What is Knowledge Management? A Guide for Customer Support

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The 90s had so much awesomeness.

What is Knowledge Management

You ate these:

What is Knowledge Management

You sat on these:

What is Knowledge Management

And you put all your important information here:

What is Knowledge Management

Besides Dunkaroos and inflatable furniture, the 90s also gave birth to the phrase “knowledge management,” according to kwworld.com.

What is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge management, according to the all-knowing Google, is “efficient handling of information and resources within a commercial organization.”

Back in 1998, Gartner offered a definition of knowledge management which would become one of the most frequently cited:

“Knowledge management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets. These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers.”

What is Knowledge Management for Customer Support?

For customer support teams, knowledge management involves the information assets associated with keeping customers happy.

KM is about, among other things, getting the information that lives in the heads of support folks written down and the databases, documents, policies, and procedures strewn across your team’s computers organized in one place so everyone can benefit. One example of KM in action is the customer support knowledge base.

Knowledge Management for Customer Support: The Why

In Creating Knowledge Based Organizations, Jatinder Gupta and Sushil Sharma listed the goals of KM:

  • Improved performance
  • Competitive advantage
  • Innovation
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Integration
  • Continuous improvement

It’s easy to see how KM best practices can help bring about these outcomes for customer support.

For example, let’s look at “improved performance.” Common customer support KPIs include churn rate and Net Promoter Score. Software companies may find that releasing a video showing customers how to use each new feature along with each update might increase their customer retention rates. Or you could find that putting company support policies in a central repository can make it easier for agents to increase their average NPS.

Knowledge Management for Customer Support: The How

Moving information from “implicit” to “explicit”

Implicit knowledge is knowledge that’s not stated directly. If most of your team members know that complaints from customers who spend $10,000/month should be escalated at the first request, but customers who spend less should be escalated on the third, but that information isn’t written down anywhere, it’s implicit knowledge. Once you add that rule to a set of policies and procedures, however, the information becomes explicit.

One great way to move information from implicit to explicit is to ask the right questions.

Asking the right questions can help you “challenge your internal assumptions about how your product works, discover powerful ways to help customers do the jobs they need and answer tricky questions they’ll genuinely have,” according to Intercom Product Education Manager Zara Burke.

Questions_to_Ask_to_Write_Better_Content_Inline

Intercom uses the answers to these questions to create their published how-tos, best practice guides, and FAQs.

Learning from others’ successes and failures

The U. S. Navy Submarine Service couldn’t get their torpedoes to detonate properly. Worse, although their captains were consistently writing torpedo failure reports, no one was following up on them. This went on for an embarrassing length of time, until leadership instituted “Captain’s Patrol Reports.”

As kmworld.com tells it, the widely disseminated Captain’s Patrol Reports contained a record of what happened and didn’t happen, along with an analysis of why, allowing senior officers to decide what to do differently next time.

Knowledge Management for Customer Support: The Technology

The notes sections of help desk software can act as a sort of Captain’s Patrol Reports for customer support. They’re places agents can record SBOs, or situation, behavior, outcome reports. Ticketing or customer service software automatically records the situation in the form of the ticket. To learn from each other, agents should record the actions they took and the results of each action.

The reporting functionality in this kind of software can also help agents learn from each other’s success and failures.

Knowledge base software can make it easier to turn how-to information into helpful articles.

Software can facilitate one-to-many communication within an organization through features such as threaded discussions, document sharing, forms automation, and email templates.

Conclusion

Snacks, furniture, and knowledge management have all improved since the 1990’s. But some organizations are still stuck in the past. Are you doing a good job of efficiently handling customer support information and resources within your organization? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

Looking for Customer Service software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Service software solutions.

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Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is a former Capterra analyst.

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