DITA and Findability: Big ROI and Radical Improvements to the User Experience

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Lavacon 2013: Tools & Technology Track

Presenter: Patrick Bosek, easyDITA (Jorsek LLC)

SessionSummary-findabilityDITAPatrick Bosek of easyDITA believes that DITA offers organizational value beyond the tech comm team, and to prove it he presented an unusual case study. The client was a financial services firm (name withheld) that was experiencing a huge quantity of calls to their help center from a small subset of agents. Because these agents generated very little revenue for the company, the client needed a way to minimize the cost of supporting them.

The problem? These agents accessed an online application only infrequently, and   ran into difficulties when they did attempt to use it. While all the necessary information was documented in the “help”, to access it, the agents needed to log out of the application, download a lengthy PDF from another portal, and trawl through it to locate the information. Not surprisingly, the agents opted to call the help center and have someone walk them through performing the necessary tasks in the Web-based application to quote and sell a product.

The cost? The expense of supporting these sales people through the call center ran into the high seven figures. The center was fielding over 2,000 calls a day, and 80% of the calls were from agents who only generated about 20% of the sales. Obviously, this was a scenario that could not be continued in an increasingly competitive market with dwindling profit margins.

The solution? DITA and an innovative delivery mechanism came to the rescue. The vendor  worked with the client to rechunk their existing content migrate it to DITA topics. Stored in a SaaS (software as a service) component content management system (CCMS), the content now is rendered on the fly and served up in an embedded help system.

Now, when the agents enter the new help system – which they can do directly from the application—they encounter an avatar, a representation of a striking woman who resembles Michelle Obama, who offers to help them with any difficulties they might be experiencing. Furthermore, the agents can choose whether they want to read the help content or have the avatar read the instructions to them as they perform actions in the interface. Easily-accessed buttons let the agents pause the vocal delivery or move forward step-by-step through the procedure. The semantic markup in the DITA topics enables the help system to properly render the content in either HTML, PDF, or speech – all according to the preferences of the user.

The users’ ability to get the right help at the right time is further driven by a rich search experience. When the user accesses the help outside of the application (where there is no context to determine what information the user needs), the help system works with terms as provided and returns DITA topics based on keywords in the content, semantic markup in the topics, and the topics association with a custom-built taxonomy based on the DITA 1.2 subject scheme map.

The results? It’s too early to tell, as the new system was only rolled out to the agents in September. But users’ early responses are positive, and the agents seem even fond of the avatar.

This article and all TechWhirl articles on DITA are brought to you by easyDITA, the all-in-one DITA authoring and content management solution at easydita.com.

Kristen James Eberlein

Kristen James Eberlein is the Chair of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee, the standards body that owns and develops the DITA standard. She also is owner of Eberlein Consulting LLC and provides DITA consulting services. Along with Amber Swope, she is authoring a book for XML Press on DITA Specializations.

Read more articles from Kristen James Eberlein