Interview with Bruce Eicher – Part Two

This is part two of the interview with Bruce Eicher, Vice President of Guide Care at ChaCha.

In this part of the interview, Bruce tells me about how ChaCha deals with its biggest challenges, what ChaCha guides do well at, what they have the most trouble with, the site’s registration process, and how they ensure quality.

Question: How are you dealing with that [the training] challenge?
Answer: The processes we’ve put in place over the past three months have enabled us to get a much tighter control over the quality. We’re not where we want to be. If you are ever what you want to be, there is no reason for you, right?

The thing that we are looking at right now is refining and testing our filtering processes – that is a big thing. When we add people into the system through registration, we want to use our filtering process to make sure we have the right person – both for them and for us. We try to be very honest with them about the potential and the job. We try to make sure we are not confusing them with maybe this is something that anyone can do. This is something you do because you want to do because you are involved and want to help people do searching. It isn’t a full time position for anyone. It is a way to earn some extra money. But again, we just can’t have anyone do it.

The biggest thing I look at every single day is how we can implement a scalable QC (quality control) process that is fair to our guides and provides the quality results to our info seekers coming in from the outside – the people looking for information.

Question: What do you think ChaCha guides consistently do well at?
Answer: I would say they are a diverse group. One of the things that I have seen is that they have been able to work with people online and focus in on what they are looking for. In a lot of cases, when people are looking for a search, they don’t necessarily give them a complete answer. The first thing the guides have to do is clarify what the real question is. In Internet speak, people don’t give you much detail. They abbreviate things.

People have learned a lot better to clarify quickly and get to the point. They make sure they are providing accurate information quickly. That way, they can provide an accurate answer quickly.

That is what we have been really training our guides on.

Question: What do you think ChaCha guides seem to have the most trouble with?
Answer: Probably with certain people, there have been issues with being professional and polite. When we first started out, we had problems with people who were not serious when they came in to search. Some searchers would try to game or prank the guides. Our guides got frustrated with that. We’ve implemented several tools for them to be professional, yet end those sessions quickly so it doesn’t affect them negatively. We try to be very clear about how to handle those situations. We’ve put guidelines in place that say spend a certain amount of time and if they can’t clarify the valid search, then disregard it. But again, they must be professional and polite regardless of who the searcher is.

In customer service, you know the easiest thing we can do is keep a customer. It is much harder to gain a new customer than lose the existing ones.

Question: Why was the registration process implemented for people who want to use a guide to search?
Answer: It’s two fold. One reason is to be able to monitor people coming in and pranking guides.

Secondarily and probably the largest thing it is – once we implement premier services for account users, such as the capability to access expert guides in expert areas or in the case of academic alliances, searchers will have access to university guides like librarians who may be experts in certain areas. That is a potential. And lastly, I don’t know of any Web 2.0 sites that don’t require users to log in. We just needed to implement some of these controls.

Question: Besides the simple survey at the end of the chats, what does ChaCha do to collect feedback and ensure quality?
Answer: We have an internal process group that goes through and monitors the chat sessions. What we have found is that the accuracy on the external rating is okay, but the ratings vary a lot. We have certain criteria that we look for and monitor. In fact, anybody that has done a chat for the week will have a spot check of monitor of X amount of their searches.

What we are trying to do is implement the quality piece into this. It is something we’ve done on an informal basis here over the last two to three months. But now we are actually trying to go through a much more defined process.

In addition to the live query searching, we also have a service coming out with SMS queries. With SMS queries, users can text a message and a guide will pop on and reply with the information requested. That is a one time chance – users ask a question and they get the answer. It isn’t so much an interactive live query. They are two different types of processes.

So we have the survey, which gives guides a rating for the query itself. In addition to that, internally we have a group that goes through and analyzes the quality of the sessions.

We want the guides to be professional, yet we also don’t want them to be “chatty.” We don’t want “Internet speak” and we want to get to the point. Most people are there to get a question answered.