The supplier self-help knowledgebase is one of the most over-looked weapons when driving efficiency in Supplier Management – whatever your focus - a self-help knowledgebase portal is the foundation of any supplier self-help initiative.
As I shared in my last blog ‘Five Reasons Your Business Should Adopt Supplier Self-Help’, helping suppliers to help themselves with a good knowledgebase or supplier portal will repay you dramatically with quicker and more accurate interactions with suppliers and flexible, scalable supplier development.
Here are seven tips for optimizing your own knowledgebase or supplier portal using the principles of supplier self-help:
Tip 1: Keep it bite-sized
There’s nothing more frustrating than having to wade through a whole document to find the one sentence which answers your question. A knowledgebase is most successful when suppliers can quickly dip in and out.
Break your materials into small answers around a paragraph or two long. This means that your suppliers can get direct answers to their questions just as easily as if they were asking you over the phone. Your suppliers will thank you by opting to use your knowledgebase over your phone number.
Tip 2: Offer choice of navigation
All of our brains are wired differently. This is particularly true when it comes to searching for information. Not being able to find information in a way that suits a supplier’s individual preference can be an early barrier to them using your knowledgebase and finding the answer to their question. They will then either ask you instead - or worse, not ask at all – and potentially put your organization at risk.
By offering different ways of navigating through the information (for example, 'tree' style, ‘folder’ style or a more ‘Google-esq’ search) you can make sure that, regardless of preference, suppliers use your knowledgebase.
Tip 3: Offer choice of content type
As I’ve covered above, the wiring of our brain drives individual preferences. This includes how we learn most effectively. Many traditional knowledgebases present information in a text-heavy format. This content presentation style not only is pretty disengaging, but also reduces the retention of knowledge for many of your suppliers.
Vary the way you present knowledge and information to maximize the likelihood suppliers will engage with it and retain it. I typically aim to include a process map, diagram or video for each key process. This may be a little more time consuming up-front, but pays dividends longer term because more suppliers can and will get the answers from the knowledgebase.
Tip 4: Link related content
Often an answer will lead to another question. And unfortunately, many knowledgebases force you to go back to the beginning and search again. A small but common frustration which can reduce your knowledgebase’s appeal, and drive suppliers back to calling you for the answer.
Linking together relevant answers will allow suppliers to seamlessly transition from answer to answer, making it as easy as any conversation to get the answers they need. The Engage tool within our Affinity platform goes one step further and learns related content by a supplier's browsing habit. Either way, the supplier's experience is much more positive; they get the answers they need quicker and easier.
Tip 5: Maximise relevance
One common complaint I hear from suppliers is that they have to wade through a mountain of irrelevant information to find what they need. Many even speak of having to decipher conflicting information. This is most common when different rules or processes apply to different retail categories or business units.
This issue can be easily solved by sorting content by category and limiting a supplier’s access to information which is only relevant to them, or allowing them to search by category.
Tip 6: Ask if it helped
Even the best knowledgebase has knowledge gaps or duff answers (answers which don’t really give suppliers the information that they need). This means that the supplier is either going to have to contact you directly or worse, remain ignorant.
By giving suppliers a way to quickly answer 'Yes' or 'No' to the question ‘Was this answer helpful?’, you can identify and improve your duff answers before they start generating extra queries in your inbox or growing the risk of knowledge gaps in your supply base.
Support this by encouraging feedback and the chance to ask further questions through the portal to drive the creation of the new content, keeping the knowledgebase current and relevant.
Tip 7: Remind your suppliers that it’s there
Unfortunately, you’re still going to get direct supplier queries. Sadly, you’re still going to get suppliers who don’t ask at all, and make sometimes dangerous assumptions. However, through consistent reinforcement that ‘this information is available on the knowledgebase’ you can drive consistent supplier traffic to your knowledgebase. Your suppliers get the answers quicker and easier at the point that they need them, and you can focus on more valuable activities.
Stay strong and stay consistent and you’ll soon begin to feel the benefits.
These techniques only scratch the surface of how you can reap the rewards of supplier self-help. Next time I make the case for why you should be using video to supercharge your supplier self-help and increase supplier engagement.