• June 1, 2009
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Investing in Knowledge Management

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For the rest of the June 2009 issue of CRM magazine — The Social Media Issue — please click here.

Forget your anger about financial services. Portfolio managers are trying to invest the smart way, and they need software to help them do it effectively. That’s a job for Advent, a 25-year-old San Francisco–
based creator of applications for clients ranging from global hedge funds to small investment management firms.

Advent’s home-brewed knowledge management (KM) system enabled employees and clients alike to create and locate information. “Advent has been doing KM for over a decade — we’re pretty experienced with the processes, and it’s ingrained in our culture,” says Collin Martin, the company’s quality and service resolution manager. “We took ideas from KM vendors and built them into our own system. We thought we could build it better than they could, and for a long time we were right. But the vendors really started to mature, and had capabilities we couldn’t mimic. Things we were really proud of were becoming negatives.”

Call times were up, call volume down, and resolution rates weren’t great. “We wanted better search — the ‘rank by relevance’ function returned too many results to be useful, for example — and a streamlined authoring system to make it easier for content authors to create and update the knowledge base,” Martin says. The community needed a more-communal way of working.

Yet nearly two years passed before Advent chose San Bruno, Calif.–based InQuira. “It was a little difficult explaining the benefits of KM to [our] top-level people,” Martin says. Despite clear benefits in the trenches, he adds, “the numbers get fuzzy” in terms of return on investment.

“Collin needed an optimal way to do what Advent was already doing,” says Chris Hall, vice president of marketing for InQuira. “He’s typical of the customers we’re seeing now: software vendors who are turning KM on its head.”

Employees and clients all had some relearning to do. Martin describes data migration as “a challenge, but not the biggest.” (He attributes high accuracy on the first go to rigorous maintenance of clean data.) Another hurdle was single sign-on: In addition to Advent staff, clients were part of the community. “It was difficult to get different authentications for internal and external users, so they could go back and forth between authoring and searching,” Martin says. “Our KM approach isn’t about deflecting; it’s about providing the best client experience we can offer. The goal was to be so good on the Web that clients want to go there, and if they want to call us, too, that’s great.”

The four-month implementation came in on time and on budget, despite a simultaneous change of CRM system and a new quality monitoring program. Clients’ negative feedback quickly turned positive, and users could find and fix content without resorting to emails and trouble tickets. There was a jump in first-call and same-day resolution, as well as agent ready time and Web usage. Talk time and total calls decreased as well. Martin is hesitant to credit InQuira for it all; many other factors may have contributed.

But Advent’s content increased 20 percent, as the firm attracted a larger community of users to interact with and add to the knowledge base. “InQuira also let us use our knowledge base info throughout the site — like a portlet on every page,” Martin says, and analytics enabled Advent to fine-tune its processes and content further. Next up is a community forum so employees and clients can work together more effectively. 


InQuira’s knowledge management capabilities have enabled Advent to:

  • increase content output 20 percent;
  • attract and grow a community of users to interact with and add to its content;
  • turn negative client feedback to positive;
  • fully leverage content throughout its Web site; and
  • increase first-call resolution rates, ready time, and Web usage while cutting talk time and total calls.

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