find is some mix of competitor’s ads, third party websites, community forums, and your own marketing material.  Not only is this a frustrating experience for your customers, it can quickly make you lose customers to competitors or have them scared away by negative third party reviews.  If you’re not controlling your branded Google Search, it’s like the enemy’s army is waiting at the gate for your customers.

The best way to gain control over your branded search is to provide Google Search the authoritative content your prospective and current customers need. If Google can find these long-tail keywords related to your brand, you’ll be in control of the conversation about your brand. The product documentation and help content you already create to support your customers is exactly what’s needed to guard the castle from invading forces. All you need to do is put it into a format that Google loves.  [Hint: Google loves MindTouch.]

And perhaps winter won’t come so soon.

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After years of sitting in the rearview mirror, Web Self-Service has motored past phone support as the preferred channel for customers to receive support help.  A new report from Forrester details the shift in the consumer support landscape and argues that many companies are failing to deliver effective support help in a way that customers want.

According to the report, in 2014 web self-service was the channel of choice for 76% of people—up from 67% two years prior. Phone support, on the other hand, has remained stagnant at 73%. The convenience of technologies like smartphones and search engines have allowed web self-service to become mainstream, and customers are gladly ditching the frustration of long hold times and inconsistent support staff experiences characteristic of phone-based support for all but the most complex problems.

The report argues that companies need to quickly adopt best practices surrounding multi-channel support strategies in order to continue to satisfy the customer’s demands. One of the areas that companies are lacking in is consistently providing context for customers and agents. As the growth of multi-channel support scatters context about the customer’s support history across multiple channels (and perhaps departments, if social media is solely owned by marketing). Without the context, agents lack the insight into the customer’s journey. That means time-wasting, repetitive questions are necessary when customers call into agents for questions they couldn’t answer through web-self-service.

Report co-author Kate Leggett acknowledges “We’re seeing very few implementations that pass the context to the agent. Most companies implement channels in silos or loosely integrate them so the agent doesn’t know what the customer has already done.” 

Along with context, the report finds that the content could be better—or at least, more consistent. According to the report, while most companies provide customers some form of a knowledge or FAQ database, only 44% of companies provide their support agents the same resources.  As customers move to multi-channel support, it is more important than ever to provide a consistent content experience.

At MindTouch, the belief is that web self-service married to context and authoritative content is the key to creating customer success from marketing and sales to support and renewal. As the report notes, web self-service has increasingly become the customer’s preferred channel for support, but a web self-service strategy cannot limit itself to support. Customers turn to Google at every step of the customer journey to learn about your company. Whether they need support, or they’re looking to validate a requirement, or they are looking to learn how to become a better user of your product, web self-service content needs to be able to support the customer throughout the entire journey.

If your web self-service strategy is not meeting the needs of customers throughout the entire customer journey, you are disappointing your current and prospective customers. With MindTouch, you can transform all of the support and product content your organization produces into a search optimized, mobile-optimized experience to meet the needs of customers at every stage of the journey.

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