The Pursuit of Award-Winning Service Improvement: A Case Study from Blackbaud

Blackbaud Support is an award-winning support organization that partners with nonprofit customers in K-12 private and higher education institutions, healthcare, corporations, foundations, and other charitable entities. With 300 passionate individuals on staff, Blackbaud Support empowers clients to achieve mission success, collaborate and solve problems across teams, and serve with heart and excellence. Handling approximately 500,000 contacts per year, Blackbaud Support provides consistently high customer satisfaction (>93%).

What was the situation before the launch of the service improvement initiative?

For years, our legacy support delivery model had been growing older and more inconsistent, and we weren’t using our tools to the fullest. In this same period, Blackbaud acquired several companies that came with their own tools. This resulted in a hodge-podge of tools that was scattered across different systems, with different maintenance and update processes, which added additional administrative burdens to IT. This was especially true for our self-service tools, where content was often duplicated between independent tools, and end-user interest and interaction were consequently low. There was no cohesion, no unified strategy for a sustainable self-service plan that served all products and business units.

What was the improvement strategy?

The goal of our improvement strategy was to provide great self-service tools and self-help content, in addition to giving time back to our clients in the form of call deflection. We focused our efforts on two components: the tools and the content.

Our knowledge base and communities platforms were updated to revive, revise, or create several new content delivery channels, including self-help videos, blogs, webinars, in-product help links, and newsletters. We also introduced ungated search capabilities to allow users to search the content without logging in. As part of the KB implementation, a new method was created allowing users to search the content without a login.

With a new look and feel, and more impressive search capabilities, we focused on the quality of our knowledge articles. Our knowledge base content needed to be proactive, relevant, and useful to the end users in a way that was consumable and valuable. Using data from our ticketing system, ideas bank, client feedback, and other interactions, we cleaned up thousands of articles that were no longer relevant and drafted new content, written in the voice of the client, in the areas of break-fix, how-tos, and service requests.

Which processes and tools had to be implemented, modified, or leveraged to support the improvement strategy? 

  • We had to create additional roles and responsibilities within our current staffing model. For KCS, we established a KCS leadership role, as well as designated knowledge champions and content owners for every Blackbaud product. We also expanded the number of community managers. Initially, those community managers came from our existing staff pool, which meant that some senior analysts took on additional workload.
  • We developed a content strategy for the new platform and hosted Train the Trainer sessions to share best practices with consultants and product contacts to drive adoption and usage.
  • We used the search capabilities in our tool to bridge the knowledge base and communities. Phase 1 linked the knowledge base to the communities in the site navigation; in phase 2, the search engine was linked to the main knowledge base and the communities, enabling it to search for content in all locations simultaneously.
  • We focused on change management, working closely with product managers to create communication strategies that would drive adoption. By introducing the change internally and externally, we ensured the transition would be as seamless and minimally invasive to existing workflows as possible.
  • We refreshed the content in the LMS and opened 86% of the content to the public (i.e., for free), making it easily accessible for self-service.

What organizational changes (cultural, structural, or political) had to be implemented or modified to support the improvement strategy?

As mentioned above, to help with implementation, change management, and future maintenance, we created two new roles: knowledge base champion and knowledge base coach. Later in 2015, due to the overwhelming number of communities and users, we created a community manager role that was an FTE, instead of relying solely on support analysts.

In 2015, Blackbaud also made an investment in the customer experience by dramatically expanding the customer success role. Each business unit hired a COO for Customer success, and professional services, support, and customer success were restructured organizationally to fit under that one umbrella. Customer success managers (CSM) were hired to grow that area of the organization. CSMs are a vital resource for our clients, promoting existing content, and driving clients to self-help throughout the onboarding process into the Blackbaud family.

What were some of the lessons learned?

  • Communication is key. Document every decision to reduce the risk of confusion; prepare test scripts early (as decisions are made and code is written); communicate the right level of detail to customers (design, target dates) and leaders (key decisions and defects, plan for change, etc.); understand and track requirements, dependencies, and dates (improved project planning); and schedule the knowledge transfer as early as you can to enable staff to get hands-on experience before the very end of the project.
  • Give projects the time they deserve and demand. Successful implementations are the result of a compelling vision and close attention to countless details. Each step of the project takes time and energy. Carefully select your project team members based on a combination of their expertise and their workload.
  • Don’t hold on to all your data. Migrating years and years of data to a new platform is daunting. Do you really need information from five years ago? Will that information have an impact? These are the questions you should ask as you decide what data you should migrate.
  • Keep content fresh and updated. Everything has an expiration date. Don’t let your content go stale.
  • Adjust your content schedules as needed. As an example, we had only ten people attend a particular webinar each month. However, when we moved to a quarterly webinar for the same content, we are seeing 60-70 people attend each time.
  • Finally, declutter your content. Whether it’s a PowerPoint, article, or newsletter, declutter the content so that the message you want to convey is easily digestible, with as few links and images as possible.