The Real Mavens turn corporate

Remember when I mentioned that I was working on a chapter for an upcoming book called The Real Mavens of Social Business, being compiled by Shawn Santos on the topic of social support?

I’m delighted to report that my chapter is complete (happy, happy dance!) And the book has been renamed to a more sedate title: How Companies Succeed in Social Business: Case Studies and Lessons from Adobe, Cisco, Unisys, and 21 More Brands. 

I will keep you updated on the publication schedule, and perhaps treat you to a few excerpts of “my” chapter over the following months…  The chapter is called Social Support Untruths: When Received Wisdom is not Wise, so if there are any particular “truths” about support communities that you’d like to see busted, let me know and I will publish the relevant excerpts in the blog.



Support Website Ideas from the 10 Best Reports

That would be the ASP’s The Year’s Ten Best Web Support Sites report for 2014, for which I was a judge, again, and I am delighted to see that several FT Works clients made it to the list of winners (Cisco Systems, Red Hat, Nokia, Oracle, Schneider Electric, LANdesk). Congrats!

  • The main theme as I was judging the sites assigned to me, and, it seems, for many of the winning sites, was an effort to streamline and simplify search. In the words of the ASP report, “too much content”, but I think it’s really ”not enough smart searching tools”. In many of the sites I worked on, the goal was to provide a federated search mechanism, providing a single point of entry into multiple repositories.
  • Interestingly, many of the entrants mentioned training or retraining their staff to write documents. I’m all in favor of training efforts, but I’m a little concerned that creating potentially inflexible rules about creating knowledge base documents is going to inhibit users and derail KCS efforts. Would love to know about your experiences in this area…
  • I was impressed by the number of entrants using web analytics and direct observation techniques to measure the effectiveness of various layouts and options. We always recommend using quantitative tools to our website design clients, as hunches and personal preferences are not always aligned with the experiences of real-life users.
  • Personalized experiences are much stickier than others. If you can find a way for users to save time by pre-filtering based on their products, for instance, users will use the site more. And, not coincidentally, many sites now start by asking anonymous users to select a product if there are too many to provide a positive visit experience. Good move!
  • Consider real-time, on-demand translation. Intel is reporting that 55-65% of its community traffic is now translated, with 72% of customers reporting satisfaction with the quality of the translation.
  • Look into responsive design, that is, design that automatically adapts the layout to the type of device the user chooses. Nokia reports how it decided to start with the core message, for mobile devices, gradually adding extras for larger displays, to avoid the classic pitfall of un-graceful degradation when proceeding the other way. (FT Works  uses responsive design techniques on the website we create.)
  • Videos are popular with users. Red Hat found that keeping them short makes it easier for users to consume them, and is experimenting with translatable subtitles. How cool is that?

Please share your concerns and ideas about support websites…

And if you’d like a complimentary evaluation of your website, or would like to work with us to improve the functionality of your existing site, please contact me.



My in-box is ringing again with the happy chime of managers looking for that perfect hire… Are you looking for a a hand putting together a strong list of interview questions? (Or perhaps you are the interviewee and want to prepare for possible tough questions.)

Consider using one of our e-books, either Smarter Support Hiring for hiring support engineers, reps, and analysts, or Smarter Support Hiring II – Hiring Support Managers for hiring managers and directors. Both come with a methodology for sourcing, qualifying, interviewing, and reference-checking, and over 500 questions you can use for your next hire. Hire right, and you won’t have to resort to morale-sapping contractor-to-hire practices.

And perhaps you are hiring Customer Success Managers (CSMs) or Technical Account Managers (TAMs). I am working on a new e-book in the hiring series, focused on hiring CSMs and TAMs. It will be available in September and you can preorder it here.

Tell us how you are doing with your hiring efforts.