The Road to Award-Winning KCS: A Case Study from Blackbaud

Blackbaud Support is an award-winning support organization that partners with nonprofit customers in K-12 private and higher education institutions, healthcare, corporations, foundations, and other charitable entities. With 300 passionate individuals on staff, Blackbaud Support empowers clients to achieve mission success, collaborate and solve problems across teams, and serve with heart and excellence. Handling approximately 500,000 contacts per year, Blackbaud Support provides consistently high customer satisfaction (>93%).


What was the situation before the launch of the knowledge management initiative?

Before launching our knowledge management initiative, our customers were only fairly satisfied with our knowledge management system at the time. The number of customers who contacted us for support consistently exceeded the number of customers using the knowledge base, and much of this was due to the stringent architecture of our KM system's security model. We required customers to log into our website in order to access the knowledge base, which meant that customers couldn’t use Google and other search engines to find our knowledge articles. Due to lackluster use of the knowledge base, a complicated workflow for publishing articles, the inability to use external search engines, and negative feedback, we knew we needed to migrate to a new tool that would support a true integration of KCS methodologies in our workplace.

What was the knowledge management strategy?

As is often the case with knowledge base implementations, our project was comprised of a combination of technology and process improvements.

Technology improvements:

  • Implement a publicly accessible knowledge base (Salesforce Knowledge) on Blackbaud.com
  • Implement an internal version of the knowledge base for staff, including two tiers of access:
    • For all staff: Internal-only fields on public content and internal-only content
    • For certain named staff: A technical-only field (for advanced content)
    • Make key article fields required (product, title, description, and answer) and set up the article approval process based on the article’s product and the user’s credentials (KCS Contributor or KCS Publisher)
    • Implement an enterprise search engine on Blackbaud.com and give internal staff the ability to include product documentation, YouTube videos, and other knowledge articles in new or revised knowledge articles (to be expanded to other content types later)
    • Capture detailed usage data to enable staff to assess and improve search success, and implement suggested search
    • Tie the internal version to staff’s network logins so they don’t have to have a separate login to search the internal knowledge base
    • Allow search of external knowledge base from search engines without login

    Process improvements:

    • Designate knowledge champions and knowledge base content owners for every Blackbaud product
    • Re-engage staff in KCS, focusing on improving knowledge base articles and capturing the customer voice

    Which processes and tools had to be implemented, modified, or leveraged to support the knowledge management strategy?

    Processes

    Our strategy required us to create KCS roles and responsibilities within our current staffing models: an overall KCS leader, as well as knowledge champions and knowledge base content owners for every Blackbaud product. We had to obtain full buy-in from all support leaders, and everyone had to work closely with our workforce management team to schedule time for these individuals to be off the phone.

    Our employee success teams had to re-engage staff in KCS, focusing on improving the quality of knowledge articles and capturing the customer voice. This included creating new training content to launch the KCS methodology, as well as updating new employee training content.

    Tools

    A new, publicly accessible knowledge base (Salesforce Knowledge) was the cornerstone of our initiative. Any link to a knowledge article in our legacy KM system had to be found and updated to point to the new article in Salesforce Knowledge. Links in YouTube videos or in the community, blogs, and other areas within Blackbaud.com were searched, and references were either updated or deleted.

    What organizational changes (cultural, structural, or political) had to be implemented or modified to support the knowledge management strategy?

    To support the implementation and maintain the knowledge base in the future, we created two additional roles: knowledge base champion and knowledge base coach. Champions are responsible for analyzing data for their product, assisting in the change management process, and conducting ongoing trainings for support. Coaches focus on article quality, scoring published articles and providing feedback to the authors to ensure future improvement and success. In order to roll out both of these positions to support, the team had to get buy-in from product support managers, as champions and coaches would need time off the phones to complete ongoing projects.

    How did your organization define success for this initiative?

    There were several critical success milestones in this initiative:

    • Telling the story of the existing KCS infrastructure, challenges, and shortfalls to various audiences using data to enable them to make an informed decision
    • Obtaining funding approval from the executive leadership team
    • Choosing the right partners and consultants to guide us throughout the project; we needed the right experts to evaluate our current state and provide sound, unbiased advice
    • All business unit executive leaders also had to be united in this effort and on the same page with the cultural and organizational changes KCS would bring to the table
    • All support leaders, and every customer support analyst, would need to buy into the new KCS best practices our consultants taught
    • Lastly, we needed to secure the buy-in of our external users, our clients; our clients are family, and their acceptance of the updated systems was critical to the initiative’s overall success

    What were some of the lessons learned?

    • Keep your customers first: Listen to your customers and continually seek ways to improve their experience. In all our knowledge base implementations, we’ve regularly sought our customers’ feedback and made their interests our top priority.
    • Include stakeholders from other departments from the beginning: They bring a different perspective and value to the project while providing you with an opportunity to learn firsthand all that’s involved in enhancing customers’ online experiences.
    • Be flexible and don’t be afraid to regroup: During the course of the project, you may find it necessary to shift gears due to factors beyond your control. Even though it was difficult to make the decision to hire a new implementation consultant, we felt strongly that we would have put the success of our project at further risk to have continued working with our original consultant. Final testing during go-live weekend revealed a conversion issue that caused an error message when staff attempted to edit a subset articles. We made the decision to delay implementation for another week until the issue could be resolved.
    • Communication is key: Document every decision to reduce the risk of confusion; prepare test scripts early (as decisions are made and code is written); communicate the right level of detail to customers (design, target dates, etc.) and leaders (key decisions and defects, plan for change, etc.); understand and track requirements, dependencies, and dates (improved project planning); and schedule the knowledge transfer as early as you can to enable staff to get hands-on experience before the very end of the project.
    • Give projects the time they deserve and demand: Successful implementations are the result of a compelling vision and close attention to countless details. Each step of the project takes time and energy—take the time you need to do it right.