How is Your Knowledge Centered? 8 Tips for Effective Knowledge Management
By: Peter Elliot
Many modern organizations are knowledge centered. Where would your business be without knowledge of your products and processes spread across all the departments who need it? Effective knowledge management across an enterprise can lead to improved efficiency and satisfied customers. Many organizations seek to manage their knowledge by consolidating it where possible in a knowledge-base (KB).
Most, if not all Contact Centers, technical support or customer service operations will access a knowledge-base. The KB fulfills the need to have all the essential information about the company’s products, processes, answers to FAQs, and solutions to known problems in one location, matched with a search engine enabling swift answers to customer queries.
KB’s are therefore an essential customer service tool. It is a natural progression for a new customer service team, equipped with a CRM to track tickets and calls, to want to search previous tickets for known issues. As well as previous tickets, they will want to access product and process information. And so, the KB is developed. Many CRM systems provide access to the KB from right within the ticket entry screen. Some provide type-ahead functionality which will automatically search the KB and provide answers to questions in real-time as the problem description or question is being typed. Someone will compile a list of good answers to questions, or resolutions to problems, and this may be made available to agents as a printed list, or more likely online so it is easily searchable. The next stage is to allow customers to search the KB, thereby reducing the number of calls to the Contact Center. Some organizations will segment knowledge in the KB to the public, which can be shared with customers while a private list may only be available to internal users.
Initially, the KB may reside across disparate databases requiring multiple searches, or a single search engine configured to search multiple sources. It is self-evident that the more information that can be provided in a KB, and the easier it is to use, the greater the reduction in call handling time or AHT. And if customers are accessing the KB, the more calls will be deflected. Incidentally, this creates a paradox for KB measurement – more of which below. Maintaining a good KB is not without expense and investment, but done well the investment can provide a great ROI.
In 1992 a group of customer service organizations got together and developed standards for good KB management as the Consortium for Service Innovation. KCS stands for Knowledge Centered Support and sets out standards for KB management which are applicable to any organization using a KB. Consider below what KCS tells us about good KB management.
How does Knowledge get into a Knowledge-base?
The answer is that people must put it there. While Google enables search of every public knowledge-base in the world, everything you see on Google has been put there by someone. The question is, can you believe what you read? What makes a company’s KB different is the entries within it are certified to be correct and up to date. To ensure this is actually the case requires effort and investment.
8 Tips for Effective Knowledge Management
What kind of effort and investment is necessary? First the basics from the KCS library (the Solve loop):
How good are your processes for ensuring First Contact Resolution (FCR)? Do all your customer service agents know all the answers?
No, it’s more likely they are all provided with access to the KB. Relevant knowledge must be captured to put into the KB, whether it’s the answer to a complex question or how to find it, or how to resolve a product problem. Service agents must be part of a process to ensure that if a question/answer pair cannot be found in the KB, then they should create a new KB entry.
The information in a KB entry must be consumable. For example, if I am searching for a product setting, the KB should give a concise, relevant answer advising how to change the setting, without providing a link to the entire product manual! The spelling, grammar, and technical content must be correct. Typically, this will require a second level of checking and sign-off prior to publication.
Is the content correct, concise and effective? Has an agent or a customer found a problem with a KB entry, and if so do they know where to go to correct it?
Building concise correct entries in the KB is only the first step. Knowledge will change and evolve. You must establish a feedback mechanism to ensure that the knowledge cited is still correct and suited for the purpose. We have all seen “Was this page helpful” displayed at the bottom of knowledge base articles online, this is one of the ways content can be kept healthy.
Each entry must be tracked for the frequency of access. A highly referenced KB entry might indicate an inherent product or process issue which can be fixed at the source, deflecting calls and increasing customer satisfaction. Unsatisfied searches must also be measured, these are signposts to potential KB gaps.
The KCS Evolve Loop takes your organization and its use of the KB to the next level focusing on the following:
5) Content Health
Is all the information in the KB current and correct? If not, it should be archived or corrected. How are redundant or out-of-date KB entries identified? Is there a process in place to escalate an incorrect KB entry?
All questions that should be answered to ensure content health is optimal. Processes and workflows to validate the accuracy and currency of KB content can be employed to ensure content is reviewed on a scheduled basis or when related content is changed.
6) Process Integration
Further integration of your KB into your CRM, customer service, product testing and process management processes. The deeper you can embed the KB into the frontline agent ecosystem or customer experience, the more agents and customers will use it. Similarly, the development process for products and services needs to include a KB component so that the required knowledge to assist customer and agents is ‘baked in’ when the product or service is released.
7) Performance Assessment
The development process isn’t the only source for knowledge development. Employees and customers can create content and should be rewarded for creating KB articles that enable users to easily solve problems and answer questions.
8) Leadership and Integration
Who is heading up your KB program? Who flies the flag for the KB, measures its effectiveness and pitches for further investment?
There are many commercially available KB applications providing different services and features. A shiny new KB platform can help but will likely require migration of existing content from disparate sources and it must be integrated into company processes and have the support of the people who use it. Significant effort will be required to properly integrate a new KB application.
The value of a KB lies within its ease of use, the health and breadth of its content, and its accessibility. Provide customers with access to a KB that follows KCS principles and all and contact volumes will decrease. But how can this be attributed to self-service? We can ask the users – what would you have done if you didn’t find this knowledge article? The answers could range from placing a call, sending an email, opening a chat to giving up or buying something from another company. All of which may prove costly.
Follow KCS principles and invest in your knowledge-base to ensure you maintain efficiency and maximize your customer experience.
If you need any help reach out to our team at the Taylor Reach Group; we have assisted hundreds of organizations design, improve and optimize their KB.
Good article. It may be a bit esoteric, but taxonomy is another key to effective search and therefore to adoption of a KBMS. Understanding how users think and what they would search for to find relevant content makes the difference between searches that return focused results or searches returning too little or too much to be useful.
Thanks for your comment! I agree taxonomy is very important in achieving a successful KB search, and that’s why it’s important to capture search keywords that frequently result in ‘no hits’ as well as those articles that are frequently referenced.