Knowledge as an abstract concept is complex, exists in many formats and often resides in multiple repositories.
Let’s take that knowledge and turn it from concept to practice for a discipline – say, customer service and support. When it comes to customer service, knowledge needed by a customer is almost never complete, constantly evolving, challenging to keep up-to-date, and requires defined roles and responsibilities across the organization to manage.
This is at odds with the current state of customer service, especially since 86% of B2B customers expect companies to be well-informed about their personal information during service interactions. Customer service and support leaders are aware of this, which is why 84% of them cited customer data and analytics as “very or extremely important” for achieving their organizational goals in 2023.
The natural next question becomes: How can service leaders build and sustain an effective service and support knowledge management program? This lies in creating a successful knowledge management (KM) program.
A KM program can be implemented to achieve organizational goals. The most successful knowledge management programs focus on developing a culture of sharing and do not focus solely on KM technology deployments.
Create a Culture Around Knowledge Through Metrics
The first step in developing a successful KM program is to create a culture where sharing the creation and management of knowledge within the support organization is the norm.
Changing an organization’s culture is the hardest part, which is why service leaders will often skip this key step; A recent Gartner KM survey identified that only 40% of organizations agree that KM is embedded within their culture.
For long-term success, knowledge must be seen as a non-negotiable foundation. Service leaders can implement a knowledge sharing culture by defining and communicating a set of metrics that ties knowledge back to the overall business impact from the KM program such as self-service success or employee engagement. Organizational directors and managers, who support and are accountable to the success of a KM program, as well as support agents, who openly support each other, share and provide answers to each other’s questions.
Define Roles and Responsibilities
KM program effectiveness depends on many people within the organization to create and maintain knowledge, which requires clear responsibilities and defined accountability. Determine who is in the best position to create and update each type of asset (FAQ, product documentation, process improvements, policies, customer education, etc.) so that each employee knows their core KM responsibilities. This will most likely be split between support agents and content specialists.
Support agents are often best suited to develop and manage knowledge articles or FAQs. Knowledge articles tend to be less formal than other content types and provide an opportunity to turn tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge.
Content specialists are individuals who create, update and refine knowledge content into the specific assets (policy and procedures, blog posts, webpages, etc.) that users require.
Develop a KM Feedback Program
Content quality is improved when users have a mechanism to provide feedback. Service and support leaders must:
- Implement a feedback collection mechanism on content (for example, thumbs up/down, star ratings) and open comment boxes for all content types.
- Analyze usage patterns in content to determine how content is performing and being reused.
- Define roles of responsibility to address feedback for each type of content.
- Ensure support staff knows the steps to take when an error, omission or confusion is discovered for each content type. This avoids the “not my issue” challenges.
- Establish a process to remove content with errors quickly from externally published sources.
- Develop a closed-loop feedback process for all content types once content concerns have been addressed.
Deploy Advanced Search Capabilities
Search plays a key role in KM, for both customers and support agents. It is one of the most common ways that knowledge is made available to those who need it — either customers on self-service or support reps integrated within their desktop tool. However, when asked in a recent Gartner survey, only 31% of respondents agreed with the statement “our unified search capabilities are effective at finding the right information.”
Today’s advanced search engines continue to evolve, and many are now leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence in an effort to reduce the overall effort for finding and managing knowledge. These advanced search capabilities have the ability to search many different repositories and content types from a single interface. They are best embedded in the self-service portal for customers or within the desktop tool/CRM for support agents. The more seamless the integration of the search interface, the less effort required by the customer or agent and the better the opportunity to quickly surface the most relevant results.
Many advanced search engines are also context aware and offer users a personalized experience based on previous searches or past purchases, for example. They also offer functionality for type ahead, auto completion and other tools to get a user to the results they need as quickly as possible. These engines store data related to the words and phrases being searched, search engine results pages, returned, the click-through rates on results, and which content was viewed.
All of this data can be used to manage the KM program to identify top performing content, content requiring updates, missing content or search engine tuning opportunities.
If service leaders can keep these steps in mind when it comes to their KM program, it does indeed empower them with the knowledge they need to be a key business driver within their organization. As many service leaders identify this as a weak point of their program, it could prove to be the key differentiating factor for an enterprise.