Editor’s Note: Chick-fil-A HELP won HDI’s Best Knowledge Management Initiative Award for 2019.
Chick-fil-A is the third largest American fast food restaurant chain and the largest specializing in chicken. The company, founded in 1946 and headquartered in College Park, Georgia, operates more than 2,300 restaurants, primarily in the United States.
The Chick-fil-A HELP service desk is an on-demand resource between Chick-fil-A Corporate and Chick-fil-A Restaurants. They are part of the Field Operations division serving as direct support for restaurant operators and team members. Their mission is to make it easy for restaurants and staff to get answers, solve problems, and identify opportunities.
In 2018, Chick-fil-A HELP answered more than 294,000 calls from restaurant operators and team members. The service desk team of 169 people provides support for IT, Payroll, Accounting, Marketing, Food Safety & Supply Chain, Facilities & Equipment, Grand Openings, Networking, and Restaurant Training.
What challenge did you hope to solve with your knowledge management initiative?
The Chick-fil-A Business Framework weaves together a corporate purpose, core values, a long-term shared vision, and a short-term shared challenge to achieve business results. Chick-fil-A Corporate (the entity supporting the entire restaurant chain) applies the four core values of the Business Framework in our daily interactions with restaurants: Here to Serve, Better Together, Purpose Driven, and Pursuing What’s Next.
In the past, restaurant operators had to reach out to more than 20 unique helplines for IT, Marketing, Supply Chain, Payroll, Treasury, and Training assistance. Corporate silos involving staff, tools, and tribal knowledge often hindered carrying out the four core values for supporting the restaurants effortlessly. Leadership created Chick-fil-A HELP to consolidate the multiple restaurant-facing helplines into one centralized call center.
The mission statement of Chick-fil-A HELP is to make it easy for restaurant operators and team members to get answers, solve problems, and identify opportunities. With the consolidation of helplines, we realized that knowledge was not something to do in addition to solving problems for restaurants; knowledge was going to be the primary way to solve those problems.
We realized that knowledge was not something to do in addition to solving problems; knowledge was going to be the primary way to solve those problems.
How did you choose this particular approach to knowledge management?
In the early days of our help desk journey, a knowledge base tool inside of our ticketing system was used without any guidance or governance, and it only became a graveyard for information to go and die. In 2015, we made our first focused attempt at addressing our knowledge management challenges.
We created a team of knowledge writers and created templates and style guides to clean up the information we had in our knowledge base. A traditional approach of "knowledge engineering" was used with a central team that would accept knowledge submissions from our frontline analysts. These submissions would go into a queue for our knowledge writers to research and draft a knowledge article, which in many cases would require the approval of the subject matter expert. The knowledge writers would also accept requests from IT project owners to proactively create knowledge to support the rollout of new systems or changes to existing systems.
This approach quickly began to bottleneck. While the content would look great once
completed, it would often be challenging to find because it was written in IT language and not in the context of the customer. There was also a flood of articles that were created proactively that were never used.
While attending an HDI training class in 2015, Tony Letts (HELP Principal Team Leader) was introduced to the Knowledge Centered Service (KCS) methodology. The instructor presented the “Demand Curve” for knowledge which clearly illustrated the challenge with the knowledge engineering methodology and how the KCS methodology could be a possible solution to this challenge.
That same year, Chick-fil-A senior leadership made the strategic decision to consolidate all restaurant facing helplines into a single service desk. As the newly formed Chick-fil-A HELP leadership team began to form its three-year roadmap, it was clear that consolidating the service desk would require a new knowledge strategy and eventually a restaurant-facing self-service portal.
Before making a final decision on the KCS approach to knowledge, a consultant was hired to complete a three-day workshop with all key stakeholders to introduce the proposed changes with KCS. Department leaders were included as we learned how KCS could help the service desk, restaurants, and the overall organization achieve their goals. Once we had support from leadership at all levels, we began our journey to launch this new knowledge strategy.
What was your adoption process?
Our adoption of KCS as our knowledge management strategy is like the adoption process for most companies—a journey. What makes our adoption process unique is the speed of our maturity in conjunction with exponential business growth since we implemented our strategy.
Planning and Design: In June of 2016, we embarked on an eight-week pilot where we tested KCS processes and practices with 16 participants. Two people were tasked with leading the knowledge program pilot and implementation. Those two individuals received KCS training and became certified as KCS Coaches just before we launched the pilot to our service desk. Those two individuals were critical to the pilot’s success.
Prior to the pilot launch, we invested in extensive, formal training for our pilot group. The training included the KCS fundamentals and practical application. This training allowed us to develop a core group of skilled KCS practitioners, who served as a set of change ambassadors on the front lines. While the entire desk could use or flag knowledge articles, only pilot participants had access to edit (fix or add) articles. Approaching the pilot this way helped us build momentum in a small group and identify opportunities before expanding edit access desk-wide.
We also formed five cross-functional committees to focus on critical elements of KCS Planning and Design:
Excellence in Coaching
Rewards and Recognition
As we researched and studied best practices in the Consortium for Service Innovation, we used the recommended “KCS Controls List” (Measurements Matter) to identify and adjust metrics during each KCS phase. During the Planning and Design Phase, we also began measuring metrics such as Article Quality Index, Link Rate, KCS Proficiency, Contribution Index, and KCS Coach Proficiency. Once we met targets for these metrics, we moved into the next phase of our KCS journey.
As we continued our KCS journey, we realized that the most important factor in our journey was our leadership’s confidence in the value of our knowledge program. With VP-level buy-in, we made significant investments in our knowledge program:
In 2017, we created a dedicated knowledge management team, received communication resources for the service desk, integrated knowledge search and contribution into standard operating procedures, and had the quality assurance team begin assessing knowledge process adherence.
In 2018, we established a rewards and recognition program, launched self- service, created a knowledge dashboard, and began a Knowledge Center of Excellence (CoE) project to scale knowledge management from the service desk to the organizational level.
In 2019, we revamped the KCS Coaching Program, designed KCS Contributor and KCS Publisher Certification Programs and exams, created a Trending Dashboard to gain insights from knowledge, and began a Process Adherence Review (PAR) Scorecard project.
Leveraging Phase: In 2019, we entered the Leveraging Phase, focused on Knowledge Domain Experts (KDEs)—subject matter experts who monitor and maintain the health of a specific domain of content, business improvement, and self-service. We launched our self-service portal while we were in the adoption phase, which helped propel our partnership with departments across the business. Our business partners now see the value in self-service and KDEs, and we are designing the Knowledge CoE model.
We have seen tremendous improvement across our service desk since our knowledge management initiative began in 2016. Our First Level Resolution rate improved from 80% in 2018 to 90% in 2019, and CSAT improved from 90% to 92%. KCS Competency Profiles also improved. In 2017, our staff survey showed 82% of staff were engaged. In 2019, the results showed Chick-fil-A HELP at 96% engagement.
What challenges did you overcome within the adoption, and is there anything that you would have done differently?
Converted legacy knowledge. Prior to implementing KCS, a dedicated Knowledge Management team accepted article idea submissions and created articles proactively. Because of the effort to capture legacy knowledge, we decided to allow analysts to source legacy content into new articles. This approach resulted in findability challenges and duplicate articles.
Expanded scope too fast.
We adhered to the exit criteria for the Planning and Design phase before moving into the Adoption phase. However, the three-year Chick-fil-A HELP roadmap objectives did not align with KCS phase-specific exit criteria. We moved faster and incompletely through the various KCS phases to meet the overall roadmap requirements.
Selected vs. invited knowledge workers
We selected 16 analysts to participate in a KCS pilot. The pre-pilot training involved a tight timeline. Some selected analysts were not committed to the knowledge-related pilot goals. If we had invited analysts with a genuine interest, we may have had more favorable results.
We selected five supervisors to become KCS Coaches. This violated the “safe haven” coaching principle and coachees were less likely to vocalize challenges for fear of being reprimanded.
Some selected KCS Coaches were disengaged. Poor coaching methods negatively affected the coachees and slowed down KCS adoption. We now encourage team nominations as a method to invite new KCS Coaches.
We selected Tier III analysts as KDEs to manage knowledge gaps in specific domains. The result has been an ongoing challenge with KDEs to maintain regular engagement with domain analysis and content health.
Lacked KCS onboarding for Team Leads. Team Leads are onboarded with an operational focus and limited KCS exposure. We did not equip them with information explaining the “why” behind KCS, so they were not able to grasp core concepts and be viewed as a KCS resource for their teams. We now have KCS Coach Leads partnering with Team Leads to ensure KCS education and buy-in is an ongoing standard.
Lag in KCS training and analyst start date. Onboarded analysts go through foundational training prior to taking live phone calls, and KCS training occurred early in the training schedule. KCS was not revisited until weeks later when analysts were taking live calls by themselves. By implementing hands-on KCS training sessions prior to analysts taking live calls on their own, they are now more proficient and advance KCS roles much faster.
Was there anything unique or innovative about your knowledge management initiative?
When discussing Chick-fil-A HELP’s unique or innovative approach to knowledge management, it’s helpful to know that the KCS methodology is innovative on its own. It needs very little refinement to be impactful. The time-tested methodology is intricate and has been continuously improved using the input of practitioners across the industry. With that said, we have tailored our approach to KCS at Chick-fil-A to maximize both the known benefits of KCS and our company’s culture of caring for each other. The focus of our knowledge management program is to partner closely with front-line staff, improve our content health, and build a scalable knowledge CoE.
Our unique approach focuses on sharing your genius and inspiring people to take good care of each other.
A robust rewards and recognition model includes frequent events, incentives, awards, and communication.
A theme for our knowledge management initiative called “Share Your Genius.” Now we have luggage tags, parking spots, etc. centered around our theme.
A dedicated program team with extensive experience in knowledge management, front- line support, and process improvement.
A comprehensive coaching model that allows analysts to build proficiencies in knowledge, among other facets of their roles, through a comfortable peer- to- peer dynamic.
A supportive virtual community for knowledge workers to collaborate via Microsoft Teams. This also serves as another channel for integrated KCS Coaching.
Extensive documentation around quality tips and technical “how-tos.”
Close partnerships with front- line leaders, corporate communications departments, and training departments to ensure alignment between content, training, and knowledge to foster enterprise-wide growth.
A customized incident management platform to enable knowledge management activities to be performed within the analyst workflow.
How has the knowledge management initiative improved the overall efficiency or results of the support organization?
Since implementing a knowledge management initiative in 2016, we have seen a positive impact on analysts, customers, and our business. Within our service desk, we've made the following improvements as part of our knowledge management program:
- Adopted an Agile approach to managing knowledge-related projects.
- Created internal certification training and exams to ensure understanding of skills, influence, and responsibility before assuming a new KCS role. Certifications are renewed regularly by knowledge users to maintain their KCS license.
- Percent of analyst who are KCS Publishers increased from 2% to 37% in the past two years.
- Intensive knowledge training was introduced in our onboarding program, which is our transition period between our new hire training and their first day as an analyst.
- Coach selection is now by peer nomination.
- Coaching structure now has fewer coaches spending more of their time coaching. This has resulted in more calibration and consistency across KCS Coaches.
- Self-service portal was launched in January of 2018 and continues to result in call and ticket deflection.
- Knowledge management activities are included in Standard Operating Procedures.
- Business partners now use knowledge insights (article usage, trending articles, etc.) to steer decision-making.
- Problem Team members use knowledge analysis to identify problems/outages.
The result of the improvements we've made to our knowledge program are reflected in positive trends across our business including CSAT, FLR, staff engagement, and both call and ticket deflection. Even as we compare last year to this year, when our service desk's call volume went from 194,000 to 300,000 (45% increase), we were still able to show improvements in CSAT, FLR, analyst engagement/satisfaction, and deflection.
HDI honored Service Management Award finalists and winners at Service Management World. Visit the HDI Awards pages to see the full list of winners and learn more about HDI Service and Support Awards.
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