chefs  at  work in  a  restaurant  kitchen
PHOTO: Michael Browning

Enterprise search satisfaction is not a common metric used to gauge a search platform's efficacy. Yet if I asked you to think about your favorite restaurant, my guess is you would not continue to patronize one if it ignored customer concerns and failed to act on them. So why should search be any different?

In a recent CMSWire webinar on enterprise search satisfaction, I used this metaphor of a favorite restaurant to argue why businesses should be showing more interest in search satisfaction and how they could go about improving it. 

We choose our favorite restaurants because, on balance, they provide a very satisfactory experience. Of course, no restaurant is perfect, and from time to time some part of the meal may not measure up to the usual standard. However, we usually take the long view and continue to suggest to our family and friends that they too will have a very satisfactory meal. The flip side is when we have a really poor experience, our trust in the restaurant plummets. Even if you are skeptical about online reviews, you're probably still unlikely to choose a restaurant with just two stars for a big family celebration.

The same is the case with enterprise search. Once someone has had a really bad experience trying and failing to find a very important piece of information, the chances of them using the application again are remote.

Measuring Search Satisfaction

To continue with the theme, no one (other than perhaps a health inspector) walks into a restaurant with a digital thermometer to measure the temperature of the coq au vin or uses a colorimeter to measure the color of the Ile Flottant. One of the problems with managing enterprise search is that organizations can easily end up with a vast array of Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint graphics filled with data, but sadly these data points do little to demonstrate search satisfaction.

During the webinar I asked participants about the actions they were taking to assess search satisfaction. The rounded-up numbers are shown in the graphic below.

do  you survey about search satisfaction poll

Only 20% of responding organizations are currently taking action to measure and improve search satisfaction. Again, I ask you: how long would a restaurant survive if it took no notice of customer complaints? Why should search applications be any different?

Related Article: How Satisfied Are Your Employees With Search?

Gordon Ramsay and Search Satisfaction

While you may have opinions on British chef Gordon Ramsay, one thing that cannot be disputed is his passion for customer satisfaction. This video shows what happens when a chef delivers superb food. A recent UK television documentary showed Gordon Ramsey at work in his restaurant in the Savoy Hotel, London. Although the hotel has very high standards for quality, he still found ways to make improvements.

In the end it does not matter what we may say to our friends over a less-than-brilliant meal or a meal that goes way beyond 5 stars. We need to make sure that the chef is aware of our opinions and can take action. When I interview search users at an organization, I always ask whether they know the name of the enterprise search manager. The majority of people cannot come up with the name, or talk about the team supporting the IT Help Desk as a fall back.

Every enterprise search application needs a search manager who is passionate about delivering the highest possible levels of search satisfaction, and who spends time each day talking to people in the organization about their experience and expectations for the application.

Related Article: Wanted: Information Specialists for Search Management Roles

Getting Search Onto the Agenda

In my experience the best way to get useful feedback about an enterprise (or intranet) search application is to ask team leaders to add an agenda item to a regular meeting (say once every three months) to discuss whether enterprise search is delivering or obstructing the discovery of information and knowledge. Just a 10-minute slot will surface many comments and suggestions. Ideally the search manager themselves should attend the meeting. This is of course much easier with the current virtual team environment than it might have been in the past, especially for multi-national organizations.

I suggest this approach for four reasons:

  • The comments will be within the context of the work and objectives of the team.
  • Members of the team will appreciate the commitment of the search manager to helping them achieve business and personal (career) objectives.
  • The impact of any changes made based on the feedback can be assessed in subsequent meetings.
  • Undoubtably there will be some success stories. Use these to promote the value of the search application and justify additional investment in the search team to make the best of the current application.

Why not start this process with a meeting a day next week? It will give you a great feeling of satisfaction.