What is standard industry practice? What are the pros and cons?
Consortium members are all over the map on whether or not to put their knowledge base content out into the world for Google to index. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer or best practice! It really depends on your business model, your customer engagement strategy, and your brand promise. Some members protect everything; customers don’t get access to any information unless they have a service contract. Others make most of what they know openly available to their customers and partners.
My view is: enlightened companies do not charge for (or protect or hide) information that helps their customers be successful with the basic capabilities of the product they purchased. This kind of remedial information is what we would classify as value erosion content. Value erosion occurs when customers can not do what they expected to be able to do with your product or service – or something takes way more effort than they expected. These are the things that disrupt the customer’s ability to get their work done. That distraction erodes the value they realize from your product or service. We want our customers to be successful with our products and services, so making information that minimizes value erosion easily accessible seems to make sense. But wait: aren’t we missing a revenue opportunity by not charging customers for that information? Maybe, but I propose that is bad revenue. You are charging for something your customer expected to get when they purchased in the first place. Charging customers for the information they need to make your product or service work is annoying – and a loyalty distractor.
Good revenue comes from adding value. Value add is the other side of the value coin. Value add is helping customers be more successful with your products and services than they expected. This includes things that increase customer capability and/or reduce their effort. Customers appreciate value add information. Providing value add drives higher levels of loyalty, and loyalty influences the willingness to spend more money with you.
The other consideration is around requiring a sign-in for users for self-service. Independent of whether you chose to require a service contract in order to access information, having users sign-in to self-service can enable you to provide a more personalized experience. It is hard to assess or improve the experience of anonymous users.
So, not all content is equal in the discussion about locking down the knowledge base. A strategy that distinguishes between minimizing value erosion and maximizing value add might be helpful for the discussion.
Join us in Orlando April 19-21 for the annual Member Summit, where we’ll continue the discussion about this and many other topics with members and non-members alike.