The goal of this article is to dive into the role of a Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS) coach and some basic coaching strategies to change beliefs, improve performance, and change attitudes toward the KCS initiative. We will take a close look at some strategies KCS coaches have used that have been effective in other organizations.
To understand the importance of coaching let’s review some fundamental benefits of KCS. KCS seeks to:
- Create content as a by-product of solving problems
- Evolve content based on demand and usage
- Develop a knowledge base of our collective experience to date
- Reward learning, collaboration, sharing, and improving
A KCS coach must understand coaching for everyone within the organization, from analysts to managers. It’s important to understand that everyone needs to be coached from all levels of the organization to create a clear understanding of the impact and benefits of KCS. Looking at the benefits of KCS from every stakeholder’s point of view is a strategy well worth investing in. In teaching and consulting with organizations over my career, I have identified some common coaching strategies that have been successful.
A KCS coach must understand coaching for everyone, from analysts to managers.
To be fruitful with coaching keep in mind some of the most common negative concerns about KCS that many organizations deal with:
- We already do this.
- KCS won’t work here.
- Who has time to create articles?
- We tried this already; it didn’t work!
- I’m not giving up my knowledge; it’s my job security.
If employees believe their concerns about KCS are valid, this will have a direct impact on employee attitude. Negative attitudes will impact employee behavior and actions toward KCS. The employees might not contribute good quality articles or utilize the knowledge base in the troubleshooting process.
Have a Communication Plan
Communication is the key to coaching and changing beliefs about KCS. It’s never too early to market and start seeding the benefits of the initiative to each stakeholder. Remember to communicate the benefits to all stakeholders prior to the implementation to raise interest. If your knowledge base is going through a reboot, communicate that to your stakeholders, letting them know you’re committed to making this successful.
Working with organizations who have had major challenges or have not had a successful implementation have common denominators, such as not coaching, a rush to implement KCS, or treating KCS as a project. KCS is not a project as a project has an end date. It’s imperative that there is a clear vision and understanding of the ongoing methodology throughout the reboot or implementation.
When dealing with resistance, ask what the stakeholders beliefs are and where these beliefs are coming from. On multiple occasions as a coach, I have found sometimes they don’t even know why they have a negative belief or where it came from. If they do share the belief, always remember to acknowledge it and listen to their feelings and concerns about KCS. If they don’t feel like their feelings are validated, it will cause a barrier in communication. In my experience, it’s usually familiarity with other organizations that have tried to implement KCS and never followed through or it was treated as a project. Create a communication plan and follow it throughout the implementation.
HDI’s Coaching Skills for Quality Support and KCS Principles courses offer additional insights on coaching strategies.
Communicate Key Benefits—What’s in it for me? (WIIFM)
When coaching an analyst or team and communicating about the key benefits, we want to be clear on the impact to their day-to-day activities. Instead of telling the benefits directly, one important coaching strategy is to help them visualize the impact: “Imagine sitting at your desk while performing problem solving steps. What would be the impact to your job if you had one place to find the information you’re looking for?”
The goal is to have them visualize to create an emotional response to the question. This is the opportunity to really get them to feel the benefit instead of just talking about it. Give them time to respond. Don’t talk over them; just be patient and wait. Some common responses to that visual might include benefits and feelings like:
Improved confidence. A sense of personal empowerment and confidence results from the ability to address more difficult problems along with broadening their areas of expertise. By solving more complex issues, analysts will feel like they have more control over their jobs. While working with employees using a fully functional knowledge base, I have witnessed increased self-worth and confidence as they expand their breadth of product knowledge in the problem-solving process.
I was speaking to an analyst at the most recent HDI conference, and she conveyed to me that after a few months of using the knowledge base, she realized the importance of her role in sharing her knowledge and now had the confidence and was better prepared in situations that used to baffle her. She also shared her excitement to learn more about the systems, and it was obvious to me how much her confidence had increased.
Enhanced Performance. When the knowledge base is not in addition to solving problems but the way teams solve problems, the result is an increased first contact resolution rate and a decrease in escalations. This means that the problems are solved faster, which enhances performance so customer satisfaction is impacted in a positive way. Looking at performance from a financial standpoint, dollars are saved anytime an escalation is avoided and solved at the first level and even more is saved when customers can solve the issues themselves using the knowledge base. Performance is advanced in keeping employees more productive and ready to tackle the next issue at hand.
A team is a group of individuals who work together and share a common objective. It’s important to have a regular team meeting to address the issues with the knowledge base, keeping focused on what is working and what areas need to be improved. A key meeting objective for coaching the team is to make sure there is an understanding of the need and the impact. KCS builds a strong sense of community knowing that the vision is going to be accomplished by the team rather than individuals. When there is consistency in problem solving, it builds a strong sense of teamwork and comradery. The important thing to remember about coaching the team is to focus on the trends and common issues, not individuals.
The coaching of individuals always needs to be one on one; never call out anyone out or reference their mistakes in the meeting. I witnessed a meeting where one of the coaches displayed an article on the screen to use as an example of what not to do. It was clear who’s article it was, and that individual quickly disengaged from the meeting. If you’re going to use examples of good and bad articles, make sure there is no indication of who created the articles.
At the beginning of a team coaching session, make sure there is an agenda in the front of the room to keep employees focused on what the goal is, and make sure you stick to the agenda. Any meeting agenda can be broken down into the following categories:
Issue (sometimes called symptom, question, or problem)—the situation in the customer's words. What are they trying to do, or what is not working?
Environment—what products does the user have (platform, products, releases)? How is it configured? Has anything in the environment changed recently?
Resolution (sometime called the fix or answer)—the answer to the question or the steps required to resolve the issue.
Cause—the underlying source of the issue (optional, typically only valuable for problems or defects).
Metadata—attributes or information about the article such as the article state, the date created, number of times the article has been used, modification history, and the date last modified.
With employees now sharing knowledge that is normally kept in their minds, they instantly have a means of both sharing and receiving information. If an analyst feels they are making contributions to help others, they might be motivated to share even more content than ever before. Consistency is key when rewarding the analyst based on the quality of articles contributed to the knowledge base. It’s important to recognize the analyst based on creation of value in the knowledge base and acknowledge them for contributions through measures and reports.
A key motivational factor from an employee standpoint is being recognized by organizational leaders for their contributions and being acknowledged as role models for others. When coaching an individual, start with being specific about the performance issue. This is the time to cite specific examples of their contributions. First, it’s a good idea to start off with what they’re doing right.
Prior to coaching an individual, check their article quality for these basics:
- Duplicate Article—an article existed in the knowledge base before this one was created; this is a critical part of the Article Quality Index(AQI)
- Complete problem/environment/cause/resolution description and types
- Content clarity—statements are complete thoughts, not sentences
- Title reflects article content for easy recognition
- Correct hyperlinks—hyperlinks are persistently available to the intended audience
- Metadata set appropriately—article state, type, or other key metadata defined in the content standard
Next, clarify your performance expectations with the article quality and give them an opportunity to ask questions for further understanding on the quality criteria. Lastly, ask the analyst for agreement on the quality criteria and thank them for their contribution in making KCS a success.
Coaching Is Key to Success
Coaching is a critical strategy for the implementation and ongoing health of the knowledge base. The coach needs to have the skills and an in-depth understanding of KCS. A deep understanding from the initial implementation to the ongoing methodology is typically required of the coach to keep the knowledge base healthy and beneficial to all.
Randy Celaya is the president of The Coaching Bridge, where he teaches advanced communication, coaching, and facilitation skills. Randy is a certified executive coach and instructor and is certified to teach all courses HDI offers, specializing in knowledge management and leadership skills. He has 20 years of support center industry experience and has worked with support centers around the world to develop, coach, and train professionals in customer support, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, team building, and problem-solving skills. Randy is also a seasoned event speaker who has delivered keynotes at help desk and call center events around the world. In 2007, Randy was asked to join the National Facilitator Database (NFDB), reserved for speakers who are among the best in the industry! Connect with Randy on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter @RandyCelaya, and like his Facebook page.