Knowledge must be managed to fully utilize corporate information and to provide a competitive edge. Unless information is captured for someone else to use again at a later date, learning, productivity, and innovation are stifled.
Posted Feb 9, 2004
There's no doubt that knowledge management (KM) may be difficult. Knowledge exists either in people's heads (tacit knowledge) or as some form of printed or digital media (explicit). Both types of knowledge must be managed to fully utilize corporate information and to provide a competitive edge.
Tacit knowledge management is the process of capturing the experience and expertise of the individual in an organization and making it available to anyone who needs it. Explicit KM is the systematic approach of capturing, organizing, and refining information in a way that makes information easy to find, and facilitates learning and problem solving. Knowledge often remains tacit until someone asks a direct question. At that point tacit can become explicit, but unless that information is captured for someone else to use again at a later date, learning, productivity, and innovation are stifled.
Contact centers are in a unique position to make tacit knowledge explicit. Customers ask questions and contact center agents answer them 24x7. When a customer service representative (CSR) answers a question without capturing it, that information remains in the tacit state--potentially lost forever and unavailable for reuse. By capturing the context of the question and any subsequent knowledge that passes from the representative to the customer, information becomes explicit and may be made available to others.
This process of capturing and reusing knowledge within the contact center is known as knowledge-centered support (KCS) and is a standard best practice methodology for hundreds of organizations. Many organizations are not taking KCS to the next step: making this explicit knowledge available across the enterprise and for their customers serving themselves on public Web sites.
Best practices for capturing and reusing content
Establish a practice of "create once, use everywhere"
Once knowledge is explicit it should be organized in a structured document that will enable multipurpose use. The best KM tools fit the needs of multimedia contact centers by being channel agnostic and enabling knowledge creation once and then leveraging it across multiple channels, including phone, email, chat, Web self-service, IVR, and any new channels that come online.
Organizations that have already experienced the pain of updating content in one repository for email and another repository for phone, and yet another one for FAQs on a Web site, should look at ways to centralize their support KM practices. When researching KM tools, organizations should make sure that the same tool can handle the following:
capture the knowledge from the CSR as it is provided to a customer
provide HTML editing tools so that CSRs don't have to be a Web master
provide a workflow for reviewing content
capture email interactions and provides email content using the same solutions created for phone
can provide security around sensitive content to prevent access by unwanted users
the decision to publish content may be made at the knowledge worker level without the aid of a technician
Knowledge that is shared over the phone is good enough to be published for self-service
Most organizations that have a process of capturing knowledge for reuse end up with a backlog of content waiting to be reviewed for publishing. Too often, organizations spend needless review cycles making support content perfect and have difficulty deciding which content is most valuable to publish. There are practices that may be applied to prioritize which content is the best to publish:
Reuse count: Publish content that is being used most within the contact center. It is a logical assumption that self-service customers will have the same problems.
Question analysis: Analyze the questions that are coming into the Web site. They may differ from questions to the call center, because customers serving themselves may be looking for general information that they would never call about. Use these as guidelines for prioritizing content that needs to be published.
Be proactive when creating content
If products have a history of problems in a certain area, it is logical that a similar product being released might have the same problems. Review the questions asked about the previous product. The best knowledge capture tools provide this type of analysis. Be proactive and make content available around these types of questions. Publish content externally for self-service customers and internally for the contact center.
Acknowledge knowledge contributors
Turning tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge is difficult for many users and often faces resistance, despite the obvious benefits. Acknowledge workers who not only create original content, but also help improve the content over time by adding additional context from customer interactions. KM software should offer reports to identify those who are contributing, or help to tap the tacit knowledge by building profiles of experts based on their contributions.
Research vendors; implement KM tools; achieve results
Successfully capturing and reusing knowledge both internally and externally has proven business benefits and fundamentally helps to enhance the overall customer experience. Carefully review KM vendors and ensure the vendor selected meets the requirements outlined above. Once a KM tool has been integrated into the contact center and deployed online, companies will report solid return on investment, increased customer satisfaction, and improved employee productivity.