The knowledge management (KM) market continues to grow, as companies seek to enable their customer service representatives (CSRs) to locate specific product- or service-related information, answer any customer inquiries, and move on as efficiently—and as effectively—as possible. The goal is to achieve high end-user satisfaction and worker productivity by keeping agents from having to wade through incorrect documents or ones that may not have been updated. Boston-based firm AMR Research found that United States–based companies spent $73 billion on KM software in 2007, and spending was set to grow nearly 16 percent to an average of $1,224 per employee in 2008.
The key, says Keith Dawson, senior analyst at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, is that KM isn’t just for customer service anymore. “There’s the increasing enterprise nature of these tools rather than just in the contact center,” he says. “You see that on a number of levels.”
For starters, Dawson says, enterprise-grade CRM vendors (including Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP) are attempting to connect their respective offerings to the contact center, while customer service–specific players (including Consona, Kana Software, and RightNow Technologies) are trying to do the opposite, “position[ing] themselves as enterprise application providers rather than just [providers of] contact center software.”
Dawson believes that the KM space—comprising collaboration, content management, portals, search, and integration—could start to see the kind of shift that overtook the market for workforce optimization suites (see this month’s Service Leader Awards). “Different providers may start leaking over into each other’s functionality and pick up features from nearby sectors,” he says. “We could soon begin to see the conglomeration of point solutions for contact center KM and infrastructure…put together into suites or larger, more-umbrella-like offerings.”
Lisa Erickson-Harris, research director for Enterprise Management Associates, a Boulder, Colo.–based firm offering analysis and consulting, also sees many similarities. She believes companies looking at KM products must take care to avoid any integration issues. “Many of these solutions offer very similar functionality, as search capabilities and presentation have become sophisticated in this market,” she explains. “Buyers should look to how these solutions are integrated into their heterogeneous environments. Most have breadth of functionality, but what costs will exist to integrate and maintain them operationally?”
Jeffrey Mann, a research vice president for industry-analysis firm Gartner, warns potential buyers that KM is something you do, not something you buy. “Companies have overblown expectations,” he says, adding that those early missteps lead to failures that could have been avoided. “Organizations that are effective are interested in this space at a higher level—setting priorities and finding where the bottlenecks are, what processes need improvement, and how to coordinate and streamline different activities. Successful [users] do it that way rather than looking for a tool that will solve their problems.”
While process is important, Mann does believe that emerging KM technologies will lead to better and more-successful initiatives—provided that users determine beforehand how they intend to collect and utilize information. Some of the new areas beginning to gain prominence, he says, include social software products such as blogs, wikis, and Twitter. “That’s where we see new and interesting ways of collaborating, generating, and spreading knowledge,” he says. “That’s the more-vibrant part of [this] technology.”
Erickson-Harris also sees part of the KM market’s future as a means to identify the processes and best practices necessary to help usher along successful projects. “Knowledge is power,” she says. “The trick is to deploy processes and technologies to be able to best utilize [that knowledge].”
>> Top sources for agent-facing KM software
See the print edition of April 2009 issue of CRM magazine, or its digital edition.
>> Quick Snapshot:
|Consona Knowledge Management 7.2||Recently rebranded Knova offering has good reporting for customer service–centric knowledge base mixed with customer experience focus. Customers like its intelligent search technology.|
|KnowledgeAgent||Strengths come from its process-centric messaging.|
|InQuira 8.0||A leader in intelligent customer service–oriented searching. Multilingual authoring, strong analytic core, and conceptual trending reports are major advantages.|
|Kana Agent IQ||A longtime leader in e-service with its overall offering.|
|nGen CIM||Recently rebranded Talisma offering has a strong heritage from knowledgebase.net acquisition, which is now integrated throughout the customer interaction management suite.|
Contact Assistant Editor Christopher Musico at cmusico@destinationCRM.com.
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