Wikis are Hurting your Customer Service. Here's Why

Wikis are like hammers. They get used for a lot of things they weren’t designed for and end up doing more harm that good.Many companies still rely on wiki software to manage customer support information. Here are 8 reasons that’s a bad idea.

Is a Wiki a Knowledge Management Tool?

Let’s start with what a wiki is and use none other than Wikipedia as a source:

A wiki is a knowledge base website on which users collaboratively modify content and structure directly from the web browser. In a typical wiki, text is written using a simplified markup language and often edited with the help of a rich-text editor. 

Wikis were invented back in the mid 1990s and today, the most famous examples of them are Wikipedia and Atlassian’s Confluence. As with any tool, the question is not what they can do but what problem it is designed to solve. 

For text-based collaboration and easy editing by many users, wikis are good enough. Here comes the “but” though.

Wikis are generally designed with the philosophy of making it easy to correct mistakes, rather than making it difficult to make them.

In customer service, the ability for users to easily enter erroneous information is simply a no-go. 

Why Wikis like Confluence Fail at Customer Support

On the surface, wiki solutions are tempting. The benefits include:

  • A simple user interface
  • Most people know them already (e.g. from Wikipedia)
  • SaaS tool that can be spun up and deployed quickly
  • Browser-based and platform agnostic

But the devil is in the details.

Here’s why you should just say no to wikis:

1. Unreliable Information & No Oversight

Because anyone can edit a wiki, you are guaranteed to have inaccurate and out of date information. Just as quickly as someone can correct it, another can add incorrect information again. There's simply no oversight. 

While wikis usually offer versioning and the ability to track past edits, that doesn’t help an agent on the phone trying to quickly deliver the solution to a customer’s problem. It also does not address the underlying problem.

2. Information Clutter

The open and collaborative nature of wikis may encourage contribution, but it also ends up looking like the garage which you've promised to clean out for years. Wikis naturally encourage excessive article creation and clutter. With no editorial processes, structured feedback or update and review mechanism, that spells disaster for customer support.

Think longer AHT, lower FCR and unhappy customers who can't trust the answers they get. 

3. Sharing Content Is Impossible

Let's be clear: internal sharing is easy. You can simply copy and paste the URL and send it to a coworker. But for customer support, sharing information externally with your customers is crucial. 

Service agents' mission is to deliver the right support information to customers, when and where they need it. That may be via Facebook Messenger, on the phone, iMessage or email. Tools like USU Knowledge Management are designed from the beginning to both organize information but also deliver it to multiple channels in just a few clicks. If your data is stuck on an internal wiki, it's still siloed from your customers.

4. Integrating into CRM & Ticketing Systems

Some wikis offer partial integration, most famously Confluence with Atlassian’s JIRA. However, most do not and your support information remains in a silo separate from your CRM like Salesforce or your ticketing system such as Zendesk or ServiceNow.

When a customer calls and has their problem solves, you want to log that call, problem and solution directly into the case. With knowledge bases that integrate, you can import everything in a single click. That makes it easy to get a holistic customer history and for agents to review past issues and solutions.

5. No Decision Trees

Troubleshooting is the cornerstone of customer support. While wikis offer agents a wall of text to wade through, a knowledge base can create interactive troubleshooting flowcharts (i.e. decision trees) that guide agents step by step through problems.

This ensures consistent processes among all agents and contact centers as well as consistent solutions. It also means that when something changes like a return process, the editorial team can update that decision tree and instantly make it available to the entire team in a few clicks.

Finally, decision trees can be used both by agents but also by chatbots and other self-service options meaning a single process can power multiple channels.

6. Custom Editorial Workflows

You can’t offer fast and accurate support information without quality control. Knowledge bases offer the ability to create custom editorial workflows.

This still enables every user to contribute both new articles as well as feedback to existing ones. However, it guarantees that it first gets routed through a team lead, editorial team or other reviewer before going live. No more second guessing whether what you’re reading is accurate.

7. Multimedia Content Lacking

Customer service is more than just text. Otherwise we could just direct consumers back to website FAQs and be done with it. Sadly, wikis are primarily text-based and depending on your software and setup, users may be limited in adding rich content like images, videos and audio files.

Particularly for customer service, things like audio recordings of customer calls or quick explainer videos are often the most valuable content. Nobody wants to send the customer a wall of text but instead a quick 2 minute video demonstrating how to solve their problem.  The ability to incorporate tables, charts, slides and more is critical. 

8. No Analytics

Interested in:

  • The top searches by your agents
  • Feedback on article quality
  • What searches are yielding no results

A wiki won’t reveal any of that. If you’re running a contact center, you can’t optimize what you don’t know. The ability to track knowledge base usage on a user and department level is critical to identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas for optimization. 

Having second thoughts about your wiki? 


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