The Technology Services Industry Association, or TSIA, offers a wide variety of content to its members in the technology industry. From best practices research and benchmarking studies to webinars and conference materials, a large piece of what the TSIA’s members get for an annual subscription is access to its large knowledge bases.
Stephen Smith, the TSIA’s CFO, said for years the company had used Google Search to index its website. As more and more diverse content was added, both customers and internal research teams were having trouble quickly finding the content they were searching for. Smith said the old system was unable to find the content drawn from multiple sources, behind various walls of security, in different formats like text and video.
Even the original authors of the documents had to go through four or five pages of search results to find what they were looking for, Smith said.
“Our internal teams were getting pretty frustrated, and our customers, our members, were getting pretty frustrated,” he said. “We wanted to be able to categorize content in a number of ways; we wanted to search for things in a free text style, we wanted to be able to have concepts relating to each other and have the system smart enough to find other documents that might be of interest, even if the search terms weren’t exactly the same.”
Smith and TSIA ended up contracting with Coveo to help them solve their search problem; the two companies already had a relationship as Coveo would often have a vendor booth at the TSIA’s events. Smith said the implementation, which went live in February 2013, took less than a month from a signed contract to full production use, and resulted in a 63 percent increase in searches in the first three months, and a 92 percent increase in content downloads over the same period.
In this edited interview, Smith describes the process that led TSIA to choose Coveo as the search partner for its website.
Data Informed: Was there a single event that caused you to realize the depth of your search problem?
Stephen Smith: It was really something that became clear over time. And really, we discovered the frustration internally even more than our members did.
The level of frustration on our internal teams just kept increasing, and we realized that it also had a really big impact on our members from some of the feedback we were getting. It was a culmination of events that happened over a 9 to 12 month period that led us to the understanding that what we had just wasn’t meeting our business needs, and we’re dramatically underserving ourselves and our customers.
Did that lead to a conversation about see what was out on the market, or was there a more directed conversation with Coveo?
Smith: We asked ourselves, “What do we really need to be doing in terms of delivering value to our members, and being able to allow them to find content much more easily than they can today?” So we stepped back and discussed what our real business requirements here are from an internal perspective and external perspective. Once we had defined those, then we really went out and starting doing a search of various vendor tools that could potentially do this.
Ultimately, we really felt that Coveo mapped in to what we were trying to do. We had a relationship with them through our conference business, but I’ll say this candidly and I think they know this as well: that’s not why we chose them.
We could have chosen somebody else. But what it really came down to is we looked at what they could do in terms of organizing our content, getting content from multiple sources, linking content together, it became a great solution for us.
What did Coveo do to rise to the top of potential technologies?
Smith: We met them at our conference, about a year ago, and I told them we were engaging in this process. The first demo I saw with them was well before we made a final selection.
Once we had created our business requirements and mapped all the companies against those, we decided Coveo was going to be it. We had another meeting with Coveo and went over all the requirements so they would understand what we were trying to do, how we wanted to do this in phases and the timeline we were on.
We actually did this under a pretty aggressive timeline. After that first meeting where we said we were going to move forward with Coveo and we signed the contract, we were up and running on a pilot basis in under a week
They had come in and already started indexing our systems, and they put up a pilot service for us so we could test it out, see the results and start tweaking how we wanted different facets of the search to work. Very quickly, we were able to start doing some A/B testing, we could test search terms under our existing Google indexing versus what we were getting under Coveo and then showing how we could adjust relevance and get the kind of results we wanted.
We looked at how to filter by certain research type, or by author, or a particular conference, or whatever it happened to be. As the pilot progressed we realized that this was going to be a great thing. We dedicated the remaining resources we had to get everything moved over to production. I think from the time we signed the contract to when everything was in production, it was less than a month. From my perspective, it was a very quick and easy process for us.
Were there any complexities beyond gauging relevance and matching keywords to getting this up and running?
Smith: Our content is protected by logins, passwords and other security, so when a member company comes in they might search across several disciplines and see all the content out there, but the only content they can actually read is the ones their business subscribes to. We have a very comprehensive security model behind the scenes, and Coveo was actually very effective in integrating our security model so that they can still only access the content that they wanted.
What has been the result? Have you noticed an uptick in the number of members searching for your content now that it’s easier?
Smith: In the first three months after the new site went live, log-ins to search for content increased by 63 percent compared to a year earlier on the old site. Downloads nearly doubled, they had a 92 percent increase.
We’ve seen a continued, sustaining high numbers of people using search and downloads. After the first three months, when we saw that, it was eye-popping. Then I started to get anecdotal feedback from people, saying it was so much easier to find things. That came not only from my CEO and my research team, but from members as well, saying, “Finally, welcome to the 2000s.”
It was a really big improvement, and we’d seen continued success and a lot more people using the site.
Has the success resulted in more membership sales?
Smith: I certainly know that it has an impact on customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, which certainly is going to make it more likely that if it’s an existing member that they’re going to renew. Most people enter into a one year contract.
We’ve definitely seen loyalty go up, and the real test will be probably six or seven months from now, once the system has been up for a full year, when we can start asking how much of an impact this has had on the likelihood to renew. From a business perspective, when people can find things more effectively, then that keeps them engaged.
Do you have any additional plans for Coveo?
Smith: What we’re doing next with them, and we’re just in the process of starting to roll this out, is that we’re a big Salesforce.com user. We run our business on Salesforce.com. We like to use Salesforce as our document manager for all the different parts of the company, for managing content, creating content and editing, things like that.
Coveo integrates with Salesforce for internal search, but we’re actually not using it for that, we’re taking it a little bit differently. What we’re going to do is use their Salesforce plugin to pull results dynamically out of Salesforce and into the real time search results that people are doing on the website. That way we can actually use that as our document manager, and host stuff, and when content is approved it will show up automatically.
We’re going through that right now with them, because with all these sources we have now, we have a content management system (CMS) but a lot of times we’re having to duplicate our efforts. We’ve got a lot of teams that work in Salesforce and do that, and we’ve got to get their content out of Salesforce and into the CMS.
What we’ll be able to do with the Coveo plugin is bypass that entire duplication process and save us a huge amount of effort. We’re piloting that, and its underway now. That plugin is going to pull stuff out of Salesforce and show up on the website search in real time, follow our security model and things like that. That’s going to be another huge benefit for us.
Was this planned from the outset, or was it an afterthought after you saw what Coveo could do?
Smith: The latter. We looked at where all our content was going, and we were doing a big business process review in the company, we realized there was a lot of duplication in this, so let’s see if there are some solutions out there. At the time, Coveo had announced their Salesforce plugin, but if you’ve seen the demo its really for when you’re working in Salesforce. We went back to them and said, “We don’t really want to use it that way, we want to use as our document manager. Can we do that?”
After a couple of weeks, some discussion and negotiations, they said we actually can. We’re thrilled with that, and that’s going to add even more value to the relationship for us.
Email Staff Writer Ian B. Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter .