Today’s technical service and support organizations are constantly challenged to do more with less while remaining cost-efficient, maintaining service level agreements, and dealing with an ever-changing business and technological landscape. These changes create disruption and frustration for support teams, end users, and customers, which, in turn, increases call volumes and handle times and decreases agent morale and first call resolution rates.
To address these concerns, many support organizations have made strategic investments in knowledge management by implementing ongoing knowledge programs. Gartner defines knowledge management as “a business process that formalizes the management and use of an enterprise’s intellectual assets, and promotes a collaborative and integrative approach to the creation, capture, organization, access, and use of information assets, including the tacit, uncaptured knowledge of people.” With a knowledge management program in place, organizational and support-specific knowledge can be centralized into a single virtual repository to improve service levels across support departments and deliver consistent knowledge to agents, end users, and customers.
The successful implementation of a knowledge management program can help the support organization realize a number of benefits. For agents, knowledge management programs can help them improve first call resolution rates, preempt problems affecting users, respond quickly and effectively when problems arise, ensure compliance with service level agreements, reduce call volumes and minimize escalations, and increase effectiveness. For users, knowledge management can improve satisfaction by enabling them to contribute to knowledge, provide feedback on projects and initiatives, and find answers to solutions via self-service.
The Concept of Knowledge as a Service
Knowledge is the lifeblood of any technical service and support department, and it has a ripple effect throughout an organization, touching every business initiative. As part of a successful knowledge management initiative, it is imperative that organizations build a knowledge culture and deliver it throughout the enterprise. However, knowledge cultures don’t happen overnight; they’re the result of ongoing knowledge management initiatives, not one-time projects. Likewise, the long-term success of these ongoing initiatives is the result of having the right knowledge management platform in place to ensure that content is current, relevant, and complete.
Another key to the success of any knowledge management initiative is putting relevant content at your users’ fingertips. As technical service and support organizations strive to enhance and improve their service levels, maximize the potential of agents, and streamline processes to increase efficiency, having the right solution content is critical. Many organizations have adopted various strategies to ensure the effectiveness of their knowledge base; however, many of these strategies fall short in meeting the support organization’s needs, especially in the area of creating and managing custom, company-specific content and ensuring its availability to users and agents alike.
Because solutions can be documented in real time and made available immediately, company-specific customer content can dramatically improve “time to value.” But while most organizations would agree that knowledge is vital, they often struggle with the task of creating it. This isn’t surprising, since creating custom content that’s powerful enough to improve service levels is both an art and a science. All too often, many organizations discover that their agents aren’t well suited, either by skill set or desire, to be part-time knowledge solution authors, or that they lack the tools to ensure a long-term successful knowledge management program.
Given the high costs associated with developing effective content strategies, organizations that are considering implementing a knowledge management program should consider partnering with a knowledge management vendor that not only offers a robust platform but also has expertise in the area of Knowledge as a Service. Like SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS, Knowledge as a Service is a “managed service” concept in which a technical service and support organization outsources the development, management, and analysis of knowledge solutions to a third party.
While some organizations may have dedicated professionals responsible for knowledge creation, they might not have the necessary expertise or breadth of experience to handle it properly or efficiently. More importantly, knowledge management isn’t like installing and running a company server, and many organizations may not have the required resources or funding to manage the daily ebb and flow of knowledge. They also may not know what knowledge is missing or needs to be updated. A knowledge management software vendor that specializes in Knowledge as a Service can tackle this problem head-on by evaluating the demand for knowledge from all channels of support and comparing these clusters against available knowledge. By answering two simple questions—what are people looking for, and do we have the answers?—the vendor can also recommend and initiate a knowledge maintenance process.
What to Look for When Implementing Knowledge as a Service
Through specialized support and technology, Knowledge as a Service can help technical service and support organizations solve their most difficult issues. In addition to providing organizations with the tools and expertise to build and manage knowledge on a daily basis, a capable knowledge management software vendor should also be an extension of your knowledge support team and fully invested in your organization’s success. Here are several value-added services to look for when selecting a knowledge management software vendor for your Knowledge as a Service needs:
Content expert: Look for a vendor that can provide access to a network of technical experts who can write custom knowledge solutions and deliver them in an end user-friendly format.
Expansive knowledge base content: Look for a vendor that can provide a prebuilt knowledge base of solutions covering popular commercial off-the-shelf software applications; these solutions should contain comprehensive application feature, functionality, and usage information.
Custom knowledge services: Look for a vendor that can provide access to knowledge-authoring services designed to develop and maintain solutions for company-specific content.
Knowledge translations: For global initiatives, look for a vendor that can provide translation support.
Content conversion: Look for a vendor that can help you convert existing content into high-value knowledge and develop content from existing repositories within your organization, regardless of the format.
Knowledge improvement: If there are any issues or missing content in your organization’s existing knowledge base, the ideal vendor should be nimble enough to address this within a reasonable timeframe.
Cloud-based knowledge analysis: Look for a vendor that can provide your organization with cloud-based access to the most up-to-date knowledge and real-time analytics (which content is most effective, which isn’t, and why).
Global knowledge crowdsourcing: Look for a vendor who supports crowdsourcing to share knowledge and see how organizations around the globe are creating and leveraging knowledge.
The Bottom Line
Selecting a capable knowledge management software vendor requires much thought, research, and forward planning. With content growing rapidly and becoming more complex with each passing day, it’s imperative that technical service and support organizations consider partnering with competent vendors that have expertise in the development, maintenance, improvement, and analysis of knowledge. A capable knowledge partner can work with you to develop an actionable knowledge strategy that can service the business, not just the technical service and support organization.
Simon Yelsky is the VP of product management and client support at RightAnswers, Inc., a leading provider of cloud-based knowledge management and self-service solutions. He’s responsible for the product vision, design, and delivery, and he works closely with the development and professional services teams. Simon belongs to several industry associations and is a frequent speaker at industry events. He received his MBA in finance and international business from New York University and his BS in electrical engineering from Columbia University.