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

 

Projects are Out, Programs are In: Tackling Knowledge Management The Effective Way

program-project-fieldDid you know that 91% of customers would rather use a support site, instead of use phone support to get help for their support issues, if a company has a support site tailored it to their needs? If you’re trying to reduce your company’s support call volume, this is good news. But, also be aware that 45% of customers will toss online purchases they were about to make, if a support site doesn’t allow them to quickly find answers to their questions.

To attract that 91% of customers to your company’s support site, and avoid that 45% potential loss, it isn’t enough for your company to simply build up the knowledge available on your support site so that it contains all of the answers your customers could ever search for. You need to establish a plan of attack for building up the support site and maintaining the knowledge within it. This is where a knowledge management project and a knowledge management program come into play.

You might ask, what’s the difference between a project and a program? Aren’t they the same thing? They’re related, yes, but certainly not the same thing.

A project is a high-level goal you want to accomplish, whereas a program is the definition of the project’s goals and the roadmap for how you will reach the project goals. Think of it this way – if knowledge management was a sport like football, winning a football game would be the project, and the players in the game, the plays the coach has prepped, and the statistics generated during the game would be the program.

So, how do you create that roadmap so that you can see success for your project?

Define the Vision of Your KM Program

In order to begin planning out your KM program, you need to define what it is you want to accomplish within the program. Part of this is to identify what kind of support experience your customers want and how you want to deliver on that expectation.

Next, decide on what level of effort is needed to accomplish the goals you’ve defined. This may be as simple as creating a high-level outline of the work to be accomplished, or you may need to bring in some additional data to better define the required effort.

Define the Success Metrics for Your KM Program

Before you can plan out steps for accomplishing the vision of your KM program, you need to set some milestones for yourself, both short-term and long-term. These milestones will help your roadmap take shape.

When you know what your milestones are, determine what the success markers for each milestone will be and how you will measure the success metrics. For example, if one of your milestones is to improve on the searchability of your support site, you might utilize usage data to determine how easy it is for users to locate answers on the support site. However, for something like improving customer satisfaction, you may need to employ customer surveys.

And, lastly, you need to decide how to act on the goals you want to accomplish at each milestone in the program. Ask yourself, what steps need to be executed to meet each of those success metrics? Knowing what steps need to be taken to reach your milestones is crucial to successful implementation of your program.

Put all of these pieces together, and you will have taken your KM project to the next level. You will have a well-developed KM program that will help you attract and retain customers looking for help on your company’s support site.

Further Reading

whitepaper_managing-knowledge_thumb (1)Irrevo’s recent white paper, Managing Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact, takes a deeper dive into the processes and success measures behind transitioning your knowledge program from short-term project approach to a long-term program. Download it today!

What Every Startup Needs to Know about Knowledge Management

Captured knowledge lasts foreverOccasionally, I’ve been hanging out at the Tech Ranch in Austin, Texas. The Tech Ranch is an office space for startups and entrepreneurs to incubate their ideas and organizations. My focus is on Knowledge Management in medium to large organizations, or more descriptively, managing the flow of information and knowledge across an organization. For the most part, I don’t fit the mold at Tech Ranch, but it offers me a place to break out of my work-at-home routine.

In my observations and interactions at the Tech Ranch, managing knowledge in these small businesses and startups is more spontaneous, earthy, unstructured, and tribal. This is part of the allure of a startup or small organization. Ideas have potential to germinate into big things. Hope springs eternal — until the money runs out. In small organizations, most of the communication and knowledge sharing occurs naturally. Teams are well-connected.

At the end of the day, organizations will make it based on their competitive edge, which is typically defined as speed to market of their unique ideas, muscling forward with determination, and the way they manage their information and knowledge. An organization can have a ton of funding with the greatest, and smartest people; however, ineffectively managing their organizational knowledge will doom them.

As I look at their excitement, the gleam in their eyes, and their noses to the grindstone, I would like to offer a few suggestions to improve their chances of success, lay the foundation for strong Knowledge Management practices, bolster their competitive edge, increase their organizational effectiveness, and allow them to propel sooner to the next level of organizational maturity, growth and revenue.

Knowledge Assets are the value of your organization (KM Strategy)

People, resources, and funding may come and go, but the knowledge you capture stays with you.

Streamline and Centralize Knowledge Assets

Centralize the Organization’s Knowledge by identifying and communicating the official spaces or repositories for your Organization to use. The cloud makes it really easy these days. Employees (including you reading this) should not keep organizational information and knowledge in his or her personal repositories (ie: computers, personal email, phones, etc …). Granted, an organization will have Confidential, Restricted and Legal documents, those assets should be defined as such, and kept in their own restricted areas.

Avoid the Cool Tool Du Jour

Even though someone may have their favorite new-fangled, cutting-edge technology that all of the kids are using these days, a smart business will not allow the “cool tool du jour” to occur. One of the fasted ways to derail goals and objectives is to freely allow for splintered and silo’d knowledge to propagate, creating conflicts and redundancy – especially if most of the organization does not know it exists. This is a rampant issue in many large organization today. Nip it in the bud.

Communicate Your Organizational KM Strategy and Practices

If you are currently in a splintered environment with knowledge hoarders, schedule a short meeting to discuss the potential issues with the repository leads and owners. Appeal to their sense in regards to the mission of your organization. This is part of the maturity of an organization. In addition, communicate a KM Practice on a weekly basis.

Finding Answers

Studies show workers spend 20% (or more) of their time searching for answers.

Centralizing your Knowledge Assets will reduce some of these organizational inefficiencies, and administrative overhead.

Establish a Knowledge Structure beyond Functional Roles

You have different individuals in charge of Development, Marketing, Hiring, Sales, and Engineering (or someday you will). You hired them because they are experts in their field and can work autonomously for the greater cause of the organization. But don’t leave it to them to develop their own Departmental Knowledge Strategy without it being part of the overall Organizational KM Strategy.

Knowledge Training

Everyone in your organization needs to be familiar with your Central Repositories, and how they are structured at the top levels. Get in the habit of tagging, and storing your Knowledge Assets in their intended place. This will make it easier for someone in the DEV group to find the latest Logo created by the Marketing team. It will make it easier to onboard new employees quickly. It will make it easier for people to find answers. Everyone in your small organization needs to understand how to do this, as well as the benefits of doing this. Spend 30 minutes training them on your KM Practices, and remind them on a weekly basis. If needed, coach individuals to get their buy-in, and reduce rework.

Understand these two words: Tacit Knowledge and Explicit Knowledge

  • Tacit Knowledge: This is the information and knowledge you keep in your head, and you can spew at will. In other words, you don’t know what you know, until someone asks. (ie: What are the 3 restaurant you would tell people to avoid?)
  • Explicit Knowledge: This is the Tacit Knowledge that has been recorded, and structured into an Organizational Knowledge Asset. Others can find it, Reuse it, and collaborate on the knowledge. This is documents, code, manuals, websites, videos, presentations, procedures, etc …

This is the tip of the iceberg for effective Knowledge Management (Organizational Effectiveness). Many organizations will say they do not have time. Just remember, Knowledge is the value your organization provides, and is your competitive differentiator. If you don’t have a KM Strategy, set aside some time, and bring a bit more sanity to your organization. They will thank you for it.

Managing Knowledge to Achieve Greater Impact – Your Questions, Expert Answers

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.

In this series of posts, our Senior Knowledge Consultant, Melissa Burch, and founder of FT Works, Françoise Tourniaire, take on some of the insightful questisons asked by our audience.

Each of these articles covers a different aspect of how to get the most from your knowledge program:

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.

Diagnosing Unhealthy Content: 4 Cures for Common Knowledgebase Ailments

Building a successful knowledge management solution doesn’t stop at implementation.  Once a KM system is up and running, it’s important to track how articles are being used and how well the system is performing overall.kb_heartbeat_heart

With 25-45% of today’s workforce using and sharing knowledge and information, it’s more important than ever to provide knowledge base articles that are relevant, useful and easy to find. Building a strong knowledge base that delivers long-term benefits requires constant tracking and maintenance to keep it relevant.  Making small course changes along the way based on user feedback, performance metrics and content reviews are the keys to maintaining a successful KM solution.

Check Your Metrics

To get the most detailed view of how your KM solution is performing, you have to look at the metrics, including which pages are getting the most traffic and how they are rated by users.  Identifying the articles that get the most views and user votes and those that have a high bounce rate and low user ratings is a critical part of any KM health check. Looking at how these articles are tracking compared to others helps with identifying content gaps or outdated content that no longer applies.  Once you have identified areas that should be removed and those that need to be updated, you can work on improving articles and seeing how those updates perform with future metrics.

Provide High Quality Content

A key element to any KM system is quality content.  When evaluating your KM solution, look at the articles that are presented to customer service reps and customers.  Pages that don’t perform well often lack the basic information that someone is looking for or are too full of grammatical errors to be helpful.  Make sure you haven’t placed all of your focus on the technology by neglecting article quality.  Putting your best content efforts forward in articles that generate the most interest and improving those that aren’t performing as well will help drive traffic to your most important articles.

Maximize Search Efforts

Do you know how users find the articles they need?  If you haven’t implemented an SEO strategy, or if it’s been awhile since you did keyword research for the business, then users may not be finding your information.  Doing some basic keyword research and implementing the right keywords into your article update strategy is a great way to help users find the right information.  Staying on top of your keyword strategy and making improvements along the way will help you get the best results.

Review, Improve, Repeat

Having a successful KM system involves much more than just investing in the latest technology and having a great launch.  Making small, yet important changes along the way by identifying content gaps in your knowledge base, improving existing articles and maintaining a consistent SEO strategy will ensure that you get the most out of your investment.

 

Are you ignoring your most knowledgeable employees?

As call center leadership, you know that your biggest asset is your frontline employees. After all, they’re the ones who have the power to provide an exceptional experience that creates lifelong customers. Your agents put the Service in Customer Service.

A single Customer Service Representative (CSR) can only help one customer at a time. If he is assisting the team, maybe he can help two or three customers at a time. Of course, all of your customers deserve an exceptional experience, and using the know-how of your ace reps can be a big help in working towards this goal. What can you do to best utilize your superstar reps’ knowledge and experience? Here are some suggestions:

Knowledge Sharing CSRsUse CSR-created articles

Many knowledge bases have the capability for users to create new articles or provide feedback on existing ones. Employees who spend all day speaking with customers know which policies are difficult to manage, which how-to steps are tricky, and which procedures require additional explanation. Using software that gives CSRs the opportunity to chime in and provide feedback on these type of situations helps bring your content creators closer to the customer experience. It also allows agents to help peers in your call centers around the world, instead of only building the expertise of the peers fortunate enough to sit within earshot.

Offer a simple survey

CSRs spend almost a third of their day trying to find the answers to the questions their customers ask. Setting up a simple survey to ask your agents what questions they can’t answer is a great way to leverage their experiences. This can give you useful insight into how to give your customers the best possible service experience.

Listen to recorded calls

Listen to calls. Your QA team is already recording calls, sometimes with screen shots. Take some time to review these calls in detail. Are your reps spending a lot of time filling dead air with small talk while they click around, struggling to find the answers for the customers’ queries? Look for specific articles on your support site that can be improved and be wary of trends that are having a negative impact on your customer’s experience.

Create a mentorship

A more direct step is to open up lines of communications between content teams who likely don’t interact one-on-one with customers and frontline reps who are fully engaged in the customer experience. A mentorship program that partners CSRs with content creators gives agents a peek behind the curtain and perspective on how the sausage is made, and gives support teams access to very detailed knowledge about customer roadblocks.

By listening to your agents as well as your customers, you’re positioning your organization for success with a truly exceptional customer experience while helping your most knowledgeable reps feel like valued members of the team.

Knowledge base spring cleaning – Part 3: Good choices make for a solid Knowledge Roadmap

3-way_arrowIn the beginning of this series, we defined the knowledge management strategies and identified the right knowledge management resources. This time, we’ll talk about what happens when a content cleanup turns into a content migration.

At the early stage of a knowledge transformation project, many organizations discover a few big issues that require more time and resources than initially expected. Your company may decide it’s better to explore a new knowledge base system, thinking that it’s just plain easier to start fresh instead of spending time and resources on updating content where it exists.

And the process begins… 

First, you start with requirement gathering, which usually sounds like this:

What do we need this new system to do?
Wait, can’t our current system support that?
What do we need?
What do we want?

Then, you move on to the Requests for Proposals, where you’re swarmed with 100 word essays from a half-dozen vendors and service providers.

Can this system support what we need out of the box?
What can this vendor do better?
Does this support all of our requirements?
How much will these customizations cost?

And you pick a vendor, and you build a project plan, and you build a project team, and you’re finally ready to move along with your brand new knowledge base, except..

What about the content?

You’ve spent time and budget on picking a new and exciting technology that will help you achieve your knowledge goals. But if you’re truly going to transform your knowledge program, it’ll take more time and budget to fix and/or migrate the content.

The ‘good enough’ way: “Just put it in a new system, we’ll clean it later …”

A lot of organizations go down this path. Yes, you can see some positive change just by switching to a new technology. But if your content is the same, you’re bound to run into some familiar problems.

The better idea: “Let’s clean it up as we go.”

Updating your content allows you to make all of the changes you’ve had in the back of your mind for years. What’s on your wish list? Better searchability? Increased resolution rate? Simpler content? Here are a few strong starting points for setting up your new knowledgebase for success:

  • Get a site taxonomy built before you move it in the new location
  • Define and create content templates to fit the various content types
  • Conduct a scrub for style, presentation, consistency of terms for better searchability
  • Establish clear content ownership
  • Build out the content workflow
  • Enter metadata for tagging

We’re done! What’s next?

Whether you took the easier route of moving your content as-is, or took on the challenging task of cleaning up your content first, eventually, you’ll complete all of your migration-related tasks and call your knowledge transformation complete. But after a little while, those familiar gremlins pop back up again.

We just put a new system in place, why can’t people find anything?
Man, I could really use some help cleaning up this mess of content.

Any knowledge base is only as powerful as the knowledge program that supports it, and that truth is especially loud and clear after a migration.

The bottom line… build a Knowledge Roadmap

An effective knowledge roadmap helps you define the guiding principles of your knowledge program. It outlines the workflows, the processes, the stakeholders, and, of course, your overall goals. Even with the best intentions, plan, and people in place, there are a lot of competing priorities, deliverables, and timelines, but a knowledge roadmap anticipates the demands on your team’s time and streamlines processes so your content, and your entire Customer Service organization, can live up to its full potential.

Stephen R Covey wrote about Habit 2 in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.” The same applies to your knowledge program, “…if your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.”

4 Strategies to Minimize Effort and Maximize Value during a Content Migration

It is time to move! Nearly everyone has taken advantage of the opportunity to sort and purge when moving.  You have the same chance when moving your content from a legacy system into new one. We recommend that you take a demand-driven approach and go through a sorting exercise to identify the most valuable knowledge. If you are restricted on time and budget, only focus on these documents.

Here are some suggestions on how you might make decisions on what to bring and what to leave behind.

Usage

80-20The 80-20 rule applies here. Identify those pieces of knowledge that are used most frequently. Specifically, identify the top 20% that generate the most usage from your end users. Consider these your priority documents.

If you are not able to access usage data, you can still rely on a manual demand-driven migration strategy.  Architect a manual process and enable your end-users to identify those documents that they use and flag them for migration. Enabling your end users to identify those documents that they find most valuable will mean less cost as you migrate content.

 

Accuracy and relevance

Once you have identified your top 20%, review this content for accuracy and relevance. In some cases, you will have user feedback data to help provide clues. Look in your feedback data to identify those documents that appear to need improvement work. Examples include documents that are being opened many times but where users are not giving them good ratings. These documents are candidates for content migration, but will need to be updated at the same time you move to the new system.

If you don’t have access to user feedback data, you might consider using a tool like Irrevo’s KnowledgeAQ to review and gather data on the accuracy of the knowledge that you have targeted for migration. Establish a standard set of review criteria questions and manually gather accuracy data on all the documents in your content migration inventory.

Unsupported and very old

Perhaps in your environment it is easiest to identify what NOT to bring. Start by eliminating those documents that align to unsupported products or processes. Also, if it works in your situation, identify those documents that have not been updated for quite some time. These are also candidates for documents that can be left behind.

Hold on, we have to migrate all our documents!!

Sometimes, especially in highly regulated industries, content can’t be purged for a specific period of time.  In those cases, we recommend that you establish a very cost effective process to move your content inventory from the legacy system to the new system as efficiently as possible. Don’t be tempted to make extensive content improvement efforts just yet. Defer those content improvement activities until you have been in the new system for a bit of time and can take advantage of the usage data to identify the most valuable. Once you have visibility to that which is most valuable to you, then you can make your formatting improvements.

Don’t make a costly migration investment and move everything to the new system unless you are required to do so. Instead, take advantage of the opportunity to purge and sort your knowledge while you have the chance.

 

No more heroes, no more silos: Get back to the 40 hour work-week with Knowledge Management

silo_superheroRecently, several articles were published reporting that we are working more than 40 hours a weekespecially in the United States. We are spending more time on our work and less time on ourselves. The 40 hour work week is a thing of the past. The reports call out the continuing pressure by management to push productivity, meet deadlines, and be a team-player – all in the spirit of profit, competition and survival.

In the early 20th century, workers faced similar pressures, which spawned the coveted 40-hour work week, and paid time-off. However, as the reports indicate, they are meaningless. Let’s face it, we are working more hours.

So how do we move forward?

  • How do we take-back time for ourselves and move our personal lives forward?
  • How do we move the organization forward?
  • How do we compete?

Moving forward

Buy New Technology: The organization can buy some new whiz-bang technologies, but it is only as good as the people who effectively use it. As well, there will be some new whiz-bang technology coming along in a few years promising to do more. If your competitors purchase the same technology, are you really creating a competitive differentiator? Are you really moving forward?

Better Talent: Hire smarter people for less money. This is easier said than done. After going through the outsourcing wave in the previous decade, the reports show our work week is still getting longer. Outsourcing does not necessarily reduce the amount of time spent, and it doesn’t really move the organization forward.

Organizational Effectiveness (a.k.a. Knowledge Management)

Every organization manages knowledge, but most organizations stumble and bumble along the way. They are caught in the hurry-scurry of the day, and move along by brute force and – more long hours. For the most part, managing knowledge is someone else’s job. However, a few organizations have established a strong Knowledge Management (KM) program, deliberately designed for the organization to work smarter, not harder. A strong KM program is the way back to the 40 hour work week.

A strong KM program and culture leverages the collective knowledge and experience across the organization. It removes the silos, stagnant projects and heroes-and-mavericks mentality. A strong KM program gets past the organizational static and clutter, and creates a collaborative culture, fostering efficiency, creativity, and profits, providing the organization with a competitive differentiator.

Keep in mind, there are several ways to approach a deliberate KM Program. Also, understand, Knowledge Management is not a project, rather it is a way of doing business. Here are several questions to ask yourself and your leadership:

  1. Does your organization have a Knowledge Management strategy?
  2. Does your organization have a Knowledge Management roadmap?
  3. Does your organization measure KM (… or the effectiveness of your organizations)?
  4. Is managing knowledge a core pillar of the communication plan?
  5. Is managing knowledge a part of your job?

Most organizations cannot answer ‘yes’ to these questions.

Perhaps its time you considered a deliberate Knowledge Management program. Work smarter, not harder, and take back your time!