Guess what the number one thing on Google’s Ten Things We Know to be True is? User experience. Music to our humble ears, as you might have guessed; but it’s also a guiding principle in our approach to self-service support.

Though there are many aspects to good self-service strategy, search remains principle among them. Specifically, the search experience. According to a McKinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours every day—that’s 9.3 hours per week, on average—searching and gathering information. And 87% of smartphone owners turn to search first in a moment of need. What does this data indicate?

When people need help, they tend to turn to search engines. The reason is simple: when done right, search can be the quickest way to find an answer, more information, or a solution.

What is Search Reporting and Why Bother?

The ubiquitous tendency toward search gives immense weight to the data around how users search for content. What are they searching for? Which terms are they using? What content is showing up in the search results for a given term?

Search reporting is the process of monitoring search behavior data to find actionable insights that can help improve the user experience. In the context of self-service, this data can help you identify content gaps and inform search tuning (more on these later). Many modern knowledge management solutions include some kind of search reporting function right out of the box.

Search reporting is the process of monitoring search behavior data to find actionable insights that can help improve the user experience.

Why is this relevant to you? Well, plenty of knowledge base search experiences are … well … bad. The search results are muddled or incomplete. Synonym and misspelling detection are non-existent. Dated, irrelevant content is served up in the search engine result pages.

Bad search experiences can have a number of direct and indirect consequences:

  • Increases the effort needed for internal and external agents to find the help content they need
  • Negatively impacts customer success KPIs like customer satisfaction, NPS®, and CES
  • Causes customers that would have otherwise self-served to call in to customer support
  • Increases ticket volume and customer support costs
  • Hampers ticket deflection initiatives
  • Weakens brand image

What Does Search Reporting Do?

A healthy search reporting function, on the other hand, can be a data goldmine. Here’s a few things that search reporting can help you do:

  • Understand what content people are searching for
  • Identify improper phrasing in help content and search tuning
  • Provide insights into how users filter and facet
  • Help improve search recommendations
  • Identify the most used content, the least used, and who is using it
  • Identify search terms with limited or no results
  • Inform content gap analysis

Identifying content gaps is an especially important outcome of search reporting. Documentation or knowledge gaps have the uncanny ability to quietly increase customer effort. Search reporting can provide new insights into what content is missing, what content you need to create, and what content you need to update, all backed by automated, concrete data.

An Essential Tool in the Digital Transformation Toolbox

In the spirit of aligning with Google’s philosophy on the end user (and our mild obsession with lowering customer effort, of course), the search experience is an apt place to start. While search reports are certainly a key part of these efforts, search data is empty if you don’t act on it. Digging into this data and using it to inform content strategy can be the difference between a successful, effective knowledge management solution, and one that increases customer effort and drags down your support KPIs.

It’s also important to remember that, while search is an important part of any self-service strategy, it is not a replacement for good information infrastructure. It’s just a supplement to the other ways users find the content they need. Ultimately, search reporting should be part of a company-wide push to get to know the user better. This kind of direct engagement is, after all, central to any digital transformation. And that’s what we’re after, right? Meeting users where they are and helping them find the content they need to solve their problems.

Additional categories: Customer Experience, Knowledge Management