Data is a gold mine for most brands. But reality is, for the majority of brands, it’s a mountain they haven’t yet figured out how to dig into to find the valuable nuggets.
Having data these days doesn’t set you apart from anyone or anything — and doesn’t guarantee that you’re understanding your customers or your business any better if you don’t spend the time trying to understand what data you have, what data you need, and how to learn from it to make things better. Whether it be understanding marketing campaign success, buying behaviors, or how content is being consumed, data can be a game changer for brands who are willing to spend the time.
For most brands, a website is the first interaction when beginning what one hopes to be a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship between brand and customer. Brands pour millions of dollars and endless resources into their websites: constantly updating the look and feel, investing in content creation and marketing, and making the most of search technology.
In the cases of SurveyMonkey and MapBox, data has been a pillar of customer loyalty and success. For one, to transform the way they provide customer service, and for the other to help differentiate customer type, identify needs and build a specifically tailored content experience.
SurveyMonkey and MapBox rely on smart site search technology from Swiftype, a San Francisco-based start-up (now an Elastic company) that has built an entire business on creating a smarter search box and the supporting data. I chatted with Swiftype, SurveyMonkey and MapBox to get a better sense of how website — specifically search data has transformed the way they view customer relationships, and what they learned specifically to make smart, strategic content decisions.
Steve Olenski: Why is important for brands to care about providing customer self-service through search and content?
Matt Riley (Co-founder and CEO, Swiftype): According to the Harvard Business Review, 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative. Customers prefer self-service and the cost of not providing high-quality customer service is very high. In fact, news of bad customer service reaches twice as many people as praise for good service, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. Furthermore, it is 6 to 7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.
It’s a no brainer to develop an excellent customer support experience as part of a bigger customer loyalty strategy. The hard part is implementing an effective strategy. A search bar is a straightforward and flexible way to deliver great customer service at scale — as the vast majority of web site visits are driven by search for something specific. After serving up the best, most relevant results to visitors, you have the opportunity to lead them to other useful content they didn’t know they cared about. The longer they stay on your site, the higher value you become, leading to improved customer experience and relationships.
Deanna Horton (Senior Content Strategist, SurveyMonkey): As we continue to grow our business, the help center becomes key to scaling our excellent customer service to 40 million customers and growing. And it’s working! Over 96% of people who visit our help center view content and don’t end up contacting support.
We also believe it’s important to keep in mind customers usually come to a company’s help center when they’ve run into a roadblock. If your content creates additional barriers, you miss an opportunity to build trust. The experience of searching for help is a crucial part of the customer journey and sometimes is the only support a customer receives. That’s why we’re focused on understanding how customers engage with the help center, so we can act on that data to keep making the content better and better.
Olenski: Speaking of content, what role does it play in creating online experiences that matter? How are you using data to create smart content strategies?
Rafa Gutierrez (Lead Support Engineer, MapBox): As we look to meet the needs of our wide array of users, we want ensure a streamlined and tailored experience that gives users fast access to relevant documentation so they can make the most of their use of Mapbox technology.
We dive into our metrics dashboard regularly to look for oddities or patterns that give us insight to how customers are finding the info they need. When customers search for terms that we’re not listing in our glossary or used for keywords in our categories, we can find these and add them to synonyms. For instance, we found a number of customers that would search for the phrase “add marker to map”.
There are a few ways to do this with our tools so we restructured our docs to surface ones relevant to getting started with creating markers on a map. We also added synonyms to capture words that often get conflated with markers on a map like “pins” or “points”.
Lizzie Burns (Content Strategy Manager, SurveyMonkey): Customers come to a help center with thousands of different curiosities, so it’s important to make sure that every piece of information is accessible to them in both search and browse paths. When we rewrote and redesigned our help center in 2015, our goal was to build a self-service content strategy to organize our content and make it easy for customers to find information in as little as two clicks or taps. We consolidated a lot of information that was living in multiple places into comprehensive topic-oriented articles.
Once the new help center launched, we had a cohesive content ecosystem, and our customers started to engage more with the content instead of contacting support. This has allowed us to spend more time optimizing content that resonates with customers. For example, content with both high page views and a high contact rate indicates that lots of people are seeking information on the topic, but they’re still contacting support to get answers.
We analyze support email data and look out for recurring themes, and paying special attention to patterns in the language customers use to articulate them. Then we incorporate that language into our content.
You can really grab people’s attention by matching the way people are actually asking their questions and delight them with how specifically helpful the answer is.
Riley: We know that data can be daunting. There’s a ton of it and not only that, it takes time to figure out how to use it to your advantage. One major way we help our customers make sense of their data is through our search analytics dashboard and weekly emails. Customer search queries are an excellent source of customer insight, arguably the most important (aside from actually buying the product) because they signify customer intent. It’s for this very reason that the Google advertising business is so successful.
Drilling into search analytics further, the main two ways we help our customers make sense of their data is by looking at most popular queries and the most popular queries that return no results. These are relatively simple metrics that actually have a huge impact for businesses – showing them what their customers care about and what gaps they need to fill to continue improving their product offering.
SurveyMonkey’s story is particularly interesting because its commitment to drilling into the data and using it to improve the customer experience is evident. Seeing its data come to life is exciting; they monitor data as it happens and make adjustments along the way to boost activity, or promote content, services, etc.
Olenski: How are you using data to help build content libraries that ultimately highlight customer voice?
Horton: Listening to customers is core to who we are as a company. To make impactful data-driven improvements to self-service content, we listen to our customers by determining what they’re writing to support about and using our findings to inform new content that answers those questions. At the end of the day, you can’t answer someone’s question if you don’t know what their question is.
We recently reviewed customer support trends and patterns by analyzing over 3,000 customer emails and were blown away by how many distinct trends and patterns we uncovered. We specifically focused on emails that present the best self-service opportunities, which we defined as emails in the most common topic areas that were resolved with only one or two replies from our customer support team.
If a customer’s question can be answered that efficiently, it can likely be solved by self-service content and represents our biggest opportunity to make a measurable impact with content improvements. These findings are helping us create new targeted help center content in our contact experience, so customers get can instant answers, allowing them to get back to their survey project as fast as possible.