Most of us have had experiences with customer service professionals who, while we waited patiently (or not) on the phone or online chat, had to hunt down an expert or instruction sheet to answer our question about a product. Considering that it only takes most of us a minute to find out which familiar actor is playing a character while we’re watching a TV show – and then to pull up his entire filmography – this process, in the digital age, seems inefficient.
“Conditioned by Google and an on-demand society where the sum of human knowledge is literally carried around on devices that fit into our pockets,” GP Strategies says, “we have all come to expect answers and information to be available at the point of need.” To respond to this expectation from their customers, sales and other customer-facing roles need instant access to accurate content. In fact, because customers are coming to companies later in the sales cycle, with much more information than they used to, sales and support staff need advanced content more now than ever before.
Tamara Schenk, research director at CSO Insights, writes that salespeople need different content depending on where their customer is in the sales process, from content on a prospect’s business problem to use cases or implementation strategies. This content comes from marketing, product management, sales operations or enablement, legal, finance, and other departments.
Many organizations, according to Rick Nucci, co-founder and CEO of Guru, traditionally have two solutions for sales and support professionals to find information. They have an internal website or wiki, and they have the internal experts, whom salespeople can ask directly. However, both of these solutions have drawbacks. First, the internal site is often not integrated into the tools (whether it’s email, customer support chats, social media or messaging platforms like Slack) that sales and support staff are using when they need the information. Second, the site is often unclear about who added or updated the content and how up-to-date it is. Finally, it’s inefficient and often disruptive for a sales rep to hunt down a product expert and ask him or her a question during a call with a prospect.
Nucci believes machine learning is the answer, and Guru’s recent Series A funding round seems to support that belief. Guru plans to use the funding in part to continue developing the machine learning capabilities the company launched this summer.
Guru’s technology uses a browser extension to become a sales team’s “knowledge base,” according to Nucci. It’s integrated into the tools the sales and support staff are using to communicate with prospects and customers, so they can use it simultaneously. For example, by inviting a bot into a Slack conversation, users can access knowledge in Guru while chatting with a teammate. It also uses a verification engine to automatically remind the content authors – at an interval they define – to either verify the content or update it, as needed. With machine learning, Guru plans to learn from user interactions and proactively suggest content based on user and situation.
Nucci says Guru’s customer base (which has grown from 86 paying customers in September 2016 to 330 as of last week) has seen improved productivity thanks to Guru. Intercom, a software company, reports that its customer support agents have decreased their response time by 60 percent. Shopify, an e-commerce software company, previously used an internal wiki and now uses Guru for its content. The company’s agents use Guru five times as much as they used the wiki, suggesting that customers are getting answers to their questions potentially more quickly and more accurately.
Tips for Using Technology to Deliver Sales Content
The biggest tip Nucci has for sales teams is to make purchasing decisions selectively. He says he’s talked to sales leaders who have many tools for their sales professionals, not all of which are being used. What they often say is, “We have this tool,” not “We use this tool,” Nucci says, pointing out that “customer success and adoption is a big problem.” When considering a sales enablement or training tool, make sure the supplier can demonstrate the value of the tool. Then, once you’ve adopted a tool, make sure you can identify how – and how often – your team is using it.
Regardless of what platform you’re using to store and deliver content, make sure it’s all in one place. Nucci says he’s seen a lot of companies where “it’s beholden on the rep” to manage a list of links to various types of content. “Give them one place to go,” he says, so they can find what they need, when they need it.
Your content curation strategy should ensure that the learner experience is based on the learner’s role, provides the options for learners to select the content they need, is time-sensitive and is in the context of “a connected network,” according to GP Strategies. Nucci adds that technology supports the ability to track what information your reps are accessing and at which points in the buying cycle they’re accessing it. What are reps looking for? Are they starting to search for a new competitor? If so, maybe it’s time to add some information on that competitor to your knowledge base. Use these types of data points to inform content decisions.
Nucci also recommends investing “in the people who are thinking about this stuff all the time,” whether that’s sales enablement professionals or knowledge management or content directors. These professionals will ensure that as the sales team grows, your “497th salesperson [is] as strong … as your 12th salesperson.” After all, that’s what it’s all about: making sure that no matter how experienced the employee is, they have the information they need to ensure an excellent customer experience.