Interview: Simon Yelsky of RightAnswers Talks about the Future of Knowledge-Based Customer Support

Photo: Simon Yelsky, vice president product management and marketing, RightAnswers Photo Credit: Courtesy RightAnswers

Simon Yelsky, vice president product management and marketing, RightAnswers | Courtesy RightAnswers

RightAnswers, an Edison-based tech company in business since 2001, is innovating its way to the future of support. 

The knowledge-based company employs about 50 people in New Jersey, and has offices in the U.K. and India, as well as sales locations on the West Coast and in the Midwest.

RightAnswers is a B2B business, supplying customer-support infrastructure to companies that need to provide tech support to their clients or customers.

Its vision includes support in an era when billions of objects are connected together in an Internet of Things. The company’s executive team asked themselves, “How will support operate when the Internet of Things breaks down?”

According to Simon Yelsky, RightAnswers vice president, product management and marketing, when things go wrong in the Internet of Things, users will be able to expect proactive support.

“Instead of you, as an end user, having to search a site, we imagine that the site is going to connect instantly to a service that would provide proactive support. This support would be handled electronically, and talk the end user through the steps of a solution.”

Some RightAnswers customers have been building knowledge bases that can adapt to events in the Internet of Things. So when a device fails, alarms go off; and as soon as that happens a pre-built answer goes to the agent.

The agent sees the alert and has an answer ready for the caller. The next step, Yelsky said, is to use this knowledge hub directly, so when there is an alert, the hub can send a repair protocol directly to the user or even directly to the device, so it can repair itself.

Yelsky believes that the company is well-positioned to provide that knowledge and to be the responsive support platform that businesses could plug into.

 “The company has always focused on knowledge and improving customer service through online resources, including website and mobile. We’ve also focused on the call center, to make it easier for people who don’t have much knowledge to answer customer questions.”

RightAnswers has progressed since its inception, creating a number of new, unique strategies for providing customer support.

For example, answers these days come in a variety of shapes and sizes. “We’ve evolved into video-based answers, helping our customers create quick videos. Then we’ve developed decision-tree answers, where the customer service rep triages the problem with a Q&A.”

The decision trees have to be very engaging and easy to use, something a nontechnical person could understand, he added.

One of the problems RightAnswers is tackling by building tools is: How can they know what is missing in the answers a company provides?

In the world of support, things change all the time, Yelsky explained. “When that happens, no one has the answers. When Windows 10 came out, nobody knew Windows 10 and people needed answers. So we’ve built tools for a product that can figure out what answers are missing.”

The company is using gamification to help its customers build repositories of knowledge within their firms. RightAnswers gamification propels customer service agents to contribute to the knowledge base and improve the quality of its content, resulting in an up-to-date knowledge base that can better resolve customer issues.

Companies using gamification assign points to behaviors they want to promote, such as authoring an article that would be helpful to others, updating a knowledge article, sharing knowledge with peers, using social forums, and so on. Each agent’s dashboard shows that agent’s score, as well as the highest score among all agents, to add an element of competition.

A feature called “Automated Quality Concept,” introduced this year, lets companies evaluate the quality of the answers they’re giving. It addresses the questions, “Could normal people understand the answer? Could my grandmother understand it?” The feature allows a company to set up rules that trigger alarms throughout the system as answers are entered, to avoid cloudy thinking.

RightAnswers wants to provide answers from unconventional sources, and some of that work will be incorporated into a product that will be introduced by the end of the year. For example, Peter Chmiel, product manager, who is a familiar face in the New Jersey tech community, has been working on a tactic involving the use of social media boards that provide answers, and then incorporating those answers into the RightAnswers knowledge base.

Customers that already have knowledge bases will be able to integrate social media community members’ answers into their own systems. RightAnswers says that it can’t stop the flow of communications on the Web, but it can identify accurate and pertinent user-generated  information for inclusion in its knowledge base. “The formal answer goes under strict review and you get a high quality answer out,” Yelsky said.

Call centers are expensive to run, Yelsky explained, and you want to deflect those costs as much as possible. One way to do this is to enhance self-service. Another way is through community, and RightAnswers is building tools for this.

 “If we can make a happy customer and avoid an unnecessary call, that’s our goal,” said Yelsky.

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