Best Practices and Pitfalls for Knowledge Management

Knowledge management is a hot topic these days, empowering agents, many of whom are still working from home, with the right answers that comply woth company and regulatory policy. It's easy to quantify its impact as measured by contact deflection, reduced handle times, less rework, and increased customer satisfaction.

Yet, knowledge management is still hard to do well. Many organizations struggle to decide which knowledge to include in the knowledge base and which content should be left in its original source while being available to users. Executives don't always understand how activities done by a knowledge team translate into real business outcomes and do not support these programs with the adequate resources for success.

Here are 5 best practices and 5 pitfalls to avoid as you embark or mature your KM journey.

Best practices:

  1. Define ownership of the project. Customer service is the most natural owner of the knowledge. Identify the executive who will provide ongoing funding and resourcing for this initiative.
  2. Identify the project team. The No. 1 reason knowledge management initiatives stall is because the right knowledge team isn't assembled. You need to have a project manager who coordinates project and rollout activities; knowledge authors; contact center agents who provide suggestions for knowledge organization and content and test the knowledge base prior to launch; knowledge experts, who define the taxonomy and content specific to role; and IT who maintains the software.
  3. Choose a knowledge program to follow. There is a range of formalized knowledge programs available, from very structured in terms of who can author, edit, and approve knowledge to programs like KCS that encourage teams to take collective responsibility for the health of the knowledge base.
  4. Determine a rollout strategy. Creating a knowledge base that contains content for all products and services that your company offers is really daunting. This tends to result in a knowledge base that is solid in places and has gaps in others. It's a recipe for disaster as agents and customers who can't find answers to their questions will quickly stop using it. Best practice dictates focusing on depth and not breadth. Start by developing a comprehensive set of knowledge for a single product. Roll this offering out internally first, then roll it out externally to customers, and address other products sequentially.
  5. Determine success metrics. Identify which areas are most critical to your company's service operations and then determine the metrics against which the deployment will be measured. Select metrics that are aligned with business outcomes and that will provide a comprehensive view of the business. Examples of metrics are: operation metrics, such as reduced handle time, higher first-contact resolution, and reduced tier two escalations; and performance metrics, such as improved customer satisfaction, higher agent morale, lower agent turnover, and faster time-to-competency for new hires.

Pitfalls To Avoid

  1. No executive continuous participation. Knowledge management is not a quick win. It's a long-term cross-organizational initiative that can help move the needle on business outcomes.
  2. Fragmented or siloed organizational efforts to tame the knowledge problem. Knowledge management should be a companywide initiative, where all lines of business follow consistent policies and use the same technology.
  3. Lack of understanding that knowledge is a journey. Executives must understand that the effort does not stop once a knowledge base has been deployed. The knowledge program must be staffed over the long term to ensure that content stays relevant and complete. See pitfall #1.
  4. Ad hoc processes. You can't take shortcuts. New knowledge must be reviewed, approved, and methodically translated.
  5. Copying other companies' knowledge strategies and thinking that they'll work for you. Examine the knowledge offering of your competitors, but don't copy them blindly. Figure out what works for you and your culture.

Kate Leggett is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.