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TMC Labs
May 2002

e-FAQ 2.2

Interactive Intelligence
Indianapolis, Indiana
Voice & Fax: 317-872-3000
Web: www.inin.com

Price: starts at $10,000 and varies depending on reseller packaging and configuration; volume discounts apply.

Installation: 4.75
Documentation: 5
Features: 4.75
GUI: 5
Overall: A

Everyone has seen the question-and-answer portion of companies' Web sites that is often referred to as a FAQ (frequently asked questions). These FAQs are usually static pages that try to anticipate and answer as many customer questions as possible. Often, though, a potential customer cannot find what he or she needs or wants in the FAQ section, which necessitates a search for more specific information. The customer often becomes frustrated with the search and abandons the query and the Web site altogether. To limit this customer loss, Interactive Intelligence's e-FAQ 2.2 offers an approach that is much more interactive and, therefore, more agreeable to visitors to a Web site or those trying to find information by questioning via e-mail.

Through the e-FAQ knowledge engine, organizations are offered linguistic analysis to clarify incoming questions, quick answers to customers' questions, thousands of automated responses a day, Q&A authoring tools, interactive Web-based self-service with escalation to a live agent, and FAQ and e-mail management. A visitor needs only enter text into a form on the Web or send an e-mail to receive a quick and informative response. TMC Labs looked at this functionality inherent in e-FAQ 2.2 to see how well it all performed.

Configuration Utility
When we first received the e-FAQ server, we were just a bit worried. This was because we heard a lot of rattling coming from within the server, so before we plugged in the power cord, we opened up the lid, shook out four screws that were loose and reattached them in the appropriate spots. Obviously, the server was a victim of rough handling, so we were wary of errors appearing as a result. The Windows 2000 server did boot up. However, the e-FAQ Configuration Utility, which showed the status of the e-FAQ Server and allowed for its configurations, stated that there was an error. Now, a little more concerned, we rebooted the computer, but again experienced the same disagreeable results. Then, although the e-FAQ processor service had already been started automatically, we stopped and started it again on a whim. Magically, the e-FAQ server began to work. Our worries about a banged-up server were needless, and we were able to proceed with our testing. Thus, one of our first tests was to reboot the server to see if the error came back. Unfortunately, it did, so we had to stop and then restart the service again. For some reason, the e-FAQ Processor service would not automatically start correctly upon boot up, though it did start. We think this problem was a result of the SQL server not starting up before the e-FAQ processor. In any case, this was an easy fix ' we set the e-FAQ service to manual and started it up again when we needed to reboot the server, which we rarely had to do.

Knowledge Manager
We accessed the Web-based e-FAQ Knowledge Manager user interface as either a supervisor with rights to all the functionality or as a user with rights to only a specific group, in this case the 'Marketing' group. No matter which user was logged on, the main icons were present ' those of Authoring, Workflow, Testing, Reporting and Options. The main difference between the users lay within the categories of each main title, located on the left side of the Web-based interface (if none of the Windows Explorer bar views, such as Search or Favorites, are selected). Besides having access to all of the e-FAQ groups as opposed to specified ones, the supervisor user also has access to all the management options, whereas other users do not. These management options consist of managing users and user groups, log-in tracking reports to view the log-in history of users and management reports that show permissions for users, groups and queues.

The main functionality of the e-FAQ Knowledge Manager is the authoring tool, where FAQs are added, modified or queried. The interface allows users to perform any of these functions easily with suggestions and feedback available for each entry. These entries can be edited with XML tags included or as plain text. In this way, each FAQ is continuously updated to the knowledge engine even after the original FAQ is completed. During the creation process, the status of all entries during a given time is shown under the Workflow title so any user looking will know where the FAQ is in development.

Web Sample And E-mail Demo
The information created in e-FAQ Knowledge Manager is passed on to Web site visitors inquiring about the material answered by a particular entry. When a question is asked, the e-FAQ engine responds automatically once an appropriate match is found. This is done using linguistic analysis of the question ' matching the question with the appropriate answer based on the words in the question, their synonyms and the proximity of the words. Obviously, we had to test this analysis to make sure that visitors to our demo Web site would receive accurate and expressive answers.

We clicked on the Web Sample page and asked questions relating to the FAQs in our database. Many of our questions were not precise, some were not clear on what was being asked and others were laced with grammatical and spelling errors. While it is true that some of these questions confused the e-FAQ engine, most of the results were the answers we were looking for, if not as the first entry given, then as one of the following questions and answers suggested.

Similar testing was done using e-mail through Microsoft Outlook as the means of asking the questions and then letting the e-FAQ engine parse and auto respond with the best matching answer. Here, at times, we asked more than one question relating to the material on the database to see if all of the questions were answered accurately. Responses were very quick and the answers were accurate, but not necessarily for all the questions asked. This is likely due, in part, to the limited e-FAQ database of entries we had. However, we did ask more than one question on a single e-mail that we knew was in the database, and e-FAQ responded accurately, answering the latter question, and on the same e-mail response, followed with an answer to the first question. Overall, we were satisfied with the performance of the e-FAQ engine, having little doubt about its success in a real-world situation.

After entering some visitor questions via either e-mail or the Web, we logged on as a supervisor for the e-FAQ Knowledge Manager and looked more closely at the reporting functionality. The reports consisted of usage history, entry search, entry ranking, no results list, activation, user tracking and query search reporting. Within moments, we could see the questions that were asked and where they had come from (Web or e-mail), the responses given, which FAQ was searched if the question had come from the Web (it searched all of them if coming from e-mail) and many other informative analyses. We were very impressed with the reporting functionality, but especially with the 'no results' list reports because they gave us the ability to build FAQs quickly. If the question was relevant to a specific FAQ, but was not in the database, all that needed to be done was to press the 'Spawn New Entry' button, and the question appeared in XML format on the 'Add Entry' screen, ready to be answered so an entry would be available for a future visitor on the Web or an e-mail asking a similar question.

For any organization with many daily e-mail or Web-based inquiries, whether for customer or technical support, sales or marketing, e-FAQ 2.2 exemplifies a cost-effective and sophisticated approach to a better knowledge management solution. As compared to static FAQs, e-FAQ 2.2 is far superior because of the product's very nature ' it is interactive, well disciplined and has an accurate knowledge engine, which also reduces the response time and increases productivity.

Interactive Intelligence's e-FAQ also outclasses most of the other comparable software solutions because of its engine, but even more so because of the knowledge manager. The e-FAQ Knowledge Manager offers a complete package of reporting, management and other functionality not often seen in other solutions. With the excellent usability of the Knowledge Manager's interface, the terrific e-FAQ engine and superb documentation, we find that e-FAQ 2.2 is indeed first-rate.

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