When service organizations strive to evolve to the next level, knowledge management is a vital component of the strategic plan. Effective knowledge management contributes significant value to a service organization and reduces the cost of service 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 Why do so many knowledge bases start out strong only to result in outdated knowledge and lack of process adherence?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 lie with the way the organization adopts knowledge management.
What is wrong with our current knowledge management process?
Most knowledge management initiatives are a one-to-many model where subject matter experts author articles outside the workflow and add them to a shared knowledge base. Unfortunately, the process itself is why knowledge management fails. The best way to implement a knowledge base in a service organization is in a many-to-many model where all knowledge workers contribute to the knowledge base, everyone owns all knowledge, and knowledge use, improvement, and creation takes place within the support process. This many-to-many knowledge management approach is known as Knowledge-Centered Service or KCS®.
A critical distinction of KCS from traditional knowledge management practices is that knowledge workers write knowledge articles in the customer's context. The knowledge worker seeks to understand the issue or question from the customer's point of view—not in the way the analyst understands and resolves the issue. Knowledge workers also use articles a simple template to structure knowledge to promote consistency, ease of use, and improve findability.
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We have tried to improve our knowledge management process before. What makes KCS different?
Organizations attempt to improve knowledge management using methods that lead to poor results. For example, a typical problem is lack of participation after the initial introduction and adoption of a knowledge management process. Organizations put incentives on the number of created articles to encourage knowledge workers to contribute knowledge. This practice leads to duplicate knowledge articles, low-quality knowledge, and lack of ownership.
When knowledge becomes out of date and unreliable, service organizations often mandate that knowledge authors update knowledge once a year or more frequently. To do this, the service organization places a timer on articles to alert the knowledge author that an article is about to expire. The author receives a notification and is forced to 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 high 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 in knowledge management. The KCS practices provide a standard methodology for knowledge use, improvement, and creation 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 perfect knowledge before publishing 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 before it is published, analysts continue 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 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 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. 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 practices. KCS is useful in all types of service organizations and vertical markets and provides higher levels of efficiency and reduced costs.
Knowledge-Centered Service also has a broad impact. While the primary focus in most organizations is to adopt the principles into the service organization, the organization as a whole can also benefit from 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. Frontline analysts will be able to solve up to 20–40% more customer issues versus escalating the problems to more expensive level 2 and level 3 support staff. Customer satisfaction will increase due to the quick and consistent resolution of issues. Self-service can reduce call volume up to 50%, which results in significant 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 happy with our service. Why do we need to change the way we do things?
There is always room for improvement, and KCS is 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 robust, 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 center around a tool and use processes to engineer knowledge outside the workflow based on 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.