Capturing Knowledge for Customer Service


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This week, I touch on a problem that faces customer support professionals in customer-savvy organizations: they are expected to document their interactions with customers and, in the case of tech support agents, to capture the fixes to the customers’ technical problems. However, many agents skilled in technology and helping customers are not very good at writing.

In my article this week, I offer a few suggestions on how to capture information for a knowledgebase that can be shared by other support professionals. And I present an example of what a customer goes through when this knowledge isn’t captured and shared.

What Constitutes Good Written Communications

As I was writing the article, I remembered a document I created years ago to explain to my then writing staff how I approached editing the articles they would be writing for me. I thought I would share that approach with you now. Even though it talks about writing for our Research service, the concepts of what I want and expect applies to all written communication, whether writing articles, capturing technical knowledge, or even writing emails.

My Approach to Editing

As an editor, I believe that my key responsibility is to the readers. Thus, I always approach an article to be edited in the same way. I read it! A good article will accomplish two things: 1) it will make its point clearly, and 2) it will keep me interested. If I am engaged, and if I learn something, I am pretty confident that our readers will too.

The questions that go through my head as I am reading include:


  • Do the ideas presented make sense?
  • Are the ideas well expressed?
  • Is there anything new here?
  • Is this useful information for the target audience?
  • Are all ideas presented sufficiently supported? Do the supporting arguments have merit?


  • Is the article organized in the most effective way in order to get its message across?
  • Do the concepts presented flow in a logical and useful order?
  • Is there an effective introduction and summary/conclusion?
  • Are there sufficient illustrations to help readers understand the concepts?

If, on the initial read, I am engaged and educated, I believe my job is to help fine tune the article to make it the best it can possibly be. I thus ask myself the following questions:


  • Is the article formatted for easy reading? Are there sufficient headings, captions, bullets, etc. to make the piece easily accessible to the reader? Are headings, bullets, etc. parallel?
  • Is the language and writing level appropriate for the intended audience (e.g., not too technical)?
  • Is the tone appropriate for the intended audience (e.g., neither too condescending nor simplistic)?
  • Does the author get to the point quickly?
  • Is the writing sufficiently jargon-free to ensure a shelf-life after the jargon has gone out of favor?
  • Is the article grammatically correct without being stilted?

I also believe that an editor’s job is to mentor the authors under her. I try to explain why I have asked for specific changes or why I have made all but the obvious edits (e.g., grammatical changes, slight wording changes, etc.). And, most important, the job is to motivate and help improve the authors’ writing abilities. This requires teaching rather than just correcting, offering support rather than merely criticizing, and supporting and rewarding effort and improvement.

How Do These Tips Apply to Writing Knowledgebase Material?

If you re-read every point I make about writing and editing an article, you’ll quickly realize that they all apply equally well to writing and editing a “how to” for a customer service knowledge base. The only difference is the structure of the knowledge being captured. If you’re diagnosing problems and providing possible solutions, you’ll be using a diagnostic tree structure and selecting the correct terms to make that information quickly findable. (If you want to learn more about the products available to help capture and manage knowledge, see Mitch Kramer’s Customer Service Evaluation Framework and the reviews of the many customer service knowledge management products that he has evaluated.)

Empower Your Tech Support to Capture Knowledge
Helping Your Agents to Avoid Dell’s Mistakes
By Ronni T. Marshak, EVP & Sr. Consultant/Analyst, Patricia Seybold Group, October 17, 2013

(Read the short sample and download the full article in PDF.)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ronni Marshak
Patricia Seybold Group
Ronni Marshak co-developed Patricia Seybold Group's Customer Scenario® Mapping (CSM) methodology with Patricia Seybold and PSGroup's customers. She runs the CSM methodology practice, including training, certification, and licensing. She identifies, codifies, and updates the recurring patterns in customers' ideal scenarios, customers' moments of truth, and customer metrics that she discovers across hundreds of customer co-design sessions.


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