We often think of search results as a list of links to documents or webpages. The more precise and relevant the better. But that’s not really what most users want or need. Rather, what they need is an answer to a question. This is where the findability game is going.
Do you use Apple's Siri application?
“When you ask “Any good burger joints around here?” Siri will reply “I found a number of burger restaurants near you.” Then you can say “Hmm. How about tacos?” Siri remembers that you just asked about restaurants, so it will look for Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood.”
Ok, now envision using something like Siri for your customer self-service, knowledge management, or enterprise search applications. “Will you pre-approve my loan application?” “Sorry, we can’t because your credit rating is below our threshold;” Or, “Which form do I use to change my medical insurance plan?” “Click on this link to access the form you need to change your insurance plan.”
The technologies are now available to make search a more effective conversation. In a way, search has always been a conversation – but one in which neither the searcher nor the search system are very eloquent: The searcher enters a vague search term and the system responds like a self-centered bore at a party rambling on about all sorts of irrelevant information.
Searchers are always going to enter very little information about their query. It is the goal of the search system to ask the searcher what they mean, to probe about their intent or to present possible choices both before they search and throughout the process of reviewing results.
Upping your findability game is going to require three major elements. First, you will need to do a better job understanding the intent of user questions. Second, you will need to be able to retrieve precise answers to questions – rather than force users to search for their answer within the body of a document. Finally, as the consumer comes to expect natural language transactions, you will need to integrate search with speech.
If you are ready up your game, it’s time to begin the transition to providing answers not search results.
For a look at how we use information architecture to design and build an Intelligent Virtual Assistant download our white paper: Making Intelligent Virtual Assistants a Reality. In this paper we show how to deploy intelligent applications in your enterprise to achieve real business value.