Equipping your customer service teams with the knowledge to assist customers is an essential component of scaling support operations, but support is just one function that stands to benefit from proper knowledge management practices. Gathering, organizing, and deploying the tacit knowledge found all over an organization can empower teams across a business. In just the last several years, once-lofty ideas around building a knowledge management system have become a very attainable reality thanks to tried-and-true processes and advanced technologies that support them.
Enlighten me—What is knowledge management?
Knowledge management is a term that describes the process of information-gathering and information-sharing across an organization.
Harnessing the power of institutional knowledge goes beyond a static FAQ. It’s your optimized knowledge base allowing customers to self-help their way through difficulties—which data shows is their preference whenever efficient and possible. It’s the thought leadership you publish about industry best practices, trends, or optimizing your product to its utmost potential. It's the institutional knowledge that everyone in your business can tap into when they need it, and in turn feel empowered to contribute to, regardless of team, function, or geographic location.
Knowledge management system benefits
Knowledge management improves the customer experience, it improves the support agent experience, and it breaks down internal silos of information. If you’re not convinced, think of the established negatives can serve as a cautionary tale—low customer satisfaction ratings because agents couldn’t locate relevant information in a timely manner, a resulting slowdown in agent productivity, siloed organizational knowledge that results in duplicate efforts, and inefficiency that results when no one knows who to talk to about what.
Let's go into the knowledge management system benefits in more detail.
Knowledge management is a win for customers
Good knowledge management is the foundation of good self-service, and we know customers largely prefer to self-serve on simple queries. Yet, the 2020 Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report finds that companies are still missing opportunities to connect with customers via self-service. High-performing companies in the Zendesk Benchmark were 76% more likely to offer self-service, but the CX Trends report indicates that only a third of companies offer some form of self-service, whether through a help center, knowledge base, or FAQ.
Knowledge management is a win for support agents
We know that the customer experience suffers when agents struggle to provide answers in 1:1, synchronous support interactions via phone or live chat. By the same token, a struggle to find knowledge negatively impacts the agent experience—which is why improving the delivery of contextual knowledge to customers or internally between employees can create organizational efficiencies all around.
Support agents are among the best sources of information when gathering knowledge for company-wide use, which can enhance their skills and open new doors of opportunity within the organization. According to the CX Trends Report:
- High-performing companies are more likely to let both agents and customers access self-service
- High-performing companies are nearly three times more likely to have enabled features that allow agents to capture their knowledge and add to, or update, help articles
- High-performing teams are more than twice as likely to have a help center or knowledge base available across multiple channels
Data shows that improved agent experience improves agent retention. A more defined customer service career track means good things agents, as well as for companies scaling their customer service operation in number, channel, or breadth and depth of agent expertise.
Good knowledge management is a win for the business
Good knowledge management breaks down internal silos of information. These silos can be a productivity drain, preventing organization-wide sharing of information that can assist everyone, not just those on specific teams, to do their jobs better. Consider each time you contacted someone at work searching for information or context around an issue, only to go down a rabbit hole of false leads and fragmented knowledge—it's likely that a lot of people in a company know a little bit about what you need, but without a solid knowledge management system in place, those pieces wouldn't come together as a cohesive whole that the whole company, let alone you, could benefit from. A knowledge management system that surfaces knowledge throughout the organization can fill those gaps.
Furthermore, having a process around knowledge-gathering and knowledge sharing also helps prevent tacit knowledge from falling through the cracks when people leave the company or make lateral moves to other departments.
Establishing a knowledge management process
- Identify knowledge management role model companies at which knowledge is an enterprise-wide initiative, and study up. Seek connections within that company to discuss their knowledge-management experience and how they got started; doing so may inform the knowledge management tool you end up selecting in the end.
- Structure your knowledge management team to include a variety of roles. Some ideas: a knowledge editor, an executive sponsor, and individual contributors and subject-matter experts.
- Identify individuals with essential knowledge management skills, such as project management, content management, or technical writing and partner with them on content creation and maintenance.
- Identify knowledge management KPIs, that best identify what the business aims to achieve as a result of improved knowledge sharing capabilities. Measure and track changes in customer satisfaction, such as CSAT scores and other internal metrics that resulted from easier access to tacit knowledge.
- Measure and track how long it takes to find the right information, whether the person searching is a customer or an internal business partner.
- Once you have the buy-in of the entire organization, consider how you'll spread the gospel of knowledge management across the enterprise. Create a mission statement, identify stakeholders, and start putting the message in motion.