When service organizations strive to evolve to the next level, knowledge management is often a key component of the strategic plan. Knowledge management has significant potential to provide value to a service organization and reduce cost of delivery. But why do so many knowledge management initiatives fail to achieve the anticipated benefits? Why do so many knowledge bases start out strong only to result in outdated knowledge and lack of process adherence? The answers to these questions begin with the way the organization adopts knowledge management.
What is wrong with our current knowledge management process?
Knowledge management is typically introduced in a one-to-many model where subject matter experts author articles outside of the workflow and add them to a common knowledge base. Unfortunately, the process itself is why knowledge management fails. The best way to implement a knowledge base in a service organization is all knowledge workers contribute to the knowledge base, knowledge is owned by everyone, and knowledge is reused, improved, and created within the support process. This approach to knowledge management is known as Knowledge-Centered Service or KCS®. KCS is a many-to-many model of knowledge management. Knowledge is written by many knowledge workers to be used by all.
A critical distinction of KCS from traditional knowledge management practices is that knowledge is written in the customer’s context. Knowledge articles are written in the process by the knowledge worker seeking to understand the issue or question from the customer’s point of view—not written in the technical context the way the analyst understands and resolves the issue. Knowledge articles are also written using a simple template that promotes consistency and ease of use and improves findability of knowledge in the knowledge base.
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We have tried to improve our knowledge management process before. What makes KCS different?
Attempts to improve knowledge management are often driven through efforts that lead to poor results. For example, a common problem is lack of participation after the initial introduction and adoption of a knowledge management process. To get knowledge workers to contribute knowledge, organizations put incentives on how many articles are created. This practice leads to too many duplicates in the knowledge base, a lack of quality of knowledge, and lack of ownership of knowledge.
When knowledge becomes out of date and unreliable, service organizations often mandate that knowledge authors update knowledge once a year or more often. To do this, articles have a timer placed on them that alerts the knowledge author that an article is about to expire. The author receives a notification and then is forced to go evaluate the article to make sure it is up to date. This practice requires a lot of effort that is wasted by the organization and often does not produce higher quality and up-to-date knowledge as expected.
KCS is a proven methodology that not only helps a service organization to adopt a successful knowledge management initiative, it also helps service organizations to avoid the common pitfalls or ditches of knowledge management. The KCS practices provide a common methodology for knowledge to be reused, improved, and created in the workflow based on demand.
We use technical writers who clean up knowledge and ensure quality before knowledge is published. How does this differ from KCS?
The use of technical writers to clean up knowledge before it is put in the knowledge base is an expensive way to do knowledge management. Take, for example, a high demand situation where a service has gone down and a workaround is needed right away. If a workaround is found and the knowledge article is sent to a technical writer to “perfect” the knowledge prior to it being published in the knowledge base, analysts are continuing to resolve the issue over and over again without access to the knowledge article. If customers use self-service during this high demand period instead of calling in, the knowledge is still not yet available in the self-service portal.
Knowledge crafted by technical writers outside of the workflow is expensive, drives low productivity, and limits the return on the investment of knowledge. While knowledge created this way has the perception of being more valuable, the time it takes to create the knowledge article and maintain it restricts the value that the organization can achieve from knowledge in the service organization.
With KCS, knowledge is written in the workflow and available immediately by analysts to solve the customer’s issue. Knowledge workers are trained on how to create knowledge using a simple template, and knowledge is improved by everyone through reuse. The service organization does not need additional resources to perfect the knowledge. A knowledge article only needs to be good enough to solve the customer’s issue. Over time as knowledge is reused, knowledge is improved and any errors or omissions are corrected and knowledge is kept up to date based on what the service organization learns about its customers, products, and services.
With KCS, knowledge is written in the workflow and available immediately.
We have implemented so many approaches that are supposed to maintain knowledge. Can you convince or guarantee me that KCS will work?
KCS has been around since 1992 and is a proven methodology developed by service organizations that have studied what works and doesn’t work in knowledge management processes. KCS is used effectively in all types of service organizations and different vertical markets and provides higher levels of efficiency and reduced costs.
Knowledge-Centered Service also has broad impact. While the main focus in most organizations is to adopt the principles into the service organization, the entire organization can also benefit from looking at the way knowledge is stored and used within other workflows and processes outside of IT.
How does the implementation of KCS affect productivity?
Organizations that implement KCS increase first contact resolution, improve consistency, and decrease the time to resolve issues using the knowledge base while increasing customer satisfaction. Knowledge is shifted left to the customer with higher levels of success, thus reducing the cost of support and the demand on the service organization. Over time, repeat incidents become visible, providing opportunities for problem management and product development teams to improve the products and services through root-cause removal.
How will KCS improve our bottom line while aligning to our business strategy?
As proven by several companies that have adopted KCS, KCS can and will reduce the bottom line. Front line analysts will be able to solve up to 20–40% more customer issues versus escalating the issues to more expensive level 2 and 3 support staff. Customer satisfaction will increase due to issues being solved more quickly and consistently. Self-service can reduce call volume up to 50%, which is a drastic reduction directly correlating to major cost savings. And when the knowledge is used to close the loop with the development staff, organizations can achieve an additional 10% reduction in issues through root cause removal.
Our customers are already very happy with our service. Why do we need to change the way we do things?
There is always room for improvement, and KCS is based on a model of continuous improvement. High customer satisfaction is not the only goal of a service organization. Organizations need to drive higher levels of efficiency and use knowledge to drive improvements and innovation. The capacity gains from KCS allow service organizations to invest in developing better services or delivering services in new ways.
By following KCS practices, service organizations can develop a strong, quality knowledge repository that will improve the time to proficiency for new analysts. KCS also helps to reduce the amount of repetitive work and free up time for support staff to work more complex problems, thus increasing knowledge worker satisfaction.
Knowledge-Centered Service is a set of practices for knowledge management that can benefit any service organization by improving the quality of services, reducing costs, and improving customer satisfaction. Traditional knowledge management implementations are centered around a tool and use processes to engineer knowledge outside the workflow based upon a one-to-many model. KCS changes the way service organizations view support, realizing that knowledge holds the key to driving real, sustainable change. Knowledge management is not something the service organization does in addition to providing support; KCS transforms the way the service organization works—centered around knowledge as the core asset.
Julie Mohr is a dynamic, engaging leader who brings integrity and passion to everything she does. Through her books and articles and speaking, consulting, and teaching engagements, her purpose is to change the world through thought-provoking dialogue and interaction. Julie has a B.S. in computer science from The Ohio State University and an MaED from the University of Phoenix and is currently pursuing her PhD in Management and Organizational Leadership in Information Systems & Technology from the University of Phoenix. She also is an ITIL Expert, Certified Help Desk Director, and Certified Governance IT Professional. She is an HDI Business Associate and teaches training and certification classes for service and support professionals. You can reach Julie by email or through her website. Follow Julie on on Twitter @JulieMohr, on YouTube, and on LinkedIn.