Wiki This- A Model for Customer Support Using Blogs and Wikis

Blogs and message boards both suffer from the same problem- they are great for presenting emerging information, but poor at organizing it for future reference. The “good stuff�? that people often need and companies often want to capture quickly gets buried among all the comments and messages.

You could say that blogs and message boards are good at managing flows, but poor at managing stocks.

With this post, I’m outlining a potential way organizations can use blogs and message boards as a way to generate useful information and a wiki as a way to filter, archive and organize it for future reference.

The graphic below represents the two-way communication occurring between employees and customers at companies like MacroMedia and Microsoft.

Current Support Model2.gif

These companies are using blogs and message boards to interact with customers regarding their products on an ongoing basis. Often valuable feedback is provided via these resources but as long as it remains in the blog or board, it is quickly buried. The rest of this post focuses on how a wiki could remedy this situation. Not familair with wiki? Read this.

Below is a high level model for how a wiki could be used to capture the most pertinent information posted to blogs. In this case, employees and support staff act as filters, plucking out the best information for the wiki.

flow to stock diagram 2.gif

The blogs get the conversation started and comments keep it going. Throughout the process, support team members, employees or the bloggers themselves look for emerging and valuable information that should be archived in the wiki.

In the situation above, a few key things need to be in place:

  • Everything needs a permalink- every comment, every message. This makes easy referencing possible.
  • Everything should be RSS enabled. This makes the flow easier to manage.
  • The company's representatives must keep up with the flow – this means collectively watching every post and comment via RSS.
  • A convention for using the wiki- a plan for how to collectively manage it on an ongoing basis
  • Efficient Information Management: An efficient way for the support team to move pertinent information from the blog to the wiki.

Building on the last point, time is of the essence. Humans play a central role in this process and there has to be a way to make it easy for a person to move valuable information into a wiki. Here’s one way I see that working:

entry wiki2.gif

Adding the “Wiki This�? link (only visible to company reps) provides a means for moving information to the wiki by copying information to their clipboard (or a specific location) with one click. A support person would just click the “wiki this�? link and quickly place the information in an appropriate wiki page- perhaps a holding pen for future organization.

Managing the Wiki

Obviously, this is still a somewhat manual process. People will have to take time to pluck out the information and organize it in the wiki. I see a few ways to manage this:

Holding Pen: On a daily basis, the team would have a holding pen where team members would dump the information they pluck out of discussions and blog posts. Then a person or team would synthesize that information into wiki pages and more static support resources.

Group Editing: Given a defined convention, the support team could work together to organize the wiki on an ongoing basis. As they pluck information out, they would quickly reorganize the wiki to include their addition.

Ratings or Nominations: The support staff could also use a nomination or ratings system that would enable the candidate wiki postings to be easily collected.

As the support folks add information to the wiki, perhaps they can tag it with a few key words that can bind the plucked posts/comments together.

Taken a step further, the wiki (or Wiki This! ability) could also be opened to the customers. This would bring the valuable perspective of the customer into the mix, potentially creating more relevant and powerful wiki archives.

While this is not a new concept, I hope that it will provide food for thought for those wondering about possibilities for how blogs and wikis can work together.

For me it’s all about matching the tools to their strengths- blogs are great for managing the flow and wikis are great for managing the stock and any combination of the two should play from these strengths.