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.

Capturing the terms that make content findable: How Knowledge Centered Support (KCS℠) can help

Knowledge Centered Support is one of the most powerful tools you can use to improve your content for a wealth of reasons. By incorporating KCS principles into your knowledge workflow, you can increase the likelihood that your audience will be able to locate the information they need to address their issue or answer their question.

What’s the question?

First, you must place yourself in the shoes of the content seeker to try and anticipate what question they might ask to locate the content.  Typically, this comes from a customer or an employee.  Herein lies the first challenge.  If the person trying to locate the content did not write the content, how can you possibly know which words to type in the search box to maximize your chances of finding the exact content you are looking for?

The answer lies within the KCS practices

Knowledge Capture The first step in writing a piece of content is to “capture” it.  Usually, that comes from communicating with a customer about a question or problem.  People who are not practicing KCS will usually try to translate what the customer is asking or saying into what they think the problem is and then write an article about the translated problem.

This presents an issue because generally the people searching for the content (ie. other customers) think similarly and may describe the problem or question in a similar way.  Therefore, part of capturing using KCS practices is to also put it in the exact context as was described by the initial customer who reported it.

This is called capturing in the customer’s context.  If customers describe the screen as blue, but a more accurate description is azure, make sure blue is still in the article, preferably in the title (along with azure).  This will help someone else immediately identify the article as a possible candidate for the answer if they spot it in a list with one of the words they have searched on.


The next step is to structure the content.  Not only does it need to be accurate, clearly stated, and easy to read, it also needs to contain ALL the words that someone else might use to 1) describe the problem and 2) search for it.  This doesn’t always happen as the article is being written.  It is often an iterative process.  However, you don’t really want a support agent taking the extra time to think of all the words that could be used to describe say the word blue in the example above.

So many words

This is where a Knowledge Management tool with a built in dictionary can make things much easier to practice KCS and make things much more findable.  Instead of placing the words within each article, certain tools contain a global dictionary where you can add related words.  Again from our example above, if the article only contains the word blue, you could add this to the dictionary and list the related words like azure, turquoise, navy, etc.  Then, when a search contains any of those words, it will find all the articles with the related words and place them in the search results list.  And best of all, as new articles get added with any of those “blue” type words, they will be returned in searches and therefore customers and employees will have an easier time finding them.

Why search is so important

Inaccurate or incorrect search results will stifle KM adoption and content reuse even in the best of KCS organizations. The KM search engine must adapt not only to how users ask questions using natural language processing, filtering selections, content metadata, customer dictionary synonyms, and proximity/ordering of words in the users’ query, but also to who the user is and which content is of most interest and importance to them in real time. Additionally, having a strong KM analytics focused KCS program will enlighten KM administrators on exactly how users are searching, which content is being used most and least often, and perhaps most importantly, what content is missing from the knowledge base. When an organization intimately understands how users search, what content they are using, and what content they need, they can better configure their KM system to be more responsive and accurate, all while improving the overall perception, acceptance, and reliance on KM and the industry proven KCS practices.

This post was co-authored by Link Black, manager of the Knova KM product line for Aptean. Link has been working with Knova KM as a technical consultant and manager for more than 15 years and is based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Knowledge-Centered Support℠ (KCS): Expert Answers to Your Implementation Questions

Recently, we hosted an expert panel discussion, Re-imagine Your Customer Experience With Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS℠), where industry experts shared some great insights on how a knowledgebase transformation can drive change throughout your business.

Our audience asked some very insightful questions, and we’ll be expanding on our answers in this upcoming series of blog posts.

Today, Melissa Burch and Laurel Poertner, Irrevo Knowledge Strategists, expand on some of the answers shared during yesterday’s webinar.

Once KCS is implemented, how do increase the adoption rate by your customer service team?

Laurel PoertnerStart talking about the KCS Continuum. KCS is a journey and there are so many things you can add to a KCS program that add value. Start by getting volunteers to learn and try out new practices and techniques and then have them present their findings to the rest of the organization. It gives them the opportunity to show what they have learned and you will have more “Champions” around the office that get KCS into more conversations.

Melissa BurchI have seen great success when knowledge sharing participants see the impact they are making. Provide regular communications that show all participants the number of people who are using content and the feedback it has received. It is so validating when the efforts are acknowledged and it is making a difference in the lives of customers.

The biggest challenge in rolling out KCS is getting buy-in. Can you share some thoughts about the initial increase of Average Handle Time and After Call Work (ACW)? 

Laurel PoertnerTypically, we have not seen an increase in AHT at all. People usually worry that it will happen but I have never experienced it. The investment is more around finding time to dedicate to coaching activities. I would definitely set aside some initial training/ramp up time around coaching. Testimonials and case studies may also help get buy in from upper management. No two KCS programs are alike so it is impossible to predict the impact on one organization vs. another but if you can find similar industries and share their successes with some detailed metrics, that usually helps. Finding someone with KCS program management experience to help with the initial assessment is also a great way to increase the chance for success.

Learn MoreKnowledge Program Guidebook

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch a recording of this webinar. 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.

Ready to implement a new Knowledge Strategy? Check out our latest white paper to learn more about getting executive buy-in for your knowledge transformation.



Don’t Let Your Knowledge Die a Lonely Death: How Knowledge Centered Support Immortalizes Knowledge

I don’t have time to give the customers the quality attention I’d like to…I’m just keeping my head above water as it is!

Have you experienced this?

  • Your tech support staff drowning in a sea of service requests?
  • Your customers complaining about the quality of support they get?
  • Your staff demoralized because even they don’t think they are doing a good job for all their customers?

I have.

KCS and a good website where customers can get the information they need can solve this problem. But when you turn to the business, they say “What? You want us to take time out from working tickets to create knowledge articles too? Didn’t you get the part about us just barely keeping our heads above water as it is?”

The solution to this dilemma resides within a well-implemented KCS system, one in which knowledge articles are created as a by-product of working tickets – not as an additional activity on top of working tickets. In this mode of operation, people are not writing any more information than they currently are – it’s just that instead of writing it in notes in their tickets, where it dies a lonely death after the ticket is closed, they’re writing their notes in a different place. It takes no more time to write the information in a window on the left side of your screen than it does to write it in a window on the right side of your screen. But by using KCS methodologies to capture the data where it can be reused, you’re writing it somewhere where it survives the closing of the ticket, escapes the lonely death, and goes on to be re-used by many others as a knowledge article.

I do oversimplify this a bit, but not much. There will be a bit of extra time as your support staff publishes their information, while they pause to make sure that what they wrote in the heat of the moment of the ticket is worded in the best way for the new knowledge article’s extended public life. But that time is easily recovered from the vast time savings of the self-service that these knowledge articles enable.

The net result is fewer repeat issues stealing time from your support staff, so they can spend more quality time with the customers they are working with. The customers are happier, the employees are happier… and you are happier!

Hear from author Russ Brookes, Director of Knowledge Management and GSS Customer Satisfaction at Avaya, and the rest of our expert panel in our recorded webinar, Re-imagine Your Customer Experience with Knowledge Centered Support. Hear how others are capitalizing on the promise of KCS.

KCS Expert Panel


KCS Academy certifies Irrevo’s Knowledge Roadmap Services as KCS-Aligned

The KCS Academy has certified that Irrevo’s Roadmap and Implementation Services align to the guiding principles of the KCS methodology. Our Roadmap and Implementation Services integrate recommendations and roadmap elements to the 4 key concepts of Knowledge Centered Support. We specialize in defining and integrating your knowledge management and customer support goals into a clear plan of action, leveraging the KCS methodology.

Need to solve cases faster?  Need to improve time to proficiency for your agents?  Looking to improve your knowledge offering for customers who self-serve?  If so, the Knowledge Centered Support methodology capitalizes on what your organization already knows. KCS shifts knowledge management focus to teams who share what they know with each other and with your customers.  By capturing and managing your knowledge assets following the best practices laid out in the KCS guiding principles, you can build a scalable, efficient knowledge operation without dramatic cost increases.

Our content quality evaluation tool, KnowledgeAQ, has also been certified as KCS-aligned. KnowledgeAQ provides a framework that enables Knowledge Managers to roll out the KCS methodology to knowledge creators at all levels in an easy-to-use format, while providing leadership with visibility into the overall quality of all evaluated content.

We quickly get your program where it needs to be.  Whether you are planning complex systems transitions, migrating content to a new knowledge base, or making organizational changes to support long term success, we will help you build a custom roadmap to quickly navigate your journey, every step of the way.

Managing Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact: Case Analysis

Our recent webinar, Managing Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact, covered the important aspects of building a knowledge ecosystem that creates happy, loyal customers.  It’s a big topic so it’s no surprise that we couldn’t get to all of the audience questions in the Q&A.

Senior Knowledge Consultant, Melissa Burch, and founder of FT Works, Françoise Tourniaire, have previously answered your questions on how to transform your knowledge program, and how to change your organization’s relationship with knowledge. Today, they’re tackling questions on case analysis.

Q: What’s your recommendation for the number of case evaluations per analyst and who should do them?

Francoise Tourniaire: For established analysts, a couple per quarter, randomly chosen, should suffice, assuming that the outcome is positive. (If not, review more to determine whether there is a real issue, or if you just happened to pick problematic cases.) For new hires, or anyone with performance issues, you should review more, maybe all of them for brand-new hires.

As to who should do the case evaluations, I’m a strong proponent of having the analyst’s manager perform them. It’s best to have the same person perform the evaluations, deliver feedback, and manage the performance. That being said, with very technical products it’s often helpful to enlist the help of a senior technical resource who would be better able to assess the quality of the troubleshooting process.

Q: How do you measure case deflection as a result of knowledge?

Francoise Tourniaire: I wrote a book on this! Seriously, it’s a very difficult topic. Depending on the tool you are using, you may be able to present possible solutions to users as they are logging cases. If so, you can measure the percentages of cases not logged. Voila! (But note that some, maybe many users may have found solutions and gone away happy without starting to log a case.)

Otherwise, you need to have a method for measuring what’s NOT happening, which is very difficult. I like to simply measure the incident rate, so volume of cases per customer (or per seat, per license, whatever method helps you capture the size of the customer base). If the incident rate goes down when you are improving the knowledge base, that’s a positive result. Of course, incident rate depends on many other factors, most notably product quality… If you have multiple product lines you can check them against each other to eliminate these other factors.

Q: How do you measure quality when the customer needs to go and do some work and only then determine whether the solution worked? They are unlikely to come back and score the item.

Francoise Tourniaire: Determining the quality of an individual solution is best determined by (1) feedback on the solution itself and (2) reuse during case resolution. The vast majority of customers will not bother rating solutions at all, so be sure to use whatever feedback is given: if one person complains about a solution, chances are that dozens of others also had a problem.

Q: Similarly, what’s your recommendation for the number of KB articles evaluated per analyst and who should do them?

Francoise Tourniaire: Here again, a small number will suffice, assuming that the analyst is experienced and has a good record of writing quality documents. That’s a job for the KCS coaches, if you have them.

Q: Case quality reviews: Aren’t case reviews also lagging since it is after the case is closed? How is it leading?

Francoise Tourniaire: Case reviews are often conducted on closed cases, in which case they do, indeed, come after the fact. But they can be conducted on cases that are still open. Also, not every customer will return a customer satisfaction survey so the case quality review can be considered as a leading indicator of quality, suggesting what customers might say in the future about cases closed by that same individual.It’s not always easy to cleanly distinguish between leading and lagging indicators.


Further insight

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch the recorded webinar.

And for practical advice and strategies to transform your customer support experience,  read  our new white paper, Managing your Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact.

Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for answers to more follow-up questions.

Make sure to sign up for the Irrevo Newsletter for announcements about upcoming webinars and insights about creating truly great customer service.