|Five Steps To
Successful Knowledge Management In Your Service Center
By Daniel Mason, NextPage
Knowledge management ' like so many other popular industry terms '
has certainly suffered from its share of hype and misrepresentation. But
that doesn't change the fact that the right approach to knowledge
management can have a tremendous positive impact on productivity,
innovation, knowledge retention and customer satisfaction. This is
especially true in service center environments, where fast and consistent
access to the right information, and the ability to capture and share new
information quickly and effectively, often spell the difference between
success and failure. Most modern service centers are already proficient at
tracking calls, but finding the information to resolve those calls is
another matter. Service center organizations currently focus most of their
resources on tracking issues rather than on resolving problems. However,
according to the Service and Support Professionals Association (SSPA), 82
percent of a service center's costs come from problem resolution, not
issue tracking. Customer feedback supports these findings. The most common
customer support complaint is slow and inconsistent issue resolution.
It's clear that smart, effective knowledge management is the key to
lowering operating costs and improving service.
The following are five important steps designed to help you along the path
to successful knowledge management. All of these steps go beyond
technology issues to address processes, strategies and even human nature.
Time and experience have proven that each is an absolutely essential piece
of a successful knowledge management solution.
Step #1: Capture new solutions within your natural problem resolution
Service organizations often make the mistake of separating knowledge
creation and incident resolution processes in an attempt to control and
improve the quality of the content they make available. As a result,
service center analysts usually author new knowledge articles in batches
' at the end of the week or once a month ' because they simply can't
afford to take the time during the problem-solving process. This increases
the risk that important new information will never get authored, staying
trapped inside the heads of individual analysts. Separating knowledge
creation from the problem resolution process also results in the loss of
important context and nuances of language, which fade over time and
inevitably make the knowledge less useful and more difficult to find.
Ultimately, knowledge management is about solving problems quickly, and
the ability to capture knowledge on the fly while closing tickets is
crucial. Collective knowledge is always more useful than individual
knowledge, and any knowledge management solution that makes it difficult
to build a complete and accurate body of knowledge ' or slows the
process of adding new information to the knowledge base as part of a
natural problem resolution workflow ' cannot be considered completely
successful. Integrating your knowledge creation and problem resolution
processes is an excellent way to streamline and simplify the process of
adding important new information to your knowledge base quickly.
Practical Tips: Make sure your knowledge management system is tightly
integrated with your call-tracking system. This includes making it
possible for analysts to find solutions and capture new information
without leaving their comfortable and familiar call-tracking window.
Step #2: Streamline and simplify the content review process.
Many organizations develop elaborate review processes to make knowledge
base content more 'perfect' or 'pristine.' These reviews often
delay the availability of important new information, wasting a great
amount of time ' especially since most new content (around 60 percent)
will never be reused. As a result of these delays, analysts quickly lose
confidence in the knowledge base as the best source for current and
relevant information. Any effective knowledge management system must
recognize that collecting raw information can be messy, and making
unrefined information available quickly to appropriate audiences is often
more important than perfecting it. This requires simple, effective
processes and systems for making rough new information available quickly
to a limited audience ' then making it easy to evaluate, refine and
perfect the content for a wider audience as demand (and not some
indiscriminate process) dictates. Streamlining and simplifying your review
processes can eliminate bottlenecks, reduce administration costs, simplify
and accelerate the content creation process and make your knowledge base
more relevant, timely and useful.
Practical Tips: Eliminate the need for a full-time knowledge
administrator by making it easy and practical for frontline analysts to
capture and publish information within their call-tracking windows. Then
make sure your knowledge management system can track how often this
'rough' information is being used, automatically push frequently used
solutions down to designated second- or third-tier subject experts for
fact checking and refinement, and make the most valuable articles visible
on a self-service Web site. This should be a practical, demand-driven
Step #3: Use consistent standards and templates to improve quality.
Creating high-quality knowledge base content is extremely important
because poor quality translates directly into inconsistency and lack of
confidence among staff members. However, talking about quality is much
easier than actually improving it. Unless the people who make new
contributions to your knowledge base have an accurate understanding of
what 'quality' means in terms of authoring new articles, improving the
quality and consistency of your content will remain an elusive goal.
To bring your content quality goals down to earth, it's helpful to
define, communicate and enforce 'quality' in concrete terms. After you
establish these specific quality standards, you can then create sample
articles that exemplify those standards. This helps analysts by giving
them a template to follow for their own articles.
The best quality standards are simple and easy to understand. Examples
of concrete quality standards include using active rather than passive
voice and using bulleted and numbered lists rather than paragraphs. These
kinds of clear, easy-to-understand rules will boost the confidence of
analysts, encourage information sharing and improve the overall
effectiveness of your knowledge base.
Practical Tips: Provide best practice forms or templates that
automatically capture relevant call log details (issue, resolution,
environment, etc.) in a standardized document format. This makes it
possible for analysts to convert call log details into new problem
resolution documents by clicking a button rather than manually re-keying
the information into a different system.
Step #4: Get top-to-bottom buy-in for your knowledge management
One of the most common and damaging mistakes knowledge management
proponents make when developing and presenting knowledge management
proposals is failing to create a shared vision and alignment among
executive leadership, management and frontline people. This failure to
gain consistent and enthusiastic support across all levels of the
organization can lead to inadequate executive support and skepticism among
analysts who may view the effort as the latest 'flavor of the month'
initiative. Without proper buy-in, even the most promising programs can
fail to produce the desired results.
To achieve this top-to-bottom buy-in, it's important to clearly
understand and define the desired outcomes and expected benefits of your
knowledge management efforts. Next, you need to show how these outcomes
and benefits align with your organization's objectives. Finally, it's
critical to communicate the project's objectives and the benefits to
each stakeholder, anticipating and addressing concerns at each level. By
clearly demonstrating how every layer of your organization will benefit by
adopting a more effective knowledge management solution, you pave the way
for an effective, successful implementation that resonates with every
person in the organization.
Practical Tip: Implement an executive dashboard that allows
executives to see the results of your knowledge initiatives and to
identify areas for improvement. If your efforts reduce escalations by 10
percent or lower handle times by 20 percent, you'll want your executive
team to know about it quickly.
Step #5: Reward and recognize people for sharing knowledge.
There is a common misperception ' fueled by human nature ' that people
who have knowledge are more powerful and have more leverage than people
without. As a result, many organizations unknowingly encourage a culture
of 'knowledge hoarding' by recognizing and rewarding people who
possess knowledge, rather than those who share it. In this situation,
individual knowledge becomes more important and desirable than collective
knowledge. This encourages people to focus on their own needs rather than
the needs of the customer or the organization. In addition, when
'information hoarders' leave the organization, they take their
knowledge with them and leave you with problematic knowledge gaps.
By contrast, an effective, successful knowledge management solution
encourages information sharing and makes collective knowledge more
desirable than individual knowledge. To create this type of
information-sharing environment, it's important to encourage, reward and
recognize efforts to collaborate and contribute shared knowledge with the
group. As you recognize and reward people for contributing and sharing
information, you increase the value and quality of your knowledge base.
You remove single points of failure. And you make those who choose to
hoard information powerless and obsolete. This enables you to encourage
the development and progression of your staff to new areas where growth
and career development become alternatives to leaving the organization.
Practical Tips: Don't roll-out your knowledge solution to
everyone at once. Start with a core team of a few key frontline and
second-tier analysts, including one person responsible for refining
solutions. Incorporate many different personality types into this core
team, including experienced experts who may be threatened by knowledge
management as well as those who tend to trust and follow. Make sure
everyone on your core team is comfortable with the application and
process. Run reports to recognize and reward your star contributors, and
create enthusiastic champions who will evangelize the new knowledge
initiative when you roll it out to the rest of the organization.
These five steps are certainly not all-inclusive, but they can help you
avoid some of the most common mistakes and traps service organizations
fall into as they design and implement knowledge management solutions.
They can also help you to broaden your perspective and to see beyond
product features, system capabilities and process charts.
In the end, successful knowledge management is a balanced blend of
technology, training, people and processes. Ignoring or neglecting any of
these elements can result in lost time, wasted money and a knowledge
management implementation that fails to meet expectations or live up to
Daniel Mason is the vice president of GetSmart Applications at NextPage, a knowledge management and
content solutions provider. He is responsible for researching, developing
and marketing knowledge management products for the service center. He is
certified in knowledge management by STI Knowledge and trained in
Knowledge-Centered Support best practices. At NextPage, he has been
instrumental in launching NextPage products to customers in the knowledge
management, content management and publishing markets.
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