File search engines provide an effective method (requiring little manual effort) to quickly find matching words in many different file structures.  They, however, are not effective in getting users to answers or causing the information being searched to naturally evolve based on usage and requests for assistance from support staff. 


File Search Engines and the Fuze Suite
Our customers commonly have information relevant to supporting members/customers and staff in files external to the knowledge base (KB). These files may be Web pages, Word documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, etc. As such, it is sometimes asked why using a search engine to search these files is not sufficient for meeting the support needs of members and staff.  
File search engines are indeed readily available that reside on your network servers and periodically crawl and index different file types. The types of files indexed vary based on the search engine. Once indexed, users can search these files using various criteria, and files that match the criteria will be displayed. Words matching the search criteria are also often highlighted in the file once it has been selected from the files displayed in the search results. The capabilities of file search engines vary widely as do their costs.
Using a file search engine on existing files is appealing since no manual activity is required to enable searching these files. Conversely, creating and maintaining items in your knowledge base does take some effort. So why is it worth the effort over just using a file search engine?
  1. Answers are needed, not just information: When external users come to your Web site or get support from staff, they are generally busy and expect getting answers to their questions quickly. As such, staff that support them must have fast access to the same answers available online. Even when dealing with internal issues, staff need to get to answers rather than being left to search through (and interpret their answers from) procedures or policies. Since the Fuze knowledge base provides a central place for Public and Private questions and answers as well as topics and articles, staff and members/customers can quickly get to the same answers in the same place. You also have total control over who can see what, so that external users and staff have access to some of the same information, and other information is only available to staff, or possibly even specific staff.
  2. Knowledge base naturally grows as a natural part of support process: The Fuze Suite provides several tools that facilitate collaborating among support staff and subject matter experts to respond to inquiries not already addressed in the KB. Once the response is developed and sent to the user, the information is posted to the KB, causing it to naturally grow with pertinent information. In addition, users are able to rate and provide comments on knowledge items, which are routed to appropriate staff and enable KB items to quickly evolve based on feedback. The Fuze knowledge base content is a continually evolving and improving repository of knowledge, providing much more than simply access to static files.
  3. Fast access to related information: Users viewing knowledge items are also presented with other related information. The related information may be other knowledge items or any external file and provides the user with other valuable information.   A well-constructed knowledge base anticipates a user’s intention for needing a particular piece of information and provides other information that is relevant to their inquiry, but often not thought of by the user. Since information can be broken down into small pieces and related as appropriate, broad information can be provided without duplicating information. Note: Links to external Web pages, Word documents, and PDF files containing bookmarks can be linked to a particular section of the file in the Fuze Suite by creating links that include the relevant bookmark.
  4. Better search capabilities using the Fuze Suite: The Fuze Suite provides several features not available in file search engines that make its search capabilities much more effective. Some of the features include:
·        Reporting lets administrators know what terms staff and external users use when searching the KB and if they are finding relevant items, allowing them to add information as required to the KB and to make existing KB items easier to find. 
·        The number of items being searched can be significantly restricted using categories so that users only search relevant sections of the knowledge base. KB items can also be placed in more than one category as relevant, ensuring that users can find information where they think it should be.
·        Synonyms can be added to ensure users can find information using terms they are comfortable with using. Fuze also supports one word to many words when creating synonyms, such as setting IRA as a synonym for individual retirement account. 
·        Reference words can be added to KB items if users have been shown to search for an item using words, or synonyms for words, that are not included in the KB item.
·        Keywords can be placed on KB items to help drive the most relevant items to the top of search results based on search terms used.
·        There are times, especially with larger documents, where you only want some of the words contained in the document included when indexing it for searches. Otherwise, documents will be erroneously included in search results because words in the document are found in searches that really don’t have much to do with the document. The Fuze Suite gives you control over what words are included when indexing documents.
·        Actual usage of KB items impacts their Relevance rating – determining the order search results are displayed -- and more popular items automatically percolate to the top of search results. This is particularly important to allow users to learn from others without even knowing what to search for by browsing categories of information and seeing what others believe is the most important information for the category.   
·        Spelling errors in search terms are automatically identified using “did you mean?” functionality.
  1. Users automatically notified of changes and additions to KB: Knowledge base alerts in the Fuze Suite allow staff and external users to automatically be notified when information is added or changed in the sections of the KB they care about, proactively keeping users informed. Users sign up for the KB alerts they want, and staff can sign up for KB alerts in addition to any that were assigned to them due to their responsibilities. KB alerts for staff can prove to be particularly effective in ensuring staff are aware of product, service, or procedure changes impacting their job responsibilities. 
Conclusion:  File search engines provide an effective method (requiring little manual effort) to quickly find matching words in many different file structures. They, however, are not effective in getting users to answers or causing the information being searched to naturally evolve based on usage and requests for assistance from support staff. 
The Fuze Suite provides a single place to selectively extend information to users based on the type of data and the relationship with the user. It is quite possible that providing a simple file search engine to search procedures, policies, etc. can serve some purpose. However, the effort required to drive out relevant and practical “how to” FAQs, and to relate them to other KB items or external files, is more than worth the effort to create an effective and scalable self-service and assisted-service support channel for all who access it.