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Knowledgebase Enables Service
Siemens Resolves Customer Issues in Multiple Languages

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper KM for Customer Service [April 2009]

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According to the Service and Support Professional Association (SSPA), 80% of the time and costs for service support lies in problem resolution. Problem resolution management still remains an art, and the task is becoming increasingly difficult because products are becoming more complex, the range of product to support is becoming wider and there is a high staff turnover. At the same time, manufacturers have a general goal of reducing service costs while customers expect an increasingly higher quality of service.

Service support staff rely on a multitude of information sources to be able to deliver quality service including technical documents, specialized knowledgebases that are used to support agents in call centers, Internet portals used by agents and directly by customers, email response systems, search engines, wikis, training systems and more. Not only are there many sources of information that are critical for quality service delivery, but all of this information must be localized in order for it to be available in all countries where the products (or services) are sold. In most companies, each source of information used for serving customers is a silo of knowledge. Manuals are authored by technical writers, knowledge records (cases) are authored by support agents, e-learning content is authored by training departments and even customers create some of the information online. Much of this information contains vastly similar content; it is just authored by different groups, at different times and with different objectives in mind. And because these efforts are rarely coordinated or driven by the overall gaps in information to serve customers, service information can be incomplete, outdated and inconsistent. In addition, businesses face the increasing challenge of deciding which data is authoritative.

Customers Expect Answers
Customers have started to reach out to each other online to get answers and expect service organizations to have the answers too. A state-of-the-art service resolution system can not only provide the answers at a reasonable cost, but it integrates customer-recommended resolutions and improves the efficiency of service delivery.

A state-of-the-art service resolution management system must provide:

1. Content management tools to author global support information into knowledge repositories and in multiple languages; and

2. Knowledge management tools to retrieve context-relevant support information from multiple knowledge sources and across all languages.

Siemens IT Solutions and Service organization (SIS) is a thought leader and innovator when it comes to optimizing the information to deliver the best service to its customers. "Knox," which stands for Knowledge Explorer, is a global service resolution management system used at Siemens daily by more than 2,500 internal users and tens of thousands of self-help users. It supports the service desk and customer self-service applications in 40 countries around the world. Various user groups worldwide have access to one central knowledgebase and they retrieve information using search technologies like full-text search, natural language search, similarity search, information navigation and decision trees that make the information access process easy and fast.

Knowledge-based support can only be as good as the documents and information on which it is based. To be used effectively to identify and solve specific problems quickly and accurately, documents must explain concepts in a concise and intelligible manner. Thanks to Knox, which was built using the empolis:Service Lifecycle Suite, SIS was able to gradually introduce an intelligent solution.

A Knowledge Organization
The tasks, roles and processes defined and established by SIS reflect the knowledge organization in practice. These include entering, revising and adapting content as well as identifying knowledge gaps in the service desk. The central team responsible for developing Knox worldwide is staffed by four employees. Knox provides a raft of functions for proposing, creating and revising documents and—prior to release—checking them against internal publication guidelines. The same applies for creating and maintaining decision trees in Knox. Both service desk experts and individual service desk employees collaborate to create knowledge documents, for example, as a new solution path that subsequently passes through a rigorous revision and release process.

In the future, this will also include customer-generated content from Web forums. The decision trees are designed to help users through the diagnostic process. It implements a dialog script that has been authored by experts to ensure that certain questions and responses are supplied in a specific order. If no such script exists, then the official documents authored by technical writers are used. If a solution still cannot be found, then the agents must rely on other sources of knowledge in Knox that document "hot fixes." This may be a FAQ database that is authored by service agents, or a forum used by service technicians or even a user forum.

Quality Service, No Matter the Language
In Knox, these knowledge sources can be searched across multiple languages such as English, German, French or Polish. The rationale for searching for solutions across languages is that a service desk employee will first look for the solution to a problem for a customer by searching the solution in his/her language. However, when no solution exists in this language, a documented solution may exist in another language. Because of its underlying multilingual retrieval technology, Knox is able to automatically retrieve all the relevant solutions across languages.

High-quality information classification and user-friendly search technologies are the nuts and bolts of Knox. Knox offers various complementary search technologies: traditional full-text search, natural language search, intuitive navigation in the knowledgebase (similar to searching in the file system), similarity search and use of decision trees, which are constructed by experts in the area. Knox provides various user groups with various user interfaces which all link back to one single entry point into multiple knowledge sources—it is simply the form of the search which is different.

The goals that have been achieved with Knox include reducing overall processing costs in first-level support, ensuring continuous knowledge transfer and user-friendly customer self-help solutions to drive down the total cost of service, and using a global standardized access to multiple knowledge sources across languages to ramp up the efficiency and effectiveness of Siemens IT Solutions and Services support operations.

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