Many moons ago, as a freshly minted engineer working in an IT Help Desk at a University (go Wildcats), I grew frustrated with the number of times we were answering the same questions repeatedly. If you were able to travel back in time and observe us, you would have seen classic coping techniques for poor knowledge sharing: computer screens covered with yellow, green, and orange sticky notes; heads bobbing up and down as we stood and looked around to see if someone nearby was available to help bail us out; and the inevitable groans when we realized someone else had a different (and often better) way of helping the customer with *their* sticky note.
A quest to find out if there was a solution, led me to find a brand-new organization called HDI. I went to one of the first conferences—it might have been the legendary one in New Orleans—and learned that there were ways to track incidents, but none that handled knowledge.
A year or two later, we had one of the first implementations of a knowledge management software solution that people could also access online via the Internet in 1994. To put this in perspective, on January 1, 1994, there were an estimated 623 web sites. On. The. Entire. Internet.
So, knowledge-sharing has always been important to me, from the very start of my career. I thought this might be a good time to share some of the truly spectacular successes from leading edge organizations and techniques that each of you can implement today in your organizations to get there.
#1: Quantify Knowledge Management In CFO-friendly Ways
One of the biggest reasons why knowledge management isn’t bigger is the difficulty in quantifying knowledge in our world, where everything comes down to dollars/euros/rupees. The single best way to get the attention of corporate leadership is to connect your knowledge management program to the bottom line.
The single best way to get the attention of corporate leadership is to connect your knowledge management program to the bottom line.
One of the best cases of doing just this I am aware of was the knowledge management team at the HPE division of HP (when HP Inc. and HPE were one company).
They were able to show a bottom line savings of $58M dollars, in a way the CFO approved. One approach they took was to "trust the process" and allow front-line engineers to publish articles directly for the customer to see. This was one of many improvements that, coupled with a clear line of sight between the results of the knowledge management program and business goals, lead them to win the top quality award from the CEO, Meg Whitman. Talk about amazing.
If you want to get started, there are two powerful techniques that you can use to show quantifiable impact. The Market Damage Model, identified by John Goodman and TARP, shows the financial impact of customer dissatisfaction.
On average, customer loyalty will drop by about 20% if the customer encounters a problem. Put another way, for every five customers who experience a problem, one will leave or go to your competitor the next time they have a choice. Talk to your marketing department and find out how much your average customer is worth per year. If it is $10,000, then you can estimate that for every five customers with problems, you are losing one customer and $10,000 in revenue.
The other model, also identified by TARP, is called the Market at Risk Model. This model uses data about the type of problems faced by customers, how frequently they occur, and the severity of the problems. This model determines how many customers are likely to be lost due to problems.
The two models together will focus the attention of your leadership teams much better than a non-financial way of expressing it. You can then show how using knowledge management for self-service as well as for addressing the root cause of the issues and solving them will save the company money.
#2: Share Knowledge About Knowledge-Sharing with Other Organizations
A good example of an organization that has used knowledge-sharing techniques across departments is Salesforce. They have implemented an Employee Engagement Community called Concierge used by over 20,000 Salesforce Employees which integrates both IT and Human Resources knowledge bases. They were able to use Knowledge Centered Service (KCS®) principles to answer questions about policies and onboard 5,000 new employees with existing staffing levels.
The principles of KCS are common across many departments. Anyone with a centralized service desk concept—for example, HR, facilities, sales, legal—will benefit, and quickly.
Just remember that the "what’s in it for me" for people to share knowledge will be different, and unlike those of us in support, they don’t live in a CRM tool. This means that you will have to adapt to their workflow so that it can be easy for them to consume or share information at the speed of conversation.
Go ahead. Schedule a lunch with your counterparts in different departments. See what they are struggling with, and see if you can help them.
#3: Look at Modern Measures to Showcase What Knowledge-Sharing Can Do
I covered more modern measures in a recent article. But the most common measure I’ve seen to justify a knowledge management program is "deflection" or trying to estimate how many people didn’t contact us because they got help from our self-service portal. Let me be very clear on my position on deflection metrics: It is made up nonsense.
Here’s a really good alternative to deflection. Measure time to competency. How long does it take you to bring a new person to speed? (At Klever Insight, we believe that this is not demonstrated via an exam, but rather when the rest of your team believes you are able to work independently.)
We have worked with an organization that focused on this measure to be able to reduce their time to competency from 141 days to 50—a 65% reduction. And they believe they are just getting started.
The Next Evolution of Knowledge Management
There you have it. A lot has changed since those early days, where knowledge management was a euphemism for self-service for answers to simple questions. I can’t wait to see what the future brings, and what all of us can do together to bring the best possible future to life.
Phil Verghis is the CEO and co-founder of Klever Insight and the author of The Ultimate Customer Support Executive . In his long and distinguished services career, he and his teams have won numerous awards for service excellence. He is a longtime friend of HDI and has been chair of the Strategic Advisory Board. He also was instrumental in creating the Open Customer Metrics Framework, the de facto Open Metrics Standard for customer support leaders. Follow Phil on Twitter @phil_verghis.