Avoiding potholes on the road to a successful knowledge base transition

avoiding potholesTransitioning to a new knowledge base is one of the most exciting changes a customer support organization can go through. It’s a time of renewal that provides a natural opening to examine current workflows, organizational structure, and content. Change can bring upon great innovations in your business, but technology transitions come with great risks.

As a preview to our upcoming webinar, Secrets to success: Knowledge base transitions, we’re taking a look at some of the potholes you may encounter on the road to success.

Moving forward without a clear vision

Every successful project starts with a clearly defined vision of its end goals. When initiating a change as large as switching knowledge base providers, it’s even more critical to understand what the future will look like. Early in the technology selection process, you may have spelled out what your end goals are. As you learn more about your chosen technology and as new risks and opportunities arise, revisit these goals to see how this new information can help you add context to your goals.

Before a transition kicks off, you should be able to answer:

  • How do we measure success?
  • What does success look like?
  • What specific metrics will be affected?
  • How does new technology support these goals?


Underestimating the power of buy-in

We’ve talked about the importance of obtaining executive buy-in in our recent white paper, and of course a new technology can’t be implemented without leadership sign-off. But it’s just as important to make sure that presenting the benefits of a new technology to all impacted individuals, not just executives and stakeholders, is a part of your communication process.

Proactively sharing information about why a new knowledge base represents a great opportunity for everyone involved builds momentum and excitement. Avoiding the perception that a new technology is “change for the sake of change” is key to getting everyone on board with the transition.  

Some information you might proactively provide:

  • How will this change benefit knowledge base users, both internal and external?
  • What new features of the new technology will affect daily life for content creators and end users?
  • How does this transition align with company, departmental, and personal goals?

Further insight

In our upcoming webinar, Secrets to success: Knowledge base transitions, you’ll hear actionable recommendations on implementing new knowledge base technology. Our panel of expert knowledge professionals will share the best practices and lessons learned they’ve collected over their careers.

How content owners declutter your knowledge base

Archiving content is a perpetual hot topic for knowledge managers, and for good reason. One of the easiest ways to make a difference in the usability of support content is to remove outdated, inaccurate content. Archivable content clutters your search engine result pages, misdirects your audience, and in general, provides a poor experience to all who encounter it.archive_funnel

This low- or no-value content is often ignored until a major initiative kicks off: A content migration, a knowledge base transformation, a re-templating exercise. When content audits are baked into your content team’s routines, archivable content is addressed on an ongoing basis. In this article, we’ll show you how content ownership can eliminate informational clutter in your knowledge base.

Cultivate ownership

In the most efficient knowledge environments, every knowledge object belongs to an owner who is ultimately responsible for the health of their content. This content owner can be counted on to:

  • Know what content exists in their area of responsibility
  • Develop subject matter expertise on the content they own
  • Proactively identify gaps in existing content and opportunities to capture new knowledge
  • Manage performance of the support information within their area

The last bullet is key: One of the most important things a content owner is responsible for is contributing to the overall health of their piece of the knowledge base.

With ownership comes great responsibility

A content owner should have a variety of data points available to them in order to maximize the effectiveness of the knowledge base. He or she can review usage statistics to identify the difference between high-value and low-value content in their area.

While maintaining high-usage, high-value content is an obvious priority, content owners should also determine if low-usage content has the potential to become valuable with additional edits.

In the best case scenario, a content owner would review these metrics monthly. At the very least, we recommend reviewing content usage statistics at least quarterly. Expect the first audit of this content to auditing this content to be more time consuming, but as a content owner becomes more familiar with what content lives within their focus, the process becomes quicker.

How searching “early and often” improves your knowledge ecosystem’s health

In our recent webinar, Making Your Support Content Work Harder For You, experts Melissa Burch of Irrevo and David Kay of DB Kay & Associates covered a wealth of information on how to improve your knowledge base.

One of our audience members asked David Kay to speak in a little more depth about how utilizing best practices for search can enhance a knowledge program:

How does searching improve content quality? How can we incorporate this into our processes to maintain the health of my knowledge ecosystem?

Searching “early and often” is a cornerstone of the KCS practices for a number of reasons. First, by searching and understanding what we collectively know before solving a problem anew, we actually get the benefit of the knowledge in our KB. But searching has many more benefits:

  1. By searching throughout the resolution process, we make it far less likely that we’ll create duplicate content. For KBs, duplicates are death.
  2. If we don’t find content, our search terms capture important context from the requestor. These words should end up in the article that we ultimately create from the interaction
  3. If we struggled to find the article, then the search terms will be good to add to the article, to make it easier for the next person to find.

It’s sometimes difficult to get people who already know the answer to search and link. We need to reinforce the many benefits of searching and linking, even if we know the answer:

  • Link data gives us ammunition to drive improvements in the products and services
  • Link data targets value-added work in the Evolve loop
  • Every use is a review; if we’re not using, we’re not reviewing and content will get stale
  • Even if someone thinks they know the answer, that answer may have been updated or improved
  • If everyone uses the KB, we’re more consistent
  • It’s quicker and easier to search and link an article, and send it to the customer, than it is to write case notes or customer communications from scratch…even if we know the answer

You can watch the entire webinar on-demand to hear more great insights from David. Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for more Q&A from this session.

3 Truths every knowledge manager knows

Knowledge managers are a widely varied bunch. We work in different industries. We may be nestled into an org chart under IT, Customer Service, or Marketing. We support an internal audience, external customers, or a mix of the two. We may have a great knowledge program, or know that ours can improve. We may manage a team of individual contributors, or we may be in the trenches, getting personally involved in content creation.

3_checkboxes (1)Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of people who manage knowledge programs of all shapes and sizes. No matter what differences divide us, if you asked a few dozen knowledge managers what “Doing KM Right” means to them personally, you’d hear the same things over and over. We execute on our strategies in different ways, but every knowledge management professional holds these three truths at the core of their beliefs:

Good KM needs a vision

To create a great knowledge program, you have to know what success looks like. You, your leadership, your direct  reports, and your business partners need to understand what you’re working on, and how your actions play into organizational goals. So often we get caught up in the day-to-day business of creating content to support products and services that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Getting lost in the details is the difference between striving for improvement and just keeping the lights on.

Good KM needs guiding principles

Having a clearly defined vision of the experience you want your customers (internal and/or external) to have is paramount. Defining clear guiding principles (around 10 or so) that are the highest level requirements that your system and process should never compromise. These give you and your team the ability to make future decisions in the context of the real intent of your knowledge base program. Knowledge programs fail to achieve their potential when they lose track of this vision and the principles that were to be upheld. Revisiting these regularly and socializing them, will drive long-term improvements to your program and ensure a solid user experience.

Good KM needs partnership

Once you know where you’re going and how you’ll get there, you need support – and a lot of it. You need a supportive ear in leadership to green-light your budget and resource allocations. The cross-functional relationships you’ve built with your business partners are an important asset as you develop a holistic knowledge strategy. Of course, your end users, the people who benefit the most from the knowledge you capture, need to be brought into the loop in a meaningful way. Teamwork is critical to KM success.

Operationalizing your beliefs

We can all agree that these three truths are the keys to reaching your knowledge management goals, no matter how you define success. How do you combine vision, principles, and partnership to unlock your organization’s potential? Easy answer: Systematically. Through our experience building and managing successful KM programs, Irrevo has developed the KM Path Methodology to operationalize these core truths that are at the heart of every great KM program.

Our KM Path methodology organizes these pillars into six phases:

  • During the KM Innovation phase, you’ll outline your vision and build a high-level plan to meet your goals.
  • The Architecture Design phase moves further into decision-making, defining the requirements and scope, creating an achievable timeline, and identifying the right technologies to support the plan.
  • Executive Support is the critical phase in which you obtain buy-in from an executive sponsor and communicate your vision, plan, and goals to stakeholders.
  • After you’ve secured buy-in, you’re ready for the Build and Test phase where you’ll create the structure that supports your knowledge program: Processes, governance models, metrics, and content standards.
  • In the Launch phase, your plans come to fruition as you leverage new processes, update or migrate content,
  • The Optimize phase is what marks the difference between a once-and-done project and a living program.

Want to know more about how the KM Path methodology encapsulates the concepts you already know to be true? Check out the detailed plan for a list of actions, decisions, and deliverables you’ll need for your KM program.

Using images in support content: How, when, why?

In our recent webinar, Making Your Support Content Work Harder For You, experts Melissa Burch of Irrevo and David Kay of DB Kay & Associates covered a wealth of information on how to improve your knowledge base. One of the topics our audience wanted to hear more about was using images within support articles:

How many images should one support article include?

Melissa Burch:

We find that it’s best to show one image per step along the process. It’s really hard to give a specific number, but if your audience can’t find what they’re looking for, inserting an image can make it easier. But using too many creates a maintenance challenge for your organization.

David Kay:

Adding images pushes the steps lower below the fold which we’re always concerned about. But that’s helpful guidance to me, when I change context when going to a different part of the screen. Then it makes sense to add an image there.

Should animated GIFs be used in support content?


David Kay:

From my perspective  less is more. There are times for very high-value content that animations or videos are appropriate. We really want to restrict it to the highest value stuff just because of the difficulty of maintaining it. Everything we said about images goes double when it comes to animation or videos.

Melissa Burch:

The challenge everyone is faced with fundamentally is maintenance of content. It’s easier to create it than it is to maintain it, so we want to make sure we’re building content that is valuable and provides the right amount of information yet is efficient to create and maintain. we want to make sure that we maintain this content. Anything that makes that more difficult, you will want to evaluate from the perspective of your organization. It doesn’t mean that it’s wrong necessarily for everybody, but it does require some acknowledgement of maintenance going forward. 

Learn more

You can watch the entire webinar on-demand. Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for more Q&A from this session, and follow us on Twitter to be the first to know when we share new answers.

Content templates: Your blueprint for support success

blueprintHave you ever walked into a room and touched the wall, looking for a light switch that didn’t exist? You expect a light switch there because that’s where they typically are. This same cycle has conditioned customers’ expectations of your support site. Like a blueprint for a house, content rules help your knowledge base meet those unconscious expectations to make for a seamless, usable experience. Studies have shown that a low-effort experience is a driving factor in cultivating repeat business.

The typical use case for a knowledge base article is simple: Customer has a question, customer finds an answer. Your products and services likely require more complex explanation than a quick FAQ. One best practice is to provide a framework for articles that makes it easy for content creators to include all of the necessary details while making it easy for customers to digest the information. These content templates are what put the light switches where customers expect to find them.

There are two universal content types – How To and Troubleshooting – but within many industries, other types of content types may be prevalent. Your most frequently used articles can tip you off to any other content templates you may need. Let’s take a deeper look at what a How To article must contain:


An introduction to the topic that confirms for the reader that they’re in the right place. Your overview is a great place to introduce customers to terms that may be new to them.

This article explains how to clean or descale your espresso machine.


What does a customer need in order to use a service or product? Common prerequisites include pieces of information a customer must know, account statuses, or tangible items.  

To sign up for paper statements, you will need:

A Consumer or Business account in good standing

A copy of your most recent bill

Your account PIN


By this point, your reader knows they’re looking at the right article, and has all the information they need to get started. The best Procedure sections use quickly scannable bulleted or numbered lists to convey information. Break down complex procedures into smaller steps.

To set an alarm on your clock radio, follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold the Alarm button on the side of your radio.
  2. Press the Hour and Minute buttons to select the desired time.
  3. Release the Alarm button.
  4. Move the Alarm Type slider to Radio or Buzzer as desired.

Escalation Path

One of the most important questions a support article needs to answer is, “What if that doesn’t work?” Providing the answer to “What next?” empowers your customers with information, even if the end result is that they need to contact you for further assistance. We recommend starting with a canned statement that links to your Contact page, and editing it to be specific to the article’s purpose.  

If you have additional questions on your bill, please contact us.

If you have followed the above steps and are still unable to print, please contact us.

Once you have these base elements, you’re off to a good start. The best content template is customized to include industry- and business-specific information. You may need to include technical requirements, exceptions, or other information that your customers expect to see.

promo_May26-2016On May 26th, Irrevo is hosting a webinar titled Making Your Support Content Work Harder For YouWe’ve invited special guest David Kay of DB Kay & Associates to help share actionable recommendations for improving the overall quality of your content and measuring support content success. RSVP today – We hope to see you there.

How to get your team to buy-in to new content authoring standards

In our recent webinar, The 5 Biggest KM Challenges You’ll Face, our presenters, Melissa Burch, Knowledge Strategist of Irrevo and Brian Bombard, Senior Director of Proactive Support Delivery for Oracle Applications, shared their wisdom on tackling the trickiest problems common to every KM transformation. One of the toughest parts of transforming your strategy is getting buy-in from the people most affected by change.

How do you communicate and get buy-in on content authoring standards?

Melissa Burch, Irrevo:
Build your content contributors into creating your authoring standards as much as possible. Does it mean does that you go to them with a blank sheet of paper and ask them “Well, what should our publishing standards be?” No, but bringing them an early version of the publishing standards and asking for feedback while these are in development can be helpful. This holds true for many of the knowledge management programs holistically. If don’t solicit feedback and you try to roll out changes too quickly , it’s possible that you will run into resistance. Things that are imposed on humans are usually not very well received; it’s just not our style. We like to participate in the process, it’s just human nature.

Brian Bombard, Oracle:
The only thing I would add is once you’ve come up with those standards, make sure you build it into your toolset. Make it as easy as possible. If an engineer selects a certain doc type, make it so that they don’t have to remember what template they need to use.

Melissa Burch:
Making those publishing requirements very difficult to put into practice because they are not supported by the tool is certainly going to put a barrier between a person who’s very busy, but wants to share what they know with others and keeping the ability to do that as streamlined as possible is great advice.

Further Insight

If you missed the live broadcast of The 5 Biggest KM Challenges You’ll Face, you can watch our presentation on-demand.

Measuring content health and knowledge satisfaction: Expert tips

In our recent webinar, The 5 Biggest KM Challenges You’ll Face, our presenters, Melissa Burch, Knowledge Strategist of Irrevo and Brian Bombard, Senior Director of Proactive Support Delivery for Oracle Applications, agreed that measuring success and content health are both critical to the success of a knowledge management strategy. During our Audience Q&A, they elaborated further:

Q: How do you measure content health?

Brian Bombard:

We have an initiative around where we’re trying to target the top 50 documents. Believe it or not, the top 50 articles represented about 8% of the total use by customers  and engineers, so it was an area we could start to dig in to. The way that we started to try to ensure that it’s healthy. We went back and started being creative in a KM session.
We were able to get the SR’s where that document is view. What we would do is we would start to look and see if there was anything that that piece of content needs. Often times it might be missing a symptom or maybe the title isn’t a representative as it could be. So we would start to do some findability aspects and then we would look at any time an engineer told us that a particular article or document solved the SR, we would go back to the SR and look at why the customer wouldn’t be able to find the end document.
There’s a lot of work that we’re doing around the top docs but then also from a  content health perspective we look at the whole process. Are we hitting our targets for creating content? Are we getting content to customers? Are we processing your comments and feedback to make sure we’re addressing them within the first seven days? We also pay a lot of attention to currency. We want to make sure that the content were giving is a fresh as possible to our user base. When you look at all of these, you can assess your content health. You get a sense of what the state of the program is when you look at it from that perspective.

Q: How do you measure knowledge satisfaction?

Brian Bombard, Oracle:

We use surveys. One type that we use is called a transactional survey. After a customer’s service request is closed, they receive a survey that asks questions about KB effectiveness and also the findability of the content. We’ve also done quarterly surveys to help us track satisfaction. Our knowledge base also has the ability for customers to provide us with a thumbs up/thumbs down response to the content. I’ll be honest, we get probably .01% of that type of feedback, so generally we rely on the other two methods.

Melissa Burch, Irrevo:

Adding to what Brian said, in order to measure satisfaction with the content, more than likely you will have to use a multi-pronged approach. Only using the thumbs up/thumbs down probably won’t give you enough data points to be effective, but you certainly wouldn’t want to eliminate that as an option. You’ll need to identify some other avenues for gathering the data points you’ll need to have a robust data set in order to be effective.

Further Insight

If you missed the live broadcast of The 5 Biggest KM Challenges You’ll Face, you can watch our presentation on-demand.

Deliver psychic customer service with predictive analytics

In customer service, knowledge is powerful. In American Express’ 2014 Customer Service Barometer, 99% of customers said that getting a satisfactory answer or being connected to a knowledgeable agent was an important part of a great customer service experience.

Unfortunately, expectations don’t always match reality. A Dimension Data report found that one of the top three reasons first contact resolution (FCR) is dropping is because of a lack of knowledge. But that’s not to say customers aren’t getting knowledgeable service—it just may not be a human they’re getting it from.

Psychic customer service

Customers want a service experience that knows who they are and what they want. Luckily, companies can figure out just that using predictive analytics, which anticipates how customers will interact with a brand and what decisions they’ll make regarding purchases.

Several big brands are providing the “psychic” experience customers want using the power of predictive analytics:

  • Netflix—The popular streaming service provides TV and movie recommendations using an algorithm based on users’ rating histories. According to a ConversionXL article, they also look at other factors, such as “when did a customer pause, how many times did she pause, what was the color of the movie title that attracted the customer, etc.”
  • Gmail—Google’s proprietary email service presents you with targeted offers based on the content of the emails you’ve received. This “automated processing” shows you offers it thinks you’ll find interesting, but you can still report those messages as spam if they’re not relevant.
  • Amazon—Everyone’s favorite online retailer displays items that they think pair well with what you’re currently looking at. They reference factors like customers’ past purchases, items they’ve rated, purchases compared to other customers, and even items sitting in virtual shopping carts.

The best part about these recommendations and predictive analytics is that they’re automated—customers can view options quickly and easily and self-serve, something 40% of customers would prefer to do. These services anticipate what customers want before they even know it themselves, saving your company time while still making sure customers get the information they need.

Granted, the companies listed above are big organizations with a lot of resources at their disposal, and access to the latest and greatest technology. But you’re likely already collecting data on customers, whether it’s their name, email, or the company they work for. So what are some ways you can start using that customer information to deliver a smarter automated service experience?

Using predictive analytics in customer service

There are a number of ways your business can start using predictive analytics in customer service, including but not limited to:

  • Recommendations/Upsell— There’s a reason the companies listed above provide recommendations: to make life easier for customers. If you know what items your customers have been browsing, you can use predictive analytics to offer up items you think they’ll like, saving them the time it would take to have to search through items manually. Just don’t go too overboard with recommendations—Target learned this the hard way by sending a twenty-something customer pregnancy-related coupons based on her purchases before she even knew she was pregnant.
  • Reminders—Customers may forget things, but that doesn’t mean your business should drop the ball. If you’re a company that provides medical equipment, for instance, your customers may forget to reorder on time. But by using predictive analytics to determine when they’ll run out of supplies, you can send targeted recommendations that arrive at just the right time. This way, your customer stays healthy, and your business makes a transaction that would have been forgotten otherwise.
  • Retention—Studies have shown that a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25 to 95%. If customers aren’t opening your emails or haven’t interacted with your brand in a while, you can use predictive analytics to schedule outbound communications that reengage them on a channel they prefer.


It’s not hard to get started with predictive analytics—companies like IBM offer great predictive analytics services, and partner companies allow you to incorporate their intelligence over channels like voice and SMS. We predict your customers just might love it.

How hot is your knowledge management program? 3 ways to take its temperature

taking-temperatureYou’ve set your goals for the year, and you think you’re making progress. But, is it enough progress? As we enter Q2, now is a good time to take the temperature of your KM plan, and determine if the progress you’re making is sufficient or if additional changes need to come. Here are some signs to look out for that you still have work to do on your KM plan.

You don’t have a KM management plan in place.

This is the most obvious sign you’re in need of a change, of course. However, the importance of your company having a plan to not only capture knowledge, but also to eliminate less-useful content, cannot be overstated. As any company grows, it collects content in the knowledge base that needs an update or is no longer needed at all. It’s crucial for your customers’ satisfaction and that of your customer support agents to create a knowledge management plan to identify out-of-date content and how it is to be handled. If your company doesn’t have a KM plan in place already, mark this year as the time to start one and transform your knowledge management practices.

Your customer support reps don’t know how to handle certain customer issues, so they escalate them to their managers.

Do your customer service reps do this often? There may be a couple of reasons behind this practice. Perhaps your CSRs have insufficient information available to them in the knowledge base to instruct them on how to handle these customer issues, or perhaps the answer exists, but they simply don’t know how to find it in a rapid fashion. Either way, if your CSRs are defaulting to a state where they send issues with an unknown solution to their manager, it’s time to think about how to transform your KM plan. You need to have best practices in place for collecting undocumented solutions and adding the missing solution to the knowledge base, as well as procedures for communicating the location of those answers to your CSRs so that they can find the solutions they need on the fly.

Your customer support reps only discuss issue resolutions amongst themselves.

It’s all well and good for your customer support reps to discuss amongst themselves best practices for handling specific customer issues, but if there is no involvement in those discussions from the knowledge management team, you are losing valuable knowledge, simply by your team’s exclusion from the conversation. You need to add procedures into your KM plan for meeting with your CSRs and including them in the knowledge management process. The more they are included in your KM plan, the knowledge base, and the transformations you made to both, the more confident the CSRs become that they can turn to the knowledge base for whatever information they need. This makes your CS team advocates for your KM plan, and every voice in your corner counts when it comes to buy-in for future changes you want to make to the knowledge base and the KM plan.



On April 28th, we are following up on our popular guidebook, How to Build a Knowledge Management Transformation Plan that Wins Executive Support with a webinar on The 5 Biggest KM Transformation Challenges You’ll Face.

Join us for proactive solutions and advice to overcome the obstacles that hold back your knowledge management program.