by Simon Yelsky
Date Published - Last Updated February 25, 2016

People are used to googling to get answers to their questions, so why invest in a knowledge management system and web self-service for IT support?

Well, there are some major drawbacks to using Google in lieu of a knowledge management system. The shortcomings are mostly the same whether end users try to resolve their own issues or contact the service desk.

  1. Issues are not “one size fits all.” Seventy-two percent of calls made to service desks are not generic issues, but relate to areas that are specific to the company or end user. These are issues that cannot be solved by external knowledge. For the remaining 28 percent, there is usually some level of customization/personalization specific to a company’s products or policies. For an end user or agent to find answers to these issues, they would need access to company-specific information. 
  2. Answers aren’t stored for reuse. When knowledge isn’t stored in your knowledge base, searching for the right answer can be time-consuming. End users who opt to resolve their own issues have to search anew for answers, no matter how many times other people looked for them. And if your agent doesn’t copy and paste the solution when he finds the answer (how many times have you seen merely the words “DONE” or “FIXED” in a resolved ticket?), every agent has to spend that same amount of time on repeat searches. No matter how many times the same issue arises, the end user or agent has to reinvent the wheel. They can’t benefit from previous successful searches. This isn’t an efficient use of anyone’s time. For end users, this takes time away from other work; for agents, it takes longer to resolve tickets, causing backlogs. What’s more, since you don’t have a recommended answer, people will try the wrong answers over and over, wasting more time and increasing end-user frustration.
  3. There are no analytics on the knowledge. With externally-conducted searches, you can’t keep your finger on the pulse of your operations. You don’t know which answers were helpful, and you can’t be made aware of recurring issues to aid in problem management and product improvement. 
  4. It’s hard to engage with your community. An additional drawback to self-service that relies on external sources is that you miss out on the opportunity to engage with your end users and build a community. You’re completely in the dark regarding what they’re searching for, so you can’t be proactive. You lose the ability to teach your end users and promote solutions. 
  5. You can’t make quantum leaps in your service. If agents and end users keep going to the web to find answers, you never improve the knowledge in your company or develop more efficient ways to find knowledge. The only way to significantly improve your level of support is to throw more people—and therefore more money—at the problem. You cannot scale. At best, you tread water.

Knowledge Management: Search One and Done

The advantages of having a knowledge management system with agent and self-service portals cannot be overstated. Knowledge is the foundation of good support. When you own the knowledge, you know that end users and agents will be able to find the right answers quickly, and they’ll be written clearly and have a consistent look-and-feel.

Since knowledge management systems manage all points of contact, you’ll also gain analytics, even when users opt for self-service. This will allow you to measure solutions for continuous improvement, and it will ensure that the needs of end users are addressed.

Your knowledge management system will also get smarter over time; as it learns which responses are most helpful, it will present those solutions first. It should also be able to pull knowledge from social media, user forums, and third-party websites that you specify. This creates a vast repository of vetted knowledge.

By using a knowledge management platform: 

  • Solutions can be tracked and kept up to date. 
  • New solutions can be created based on need. 
  • Answers will be written and presented in a consistent way. 
  • The user experience and SLAs will be improved through knowledge. 
  • Usage can be measured and corrective actions can be taken. 
  • Research time and escalations will be reduced.

With a knowledge management platform and strategy, answers (whether images, text, video, or audio) will come from a sanctioned source, be organized in a more meaningful way, and be structured for your target audience. And since end users will find good information quickly, more people will resolve their own issues, deflecting costly calls from your service desk.

To learn more about knowledge management tools, visit the HDI Buyer's Guide.


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.

Tag(s): knowledge management, tools


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