Volkswagen Group Sweden has been using ComAround’s web-based self-service feature for more than a year now as a step before first line support. This is known as zero level support. The biggest challenge involves changing the behaviour of users.
Volkswagen Group Sweden is the country’s biggest importer of cars and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, the biggest car manufacturer in Europe. The company markets Volkswagen cars, VW commercial vehicles, Skoda, Seat and Audi.
zero level support at Volkswagen Group Sweden currently helps around 700 users at head office in Sweden, the warehouse and customer such as Eurocard and airports.
- I view zero level support as a huge FAQ which makes life easier for our first line support and allows users to find their own answers,” says Mats Dragon, Service & Support Manager at Volkswagen Group Sweden. Our intention is for users to get help from our online support service in the first instance.
Volkswagen Group Sweden has previously provided information and guides on its Intranet and Extranet. Mats Dragon is of the opinion that it is important to produce a strategy concerning what information should be available from zero level support and the Intranet/Extranet.
- We chose ComAround so that we did not have to construct our own FAQs, so that we could apply simple searches and so that we could use free guides on packages such as Office that we would not have to maintain ourselves. We also produce our own guides using the tools, but these require maintenance. It is important to listen to users when they indicate what they need.
The IT department is made up of 30 people: seven of them work on the Service Desk, which handles first and second line support, and people who deal with authorisation issues.
- The IT department should not bear responsibility for all zero level support, according to Mats Dragon. The idea is for the business operations to take responsibility for the issues relating to this field. We are taking small steps forwards.
Volkswagen Group Sweden has recently launched ComAround’s latest of its web-based self-service feature, known as ComAround Zero™. Getting the new service up and running is one of the challenges which the company faces at present.
- “The biggest challenge we have faced since we brought in zero level support involves changing the behaviour of users, persuading them to want to take a look at zero level support,” reckons Mats Dragon.
This blog article is based on an interview with Mats Dragon, IT Service & Support Manager at Volkswagen Group Sweden.
We would like to know all about your experiences of zero level support and web-based self-service. There is also a discussion thread on LinkedIn.
To find what one is looking for as quickly as possible – findability – is a vital issue for most computer users. But how do we help the users to achieve the best possible results through their searches? At ComAround we are pulling out all the stops in the development of our most recent platform Zero; our solution to optimising this search function is to use the search engine Apache Solr.
In the ongoing development of our self-help service ComAround Zero, the search function is a high priority part of the platform. With previous versions it has sometimes been difficult to achieve optimum search results, something which many users have pointed out. We are now responding to this through implementing the Apache Solr search engine which considerably enhances the user experience.
The main focus of my own work as Content Manager at ComAround is responsibility for the production of the guides presented in the platform. But, naturally, it is not sufficient to have a good content. We must, of course, also deliver a search function which assists the users to find the content being looked for.
Difficulties in searching
One of the difficulties in searching through large data volumes is that the search engine does not “understand” what the user is looking for. A common way of attempting to solve this problem has been, until now, to present an advanced search formula, often called “Advanced Search” or something similar. The main idea behind this method is to carry out a filtration before the actual search query is made. However, it has been shown that this does not produce the desired result since the user frequently ends up in a blind alley. The problem is this: it is frequently hard to make the right query and therefore hard to get the right answer!
Faceted search – enhanced capabilities
With Apache Solr, the approach to this problem is the so-called faceted search which enables one to filter the search results. This means that the user, besides the list of hits, also obtains a list of different search result properties, so-called facets.
A facet may, for example, be a certain type of guide. By clicking on one of the alternatives presented e.g. text guide or video guide, the search results are limited so that only the selected guides are shown. With each characteristic or feature are shown the number of hits on this – so the user knows what to expect before a click is made to continue. It is also possible to combine different facets. An example of this is to show all text guides for Word 2010 that relate to tables.
The greatest advantage with facets – and what distinguishes them from the advanced search formula mentioned above – is that the user is only presented with those options that really deliver hits. Another difference is that the filtration is carried out after the user has made the search query. This means that the user never ends up in a blind alley and the search process more resembles a flow.
Advanced language support
With advanced language support, the precision in the search results is further enhanced: a search for the word “write” also produces “wrote” and “written”. This is particularly important in Swedish since it contains many irregular inflections. This functionality becomes extra powerful of course since it can also be used on compound words.
Help with spelling
Another important element in the search engine’s function is to pick up the user’s spelling mistakes and deal with these. An example of how this can be done is to ask the user the counter-question “Did you mean……?” In this way the search precision is further enhanced and the unsatisfactory search results are minimised.
Byusing Apache Solr, the search function in ComAround Zero will offer wider possibilities than in previous versions of the platform.
What are your experiences of the performances of the various search engines? Which problems, solutions and particular needs are to be found in your organisation or at your workplace? Please comment on this blog and contribute your own experiences and reflections on this issue!
In this blog article I intend to point out and describe certain of the most important improvements in the end-user interface (as opposed to the administration interface) made in connection with the development of ComAround Zero™. Our watchword and our ambition for the new service is to offer help to users fast, when they need it and on their own terms, wherever they might be.
The content, in the service we offer, consists of three different types of guides for solving simple problems or answering commonly occurring questions. We offer text and video guides as well as online training programmes, or interactive guides as they are also called. The number of guides and when they become available comprise the quantity in our content delivery. The design of the guides in respect of language and setup as well as how they are displayed comprise the quality in our content delivery.
The accessibility to the content is determined by the web application functions e.g. good search engines and easily navigated menus and not so much by the content in itself. The main purpose of the web application is, of course, to make the content accessible and we place great emphasis on accessibility when now building the next generation of our self-service system: ComAround Zero™.
Offering help to the user fast
One of the most important changes we deliver in ComAround Zero™, compared with earlier versions, is that we have introduced a horizontal menu instead of a vertical one. This facilitates navigation for the reader, offers more space for the content and also ties together the navigation and the content in a really good way. The improved menu enables users to find the right guide and the solution to their problems more quickly. Here you can find a more detailed article on the advantages of a horizontal menu.
Above you can see an example of the horizontal menu in ComAround Zero™.
When the user needs it
A further, at least equally important, change which comes with ComAround Zero™ is a new search function, based on the Solr search engine. The new search function is central to ensuring access to the entire range of content since all content cannot be reached directly via the menu – in that case it would be far too extensive. The search function is thereby an essential complement to the menu. To search for what one wants to find an answer to is also the user’s most probable way into the content; for this reason we have drawn attention to the search function and placed it centrally in its own large area. The speed of the search function is also something that affects accessibility to a very high degree and something we very much focus on.
Here is the input field and button for the search function in ComAround Zero™.
On the user’s own terms
Where the display of guides is concerned, we have updated the design in ComAround Zero™ but also retained what has been proven to work really well. For example, text guides are presented in step-by-step format with the introductory text “This is what to do:”, exactly as in earlier versions. An important new function is that we can show a text guide with associated video guide on the same page, and also link time periods in the video to specific steps in the text guide.
Above you can see a user guide page in ComAround Zero™. This guide is presented using both text and video. The video is then paused for 10 seconds, and this moment in the video is linked to step two in the text guide. The step shown in the video is marked in the text guide.
Wherever the user might be
Where content and accessibility are concerned, a further significant improvement is that ComAround Zero™, in its entirety, now uses the latest standards for the web: HTML 5 and CSS 3. The video player also is built in HTML 5. The advantage here is that all mobile devices, such as iPhone and iPad, support the capabilities of HTML 5. Earlier versions of the service used Flash and Silverlight for showing videos which had not worked well on many mobile devices.
My name is Conny Sandström. Since the beginning of 2012, I’ve held the post of CTO which includes responsibility for all technical developments at ComAround. We are now in the process of building the new generation of web-based self-service which we call ComAround Zero™.