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Knowledge Management: The Key to Customer Service Success

Why Knowledge Enabling the Contact Center is Mission Critical
A ServiceWare White Paper — October 2002

Abstract . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Why Enterprises implement KM solutions for Enhanced Customer Satisfaction . . . .2 Critical Issues Facing Customer Service Organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 Knowledge Management Is the Solution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 Knowledge Management's Role in the Multi-Channel Contact Center . . . . . . . . . .4 Implementing Knowledge Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 Benefits & Return On Investment of Knowledge Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Checklist: What Knowledge Management Systems Should Deliver . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

enabling them to satisfy their own demands around the clock. the notions that knowledge must be explicitly captured. Thus KM is as much a mindset as it is a set of tools and related information. and used effectively to provide the best possible benefits. In an enterprise environment. e-mails. FAQs. since the Web-based world operates nonstop 24x7x365. and provides unlimited opportunities for customer interaction.. proper training.” 1 . Implementing a KM solution requires an organization to recognize that knowledge is widely and unequally distributed within the minds of its employees.Abstract It's a fact. shared. But it's also the case that satisfying unlimited demands for information and service can be challenging. and explains what's involved in implementing knowledge management solutions for customer service. The solution to this problem lies in deploying a knowledge management (KM) initiative. Because customers and end-users can answer many of their own questions through Web self-service. This white paper discusses the nature and benefits of knowledge management. "Organizations with multiple service channels must evolve to a multi-channel knowledgebase strategy as well. KM solutions make it possible to deliver expert knowledge to all departments and geographic locations within an organization. The best guarantee of a successful implementation lies in partnering with a KM provider that offers the right mix of methodologies and tools to address KM needs. and creates an "instant response" mentality in the customer base. Finally.. and buried in documents. If you don't offer your customers or employees Web-based self-service. organizations make it possible for their customers to obtain information just by searching for it. KM solutions also help mitigate the effects of personnel turnover and job changes since captured knowledge remains accessible at all times. manuals. Without management support. Using KM technologies. because knowledge sharing and replication ensures that all captured knowledge is current and available. you've already fallen behind the times. customer service and support agents can devote more time and resources to handling complex issues. processes. Those solutions include software that can capture and organize knowledge elements. technology and knowledge to implement a KM solution. and other information resources. The benefits of such a move can be substantial.. The main hurdle to implementing a KM solution lies in the cultural changes needed to make KM really work – namely. KM solutions deliver the latest and most-up-to-date answers and information across the enterprise. KM technology will be ineffective. But companies can successfully avoid these pitfalls by choosing the right people. and a committed effort to make implicit knowledge explicit. along with the necessary support and training to insure a successful launch of KM solutions within an organization.

Key to this is the effective use of information. Inc. recognize that a customer problem may be an opportunity to cement a lasting relationship with the customer by taking care of the problem quickly and efficiently. But this cannot easily be done without KM solutions. warranties. etc. with good humor and real concern for the customer's satisfaction. The effective use of knowledge is a key ingredient in all successful organizations. structured. however. speed of delivery. includes customer support. but one key area of customer satisfaction occurs when the customer has a problem or a question that needs to be answered. it's also clear that e-business has become an essential part of the equation. But information."1 Effective knowledge management enhances products. Why Enterprises implement KM solutions for Enhanced Customer Satisfaction There are a number of issues that are increasingly obvious to business executives. no matter what business they may be in. Customer service. improves profits and creates customer satisfaction. rather meaningless unless it can be collected.e. Caldwell. One of the truisms of this new model. Many people think that a customer problem is a disaster. the subject of this paper is a discussion on the use of knowledge management to enhance customer satisfaction and reduce support costs through effective customer service. or worse. i. as defined in this paper. With that in mind. The juxtaposition of these forces brings business executives to the conclusion that they must move to an effective Web self-service strategy that enhances customer satisfaction while improving enterprise efficiency. eliminating redundancy and automating processes to meet business goals. "With the advent of e-business and the emergence of a true knowledge economy. is. Furthermore. increases sales. speeds deployment. is that the competition is merely a 'click' away. motivating them to consider KM solutions in order to meet the customer satisfaction goals of the enterprise. technical support and product support. the mere accumulation of data.. or what services they may provide. in fact.Introduction It's very clear that today's business models depend greatly on maximizing resources. According to Gartner. The Knowledge Management Hype Cycle. KM is once again on enterprise radar screens. price points. not important at all! Successful enterprises. January 2002 2 . organized and made available as knowledge.. F. 1 Source: Gartner. by itself. But using knowledge correctly in an organization requires an understanding that the mere availability of simple. disconnected bits of information is not knowledge and cannot adequately address these enterprise imperatives. Of course customer satisfaction touches many areas of the enterprise including product quality and suitability.

4." • Ratio of customers to agents: The difficulty in maintaining a traditional ratio of contact center agents to customers is exacerbated by a fast – growing customer population. • Turnover and job changes can mean knowledge gets lost: If hard-earned knowledge about support issues remains locked in key agents' heads. Good people are often hard to find and organizations can be hard-pressed to find and develop sufficient support staff. Costly and complex – The cost and complexity of maintaining an effective level of customer satisfaction grows in dramatic proportion to the size and sophistication of the customer base. 2. including: • Increased call volumes cause mounting delays. it walks out the door when they do. agents duplicate research efforts when replying to the same questions. In a business environment in which Internet access can multiply the customer base by several orders of magnitude it is simply not possible to maintain traditional agent-to-customer ratios. This causes a considerable waste of effort and resources. Growth in on-line customer base – As successful businesses continue to build their customer bases it is not unreasonable to expect that ecommerce could generate a tremendous increase in on-line customer activities. Some agents know more than others and can therefore handle a wider range of queries. 3 . It takes time and effort for service and support agents to come up to speed and assume a full workload. • New agents need extensive training to become productive: Entry-level agents must learn and master large amounts of information while developing communications and relationship skills. 1. frustrated customers can – and do go elsewhere to satisfy their needs when they get "stuck on hold.Critical Issues Facing Customer Service Organizations Customer Service concerns head the list of enterprise issues as organizations struggle with the broad implications of new e-business models. 3. This leads to inconsistent and unsatisfying service and support encounters for some customers. Organizations that invest heavily in developing service and support staff can easily lose their investments when agents leave or move into other positions. • Identical queries must be repeatedly researched and answered: When knowledge isn't shared. High expectations – Today's customers are increasingly conditioned to expect superior customer service or they can easily move to a more satisfying competitor. which drive customers away: When the competition is never more than a mouse click or a phone call away. and to cultivate their expertise. • Information accessible to some agents may not be accessible to all agents: In traditional labor-intensive support organizations expertise grows over time and is related to ability. Significant challenges – There are real challenges to maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction. even though their expense goes straight to the bottom line. Among those concerns are the following issues that are related to the KM discussion. background knowledge and problem-solving skills. • Developing experienced and effective agents takes time and money: Developing the all-important human resources to succeed at customer service requires an investment.

"organizations with multiple service channels must evolve to a multi-channel knowledgebase strategy as well. and technologies. while the self-service aspects reduce the number of incoming calls. Thus. allowing agents more time to deal with new queries and improve customer satisfaction. the knowledge base or the multiple service channels (i. e-mail. • Information is accessible to all agents: Because knowledge captured in a KM solution is accessible to all agents. Once agents know how to use their KM solutions. the question has been raised as to which comes first. Tim Hickernell. Inc. Providing customers with a consistent experience across all service channels and points of interactions can reduce redundancies in process execution. the benefits of that work are available to anyone who needs access to that information. The result is increased productivity. Additionally. or risk alienating customers with inconsistent service. KM enables companies to organize. and adapt any explicit body of knowledge in response to changing customer needs. it's clear that the knowledge base is the backbone of the multi-channel contact center. partners. individual agents can reach the same level of expertise by building on each other's experience and knowledge. May 2001 4 . High level. right answers. circumstances. • Increasing call volumes can be handled via Web self-service: Offering customers." 2 3 Source: Gartner. Therefore. • Identical queries can be answered from already-discovered solutions: Once knowledge is captured in a KM solution. chat. it is readily accessible to all agents. and end-users self-service access to support knowledge permits consumers of knowledge to handle many of their own queries. This lets the organization leverage its service and support staff to concentrate on more complex calls and to provide faster escalation and resolution. built-in mechanisms for enterprise-wide replication in KM solutions enable agents in remote offices to have access to the same information as agents in the organization's headquarters – ensuring consistent. • Training time for agents to become productive is reduced: By training service and support agents to effectively use a knowledge management solution they quickly become productive. March 2002 Source: Gartner.50. Additionally. All channels.e. knowledge no longer stays with those who hold or discover it. partners. should use the knowledge base as the source of information to be delivered to end-users communicating with the contact center. Thus organizations can leverage their knowledge and make it much more broadly and consistently available to their customers. whereas a Web self-service transaction is estimated at 24 cents3. Gartner states that a live phone interaction costs approximately $5. This addresses two essential problems: the challenge of making the job more effective and satisfying so that key people stay with the company. once a question is researched and answered. • Turnover and job changes do not cripple the system: A key capability of knowledge management solutions is to capture knowledge and make it accessible to all service and support agents. more than 70 percent of customer service interactions for information and remote transactions will be automated2. search. implicit bodies of corporate knowledge as explicit as possible. they get the convenience of 24 x 7 x 365 access to information via the Web. etc. including e-mail and chat.)? Does the knowledge base rely on the channels or do the channels rely on the knowledge base? After much debate and analysis. and it addresses the problem of how to keep the knowledge in the company if a key person does leave.Knowledge Management Is the Solution Knowledge Management solutions attempt to make vast. Inc. it makes that expertise available to all support and service agents uniformly. • Expertise can be shared: A knowledge management solution not only captures scarce expertise. Thus. it can reduce turnover and minimize the impact when it does occur. or end-users. either through Web self-service or assisted agent support. the cost of Web service transactions is much less than a traditional phone interaction. sums up the importance of this debate by stating. According to Gartner.. as follows: • The ratio of call agents to customers can be controlled and the interaction can be made more efficient: Effective knowledge management helps agents solve cases faster. it becomes an organizational asset available to all who need it. by 2005.. Senior Program Director with META Group's Web & Collaboration Strategies Service. All of this can make a huge difference in resolving the issues described previously. use. Knowledge Management's Role in the Multi-Channel Contact Center Quite often. they become much more efficient and are ready to consistently and accurately deal with whatever customer queries may come their way.

HR professionals could have access to HR knowledge. or to put it more formally. element search and retrieval. and within the context of customer service systems based on customer contact centers. IT professionals to IT knowledge. and subject matter expert interviews. 5 . This permits the number of element relationships to grow. and other sources of customer interaction to learn not just what the answers are. That's why it's worthwhile to explore what's involved in implementing KM. and likewise captured. and explains how organization and relevancy ranking can improve with time. The phases that a KM effort goes through when capturing knowledge. include input forms to elicit feedback from KM system users about knowledge elements. thereby increasing the value of the knowledge base itself. implementing a KM system within an organization means analyzing its current sources of knowledge. • Apply contents of the knowledge base to incoming queries to look for matches and establish relevance between knowledge elements and query contents. and element relevancy. and to decide what attributes and values should be associated with each type (let's call an instance of some knowledge type – a specific item of knowledge – a knowledge element). Once such knowledge is captured. The ability to make and suggest useful relationships between problems and solutions is powerful enough to enlist a strong buy – in from support staff and knowledge management professionals when they see that a dynamic system can improve search results. in capturing existing knowledge within an organization. At the outset of a KM system implementation. At each step along the way. and to establish a hierarchy or organization among types. share. In general. element organization. and make it possible to discover new knowledge elements. The KM system must make it possible to analyze the lexiconical and semantic content of queries to look for whatever connections or relationships might exist between queries and knowledge elements. assigning relationships and priority rankings between questions and answers. agent productivity and customer satisfaction. and use knowledge elements in order to recognize problems and suggest possible solutions to customer service queries. KM professionals can apply the processes of analysis.Implementing Knowledge Management Knowledge management is as much an activity ("something you do") as it is a type of system or technology. Next. and so forth. new problems and new scenarios. and then adapting that knowledge while capturing new knowledge going forward. organization. To begin. • Solicit continuous feedback on the applicability of existing knowledge elements to new situations. KM encompasses the broad range of capabilities needed to logically capture. • Maximize re-use of knowledge elements . new knowledge must be added as needed. Analyze the collection to classify knowledge elements by type. examine all possible sources to uncover existing knowledge elements. The following functions are crucial for a successful KM implementation. At this stage it is essential to refine the contents of knowledge elements and to adapt the structure of the knowledge base in response to such interaction. organized and ranked for relevancy.any relevant query is represented in a KM system as it occurs. explicit match. • Apply knowledge: This is where customers and support staff interact with the knowledge base to locate and use relevant knowledge. generating a knowledge element that will be considered each time a similar query occurs. organize. This includes not only capturing useful information from wherever it may exist. • Share knowledge: Start by recording all known knowledge elements from documents. or relationships to one or more named problems. existing knowledge must be captured. and as the system is used over time. • Represent any workflow or organizational process with its own application-specific sources of knowledge within the KM system – thus. customer e-mails. KM vendors must provide solutions that are able to: • Capture and organize knowledge elements for identification and relevance ranking. tag the knowledge elements and hierarchy information to make it possible to search the knowledge base by keyword. communications. but what questions make such answers necessary. Finally. it also requires analyzing call logs. and the activities related to completing each phase are: • Document knowledge: Analyze all possible sources of organizational knowledge to build a taxonomy of knowledge types.

the following benefits for KM may be realized: • Re-use of existing knowledge elements prevents recurring costs related to repeated research of the same topics. and customers improves the customer service experience and speeds the time from problem statement to problem resolution. technical training and support needed to obtain the results targeted from an initial deployment. systems engineering. This permits the knowledge base to become a real repository of collective organizational wisdom. by 2007. more accurate responses to questions. organizations can use their KM systems to handle problems across a broad range of topics and job functions. Be it from a successful self-service support. Is Self-Service the Panacea? March 2002. Gartner estimates that. or from an assisted service call. it is possible to conduct a standard initial implementation within thirty business days. continuous feedback from its users helps the system improve relevance ranking. driving revenue. Typically. customer satisfaction improves when problems are resolved quickly. which don't. mergers between customer service and sales. • Because KM systems can capture and manage knowledge from just about any subject area. thus making the contact center a growth center and not a cost center. partners. Benefits & Return On Investment of Knowledge Management Given the right degree of investment in KM systems and technologies. They can offer more services more often at the same price as those organizations that still rely on 8-hour or half-day telephone support coverage. The right supplier can also provide all the necessary project management. and the right level of organizational commitment to their deployment. According to Gartner. • By making knowledge and customer data easily accessible. 40 percent of call centers will have a significant impact on an enterprise's revenue stream4. • Faster resolution of support calls means improved support staff productivity: support organizations can handle more incidents overall (particularly when self-service works for common problems and queries). Esteban Kolsky 6 . identify new and improved solutions. 4 Source: Gartner. and support staff can concentrate on helping customers with more serious problems or questions. • Support organizations can deliver faster. This initial implementation enables organizations to understand the processes and methodologies necessary to carry out a successful KM project and can provide a powerful demonstration of a KM system's capabilities within the user organization. knowledge management consulting. populating. upkeep. and the most needed knowledge is available online 24 x 7 x 365. This increases the value and usability of the knowledge in the knowledge base. Within that timeframe users are able to demonstrate the success of installing. the customer service representative may even use the KM tools to initiate cross-sell and up-sell opportunities with their customers. and using a modest knowledge base system to address service or support issues within a well-defined problem area. are occurring with greater frequency across enterprises in the United States. • Access to in-depth knowledge elements for support staff. and establish the applicability of known solutions to all related problems. • Because support volume can increase dramatically with little or no increases in cost for support personnel.Experience has shown that implementing a KM solution is both attainable and desirable within most organizations. and regular use. • As a knowledge base is used over time. and repeated formulation of the same solutions. organizations that deploy KM systems become much more competitive than those. and customer service and marketing.

revenue generation through cross-selling and up-selling. e-mail. and are far more likely to be correct.The proper use of a KM system to support even tough calls ensures that answers based on shared knowledge come up quickly. including Web. self-service end-user experience (whether access from inside or outside an organization) Support for unassisted service (self-service) and assisted service with equal facility Robust search technology that learns and organizes with use Automated knowledge acquisition tools Ability to support multiple audiences from a central knowledge base Rapid solution development with proactive service for end-users. by 2007. chat. The paybacks from a committed investment in KM systems and technology go beyond controlling escalating support costs. Some of the key metrics for determining success of a KM initiative within the contact center include first call resolution. so that any unsolved problem is solved as soon as possible Robust Reporting tools to measure usage and success Mechanisms to capture feedback from end-users. 40 percent of call centers will have a significant impact on an enterprise's revenue stream. and duration of agent training. so support staff can put a customer's problems into context 7 . Gartner estimates that. customers and support staff. and an increasing ability to recognize and deal with an organization's problems. the ability to capture knowledge and resolve related problems of all kinds. Costs that scale effectively as services needs grow and expand Training and consulting support. Ultimately. Not only can organizations do more with the same or fewer resources. call handle time. Checklist: What Knowledge Management Systems Should Deliver Support for multiple channels of user access. They also involve an increase in customer satisfaction. As a result. they can also deliver a better quality of service to their customers. and an increase in overall customer satisfaction and loyalty. and phone Personalized. no matter where and how they occur. the success of knowledge – enabled customer service can be measured by a cost reduction within the contact center. so you can take full advantage of the system. call deflection to Web self-service. and build effective knowledge bases A proven ROI model to project and benchmark success Ability to track interactions from the unassisted to assisted service. proper deployment and use of KM systems and tools promise a substantial return on investment (ROI).

74. Turning that knowledge into a dynamic. call our international office at +(44) 01344. re-usable resource that is always improving in value provides a level of customer satisfaction that is unsurpassable in today's competitive business world.5748. H&R Block.Summary Organizations are moving to a 24x7x365 e-business model.serviceware. while reducing operating costs. Green Mountain Energy. these enterprises can gradually move from seeing customer support as a costly and reluctant overhead to recognizing it as a business advantage. help desk or Web self-service interactions. the quality of the customer or enduser experience is key to maintaining market and mindshare in the new economy. EDS. Reuters and Texas Instruments. Enterprise executives who recognize this business paradigm and who are willing to commit their organizations to a process aimed at embracing this reality will gain a tremendous advantage from deploying knowledge management systems. In this nonstop environment. KM technology holds the keys to capturing the most precious of all business commodities – it's workers' knowledge. methodologies and technologies. please visit us at www. or call 800.572. By building on their organizations' customer support experiences and by making the most out of their current investments in support staff. For More Information To learn more about ServiceWare’s award-winning solutions.2828. ServiceWare has helped customers achieve proven results. Cingular Wireless. ServiceWare’s enterprise and departmental solutions enable all businesses to easily manage. share and access corporate knowledge to effectively answer inquiries through contact center. Outside North America. including AT&T Wireless. About ServiceWare Technologies ServiceWare is a leading provider of knowledge-powered customer service and support solutions that are designed to improve agent productivity and customer satisfaction. swwp05-060503 .