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”Doing KM” vs. “Implementing a Knowledgebase”

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

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Knowledge management can be a key enabler for service and support. Used internally, knowledge helps staff answer more questions with more confidence and accuracy, shortens time to resolution, increases consistency and reduces escalations. Used externally, knowledge deflects repetitive cases and helps customers solve their own issues quickly and easily. Knowledge satisfies customers while avoiding needless expense.

But what does it mean to implement knowledge management? Too often, organizations assume all that’s needed is a knowledgebase tool. Technology is a critical component of knowledge management success, but it’s only one component. And many of the knowledgebase modules on the market don’t support healthy practices for capturing, maintaining and improving knowledge.

Get Outside the Knowledgebase Box
Depending on what question the customer wants answered, the best material may be in the knowledgebase, or in a manual, a white paper, a product datasheet, a community posting, a blog entry... in other words, it may be almost anywhere!

Some knowledgebases are closed systems—that is, users can only search for knowledge authored into the knowledgebase. Customers who need other information must look elsewhere. If the knowledgebase is just another information silo, it makes customers’ and agents’ lives more complex by adding yet another place where useful information may be hidden. While agents may have access to all the various information silos, the time spent searching across systems prolongs cases and stalls the queue.

Whether it is through self-service or agent-assisted service, enterprises must ensure that customers have one-stop easy access to all the information that can help them, not just the content in the knowledgebase. If technology gets in the way of customer success, your customers will tell you: it’s time to upgrade.

Streamline Contribution
Many sophisticated-looking knowledge tools demo well: virtual representatives, decision trees, case-based expert systems and the like.

Leaving aside their lackluster performance in the real world, these technologies put an enormous burden on the people capturing and maintaining knowledge. Virtual representatives need to be carefully programmed to handle specific input with specific output. Decision trees need to be re-engineered for every new piece of knowledge. Content in case-based expert systems must be meticulously hand-tagged.

Technologies that require specialized expertise to capture and maintain knowledge limit the number of people who can work on the knowledgebase and take more time. Knowledge quality suffers.

Astute support organizations look beyond the demo and focus on what it really takes to create a great customer experience: content that is easy to find, easy to enter and even easier to maintain.

Remove Barriers from Cases to Knowledge
In many service and support organizations, the de facto knowledgebase is the case-tracking tool. If a problem has been seen before, the resolution is in the case notes somewhere. It may be hard to search, it may be duplicated many times, but at least it’s there.

This isn’t always true of the knowledgebase, which is often disconnected from case tracking. So knowledge contribution becomes an extra task for which no one has the extra time.

Imagine instead if a single interface could allow service and support staff to take case notes and author knowledge simultaneously. The benefits are enormous:

  • No retyping, cutting or pasting;
  • Little or no after-call time to create a knowledgebase article; and
  • Integrated searching and one-click reuse of knowledge to close cases.

Support organizations that really want to make knowledge a part of their processes must provide a completely integrated experience for case tracking and knowledge management.

Think Beyond the Technology Project
The best knowledgebase in the world won’t do anything unless it has the right knowledge. And as many failed knowledge management initiatives attest, capturing and maintaining the right knowledge isn’t easy.

In addition to the right tools, support organizations must:

  • Leverage industry best practices to follow a proven path to success;
  • Include knowledge in the organizational charter and in staff performance appraisals; and
  • Ensure executives and line managers lead change to reinforce the importance of knowledge.

Service and support leaders should be deeply suspicious of vendors who offer to "turn on the knowledgebase module," as though it were some kind of technology that runs unattended. Knowledge management isn’t a project with an end date; it’s a new way of doing business.

Before: The Knowledgebase
After: Integrated Knowledge Management
Another closed silo of information. To find other useful data, users must search somewhere else Provides integrated access to all useful knowledge, from manuals to collateral to message boards
Web-based support is limited to simple search and static FAQs Online self-service is intelligent and dynamic, presenting the most relevant content from multiple sources
Knowledge contribution requires lots of time and mountains of specialized expertise Contribution is easy, and anyone who has value to add can participate
Case tracking and knowledge management are separate activities performed in separate tools Case tracking and knowledge management are parts of a single, seamless process. After-call work is kept to a minimum
Knowledge is a technology project; its focus is implementing the knowledgebase. Knowledge management is an ongoing program that comprises people, process and technology.
Five proven practices for launching (or relaunching) a KM initiative.

Consona CRM (formerly KNOVA and Onyx) offers companies with vital and multi-faceted customer relationships, or companies offering complex or technical products and services, a wide range of fully integrated KM and CRM software applications that span customer service and support, sales and marketing. More than 1,300 customers spanning more than 50 industries worldwide are using Consona CRM solutions to manage process efficiencies, drive revenue, increase customer satisfaction and enable unique and extraordinary customer experiences. For more information, visit

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