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Optimizing Customer Service

through Knowledge Management

Executive Summary/Abstract
The proliferation of customer service channels and increasing customer
expectations for accurate answers across all channels has made it more
difficult for organizations to provide adequate customer service.
One of the most common problems companies face is having inaccurate or
outdated content published in their Web, email, chat or other knowledge
bases. This leads to an inconsistent customer experience and eventually a loss
of trust in the company. Many organizations also face internal governance
issues, either through a lack of central knowledge administration, or confusion
about which business unit or group owns and manages content. And, in
some cases, there are separate knowledge bases for different channels and
groups such as customer care and marketing, which results in discrete content
silos, as well as higher resource and technology costs to update and support
multiple systems.
To improve the customer experience, it is critical for organizations to address
these problems through an accurate, accessible and easy-to-maintain
knowledge base. Unfortunately, many companies simply buy the latest
knowledge management softwareand fail to address the underlying
organizational issues that drive effective knowledge management.
Based on successful client experiences, Accenture recommends adopting
an end-to-end knowledge management strategy that combines enterprise
wide governance and well-defined processes with a knowledge management
platform. Organizations that follow this systematic approach will be able
to establish a knowledge management capability with assigned roles and
responsibilities for maintaining content, improve content quality and consistency
across multiple service channels to deliver a better customer experience, and
significantly reduce operating costs through a consolidated platform.
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Choice of Service
Channels Creates
Today, when customers have questions
about an organizations products or
services, they have many options from
which to choose. Should they start with
the self-service options on the companys
web siteusing either a computer or tablet?
Send an email to customer service? Initiate
an online chat session with a customer
service agent? Consult the companys
mobile phone app? Navigate an interactive
voice response (IVR) system? Or pick up the
phone and talk to a live agent? Regardless
of which channel customers choose, they
want easy access to an accurate and
consistent answer.
This expectation puts organizations into
a quandary. Customer service executives
must determine how to supply correct
answers to customers across a proliferation
of service channels for the lowest
possible cost. To achieve this objective,
organizations should balance increasing
customer expectations with several internal
operational decisionsall related to how
knowledge is managed.
Accentures latest global consumer research
shows that three-quarters of respondents
expect it to be easier to obtain customer
service, 61 percent are not satisfied with
the number of choices they have to receive
service, and one in two are not satisfied
with their access to customer service using
multiple channels.

In response to troubling statistics like
these, organizations are hastily adding new
customer service channels, such as social
media sites or mobile applications. Yet
even as they attempt to improve service
options, these companies may be failing
to think about the overarching knowledge
management strategy that will power all of
these channels.
A number of organizations also lack a
knowledge management governance
structure that provides clear leadership,
designates ownership of content, or
establishes guidelines on structure, style
and tone. In addition, companies may lack
resources to maintain an ever-increasing
amount of content, as well as formal
processes for creating and maintaining
high-quality content. Out-of-date or
orphaned knowledge can result in message
inaccuracies and inconsistences across
channels. When this happens, customers
may find different answers depending on
which service channel they choose. This
erodes customer confidence and trustin
the product or service, the brand, and
eventually the entire company.
Lastly, some organizations rely too
heavily on technology to solve the
problem, thinking that the latest version
of knowledge management software will
supply customer service agents with the
information they need. But technology by
itself is an insufficient solution, and, in
some cases, may carry the same issues to a
new platform. In addition, as organizations
implement new customer service channels,
they often set up different knowledge
repositories; as a result, content becomes
siloed. Managing these multiple knowledge
bases and varying technologies can be both
complex and cost-prohibitive.
1. Accenture 2011 Global Consumer Research Study. The New Realities of Dating in the Digital Age: Are
Customers Really Cheating, or Are You Just Not Paying Enough Attention? Retrieved [M/D], 2012 from http://www.
Guiding Principles for
Knowledge Management
To maximize return on investment
for a knowledge management
system, organizations should focus
on content that is:
AccurateKnowledge management
content must be correct and address
an organizations core issues.
AccessibleContent should be
easy to understand and viewable
through the channel and devices
customers use.
Easy to MaintainOrganizations
should implement clear and simple
processes that enable customer
service representatives to establish
a virtuous loop and continually
review and update content based
on feedback, ratings and analytics.
Overcoming Obstacles with Knowledge
To meet customer expectations and prepare for increasing service channel complexity,
organizations should take a more comprehensive knowledge management approach. Based
on a number of successful client experiences, Accenture recommends adopting an end-to-
end knowledge management strategy that combines enterprise wide governance with well-
defined processes to drive usage of a centralized knowledge management platform based
on leading edge technology.
The culminating goal is an integrated, enterprise wide knowledge baseone that
organizations can use to capture, store, retrieve and continually refine valuable information
to provide customers with the right answer at the right time across all channels. Equally
important, Accentures approach can help organizations to reduce operating costs while
optimizing the customer experience.
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Key questions include: Who creates the
content? Who owns it? What is the best
way to gather information from subject
matter experts into the knowledge base?
Who are the liaisons between content
owners and other enterprise stakeholders?
Who approves content changes? How can
agents and customers rate content for
continual improvement?
Organizations that think through these
people-related aspects will be able to
improve the effectiveness and efficiency
of knowledge management, and improve
adoption of related systems.
In terms of governance, customer service
executives should adopt a knowledge
management governance model that
reflects their organizational structure,
and balances the requirements of various
business groups and stakeholders with the
needs of the enterprise. Options include
a centralized model with a single team
that sets processes, policies and standards
across the organization, or a representative
model that includes participation from key
stakeholders, such as product or service
owners, and customer care, IT, marketing,
legal and social media functions.
Three Components
of Knowledge
Management Strategy
As organizations rethink their approach
to knowledge management, the first step
is to develop a strategy that focuses on
three complementary components: people,
processes and technology.
Knowledge management is most effective
when an organization has an established
knowledge management capability and
dedicated knowledge organization staffed
with committed resources. This capability
includes a governance model with active
leadership, clearly defined knowledge
management roles and responsibilities, with
performance metrics and targets that drive
quality content.
Part of this effort involves thinking about
the people who will create, manage and use
the knowledge, including content authors,
customer service agents and customers.
Defining knowledge management roles
and responsibilities helps confirm that the
knowledge base contains accurate and
up-to-date content across all channels.
Sample roles include content authors,
who produce content based off of defined
guidelines and style sheets; and content
liaisons representing various groups within
the organization, who are responsible for
reviewing and approving content.
To encourage employees to fulfill their
knowledge management roles and
produce usable content, organizations
can incorporate knowledge management
performance metrics into the annual
review process. It is also important to
offer incentives that focus on quality of
information over quantity. One way to
accomplish this is to use a rating system
that measures the quality of articles that
an individual contributes based on how
the articles are being used by agents and
customers, or how well the articles answer
commonly asked questions.
Case Study
Focusing on the people component was
critical for a leading software company as
part of its overall knowledge management
strategy. The company was organized into
distinct business units by product line and
each unit had its own sales, marketing,
customer care and IT organizations. In an
effort to improve operations, the company
turned to Accenture to help develop an
enterprise-level knowledge management
capability that could be leveraged across
the various business units.
Accenture helped establish a governance
structure that enabled the business units
to collaborate on a common knowledge
management approach, as well as to
identify requirements for the knowledge
management platform. The governance
plan included a steering committee that
developed the strategic direction of the
platform, a knowledge management team
with representatives from each business
unit, and a change management team that
reviewed and approved changes to the
platform. These groups met regularly for
status updates and to share lessons learned
about the knowledge management system
Accenture also helped the company to
create a knowledge management community
of practice to define and manage
processes, which were integrated into the
knowledge management platform. Once the
platform was complete, a campaign was
implemented to encourage customer service
representatives to use the new knowledge
management system through change
management and training support.
The end-to-end knowledge management
approach, with an emphasis on governance
and roles, helped the software company
to reduce redundant infrastructure and
tool investments, and also improve the
effectiveness of agent and customer
experiences. With the new centralized
knowledge management system, the
company achieved a 15 percent increase in
call deflections for knowledge base content,
a 66 percent increase in article resolution
rates, a 340 percent reduction in failed
searches, and an 85 percent accuracy of
search results, enabling customer service
representatives to provide quick and
accurate answers to customers.
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Organizations can further improve
knowledge management efficacy by
following well-defined and standardized
content management processes. This
capability encompasses detailed workflow
processes, along with collaboration tools,
such as feedback cycles, rating systems
and analytics, to help continually improve
content from generation through delivery.
Considering how knowledge will be
collected, reviewed and refined is a good
starting point for process definition. Key
questions include: how will subject matter
experts submit content? How will key
stakeholder groups review and approve
content? What is the best way to speed
the time between content creation and
publication? How will the knowledge
base be refreshed to monitor continuous
improvement? How will the organization
prioritize the most critical pieces to update?
How much content should the company
leverage from external sources, such as
social media sites? What is the proper way
to measure content quality? Organizations
that design and use formal and consistent
processes will reduce the time it takes to
capture knowledge, while increasing the
amount and quality of the content captured.
At the same time, knowledge management
processes should not be a burden. Some
businesses may overcomplicate the workflow
by requiring numerous content approvals or
by trying to maintain too tight of a control
on content. But these constraints limit
flexibility. Instead, organizations should
design knowledge management processes
that make it quick and easy to publish
content, while also providing the necessary
oversight and approvals to monitor quality.
One useful way to support content
expediency and quality is to insert a
feedback loop into knowledge management
processes. Using a feedback mechanism,
customer service agents can identify
knowledge inaccuracies or gaps and
recommend updates to content. The same
type of tool can be used externally in the
form of a ratings system such as a one to
five scale. In this way, customers can give
a low score to content that they believe
is inconsistent or needs correction, and
a high score to knowledge that they find
particularly useful.
In all cases, knowledge management
processes should incorporate a cycle of
continuous improvement. To accomplish this
objective, organizations can commit to a
regular review of how knowledge is created
and used, including the data collected
from the feedback and rating tools. This
process helps enable a virtuous loop in
which both employees and customers are
more willing to share feedback because
they know it will be acted on (see Figure 1).
In addition, organizations can collect data
and run analytics to provide insights on
the knowledge that is most valuable and
the content that should be targeted for
immediate improvement.
Figure 1: Knowledge management is most effective when it incorporates continuous
improvement, as depicted in this virtuous loop.
Page 5
2012 Accenture. All rights reserved.
Case Study
Recognizing the need for more consistent
and rigorous knowledge management
processes, a global eCommerce company
engaged Accenture for help with its
knowledge management approach. As
part of an end-to-end effort, Accenture
instituted several new processes, including a
common authoring, translation and approval
workflow and an enterprise wide process for
continual knowledge improvement.
To help confirm the company created high-
quality content, Accenture integrated a
feedback and rating mechanism for existing
knowledge, providing agents and customers
with an easy way to flag out-of-date articles
or recommend updates. This tool enabled
the company to improve content consistency
across various channels.
Accenture also gathered detailed analytics
to help the company identify which articles
were being used most frequently and
effectively to solve customer problems.
Specific data analyzed included the number
of cases solved by article, average article
rating, average time in workflow and at each
step of the workflow, and average article
aging to identify content that had not been
updated recently.
Working with Accenture, the global
eCommerce company transformed its
approach to knowledge management.
Today, the company is using a single,
global content repository that supports
multiple service channels and more than
20 languages. Search results consistently
achieve 85+ percent accuracy, enabling
agents to find the right information at the
right time. Accenture also supported the
transition through change management
and training that drove agent adoption
of the new knowledge base to 73 percent
after only four weeks, which was more than
double the prior system.
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Organizations can complete their strategy
with an integrated, enterprise wide
knowledge management technology
platform that enables search, sharing
and archiving across the full content life
cycle. This functionality makes it easier
to repurpose old content and maintain
version control. The knowledge repository
should also have built-in tools for team
collaboration through a central portal.
Ideally, organizations will be able to
consolidate all knowledge assets and
metadata into a single, centralized
content repository. If various knowledge
management systems are in use across
the enterprise, organizations will need to
adapt their governance model to minimize
redundancies and reduce costs.
When making knowledge management
platform decisions, organizations should
consider these questions: does the
technology provide all the necessary
functionality? Is there a way to consolidate
knowledge bases using technology? Will the
technology support multiple channels and
platforms? Does the technology provide
analytics for continuous improvement? Can
the technology leverage content sources
not directly controlled by the organization,
such as social media channels?
Several aspects of the knowledge
management technology should support
ease of use for customer service
representatives and customers alike. For
instance, the knowledge base should
employ a content architecture that provides
the same knowledge across any channel
(Web, chat, phone, IVR and more) and
any platform (PCs, smartphones, tablets,
televisions and more). Likewise, the content
structure must support the needs of various
channels: the Web channel should provide a
detailed view of information with interactive
content; the chat channel should include
short, textual bits of content; and the phone
channel should have simple instructions,
potentially with illustrations of what the
customer may be seeing.
Tagging content with metadata is also
crucial to improve the search function as it
makes it possible for agents and customers
to use contextual knowledge lookup. For
example, an article on setting up an Apple
iPhone could be tagged with iPhone (the
product) and Setup (the function) so an
organization could recommend this specific
article in response to a customer inquiry on
a self-service site.
The search mechanism should move
beyond simple keyword-based searches
to incorporate key concepts, such as
synonyms and spell checking. Knowledge
management technology that uses natural
language is ideal for this purpose.
Lastly, localization that makes the same
article available in all of the languages
customers expect is critical in a global
business world. Knowledge management
technology should include mechanisms to
schedule updates to localized versions when
the primary language has been updated.
Case Study
Accenture helped the New York City
government transform customer service
through a comprehensive knowledge
management approach using one, highly
flexible knowledge management technology
platform. The citys initial vision was to
make it easier for residents to interact with
more than 300 agencies to find information,
file complaints and resolve issues. In many
cases, residents did not know which agency
to contact. Called NYC 311, it is now one of
the largest and most sophisticated customer
service systems in the world.
Working closely with the citys IT
department, Accenture led multiple teams to
build and launch a centralized, all-purpose
call facility that would direct customers to
information or resources on a 24/7 basis.
Accenture first developed a searchable
knowledge base and taxonomy of city,
state and federal government services.
Using enterprise content management
technologies, the team fed information
into a customer relationship management
tool and established the basic structure
of information that enabled customer
service representatives to respond quickly
to customers inquiries. The result was a
comprehensive knowledge repository for
7,000 aspects of the citys government.
Accenture subsequently worked with New
York City government to launch a Web-
based self-service channel called 311 Online.
To maximize efficiency and reduce costs,
Accenture leveraged the citys existing NYC
311 call center content management system
for the online channel and made it possible
to publish updates easily to both the call
center and Web channel.
Today, NYC 311 supports nearly 300 city,
state and federal agencies and approximately
4,000 services for residents with information
that is available in 170 languages, from
Amharic to Zulu. On an average weekday,
more than 60,000 customers dial 311, and
the majority of calls are handled in four
minutes or less. Approximately 80 percent of
calls are answered in 30 seconds or less, and
85 percent of 311 customers resolve their
inquiry during their initial call.
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A Deeper Look at End-to-end Knowledge Management
Accenture defines knowledge management as a managed program that
combines people, processes, and technology to deliver the right information
at the right time.
Once the knowledge management program is in place, organizations
can encourage employee adoption and participation through a change
management initiative. This initiative is directed at the customer service
agents and other employees who will use the knowledge management system
and helps to identify needs, develop a change network and communicate the
benefits of the new system. A core component of the change management
effort is effective training to help people maximize use of the new system.
Leadership & Communication
Support Organization
Communities of Practice
Governance and Organization Plan
Technical Architecture
and Taxonomy
User Portal
Knowledge Repository
On Board & Off Board Sources
Business Strategy
Knowledge Management Processes
Knowledge Strategy
Change Management Plan
Program Benefits Realization
and Metrics Approach
Figure 2: Accenture takes a comprehensive approach to knowledge management.
Page 8
2012 Accenture. All rights reserved.
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High Performance
through Knowledge
Organizations that adopt an end-to-end
knowledge management approach focused
on people, processes and technology have the
potential to realize benefits such as these:
Improved efficiency and effectiveness
Defining and enforcing a knowledge
management programwith governance
including central administration, designated
roles and responsibilities, and easy-to-
use processesdrives employee behavior
to support and use the knowledge
management system.
Improved content quality and consistency
across multi-service channels
Incentivizing customer service representatives
to focus on quality of information over
quantity, and incorporating a feedback loop
and continuous update cycle will help verify
that the knowledge base contains the right
information across all service channels.
Increased customer trust and loyalty
Providing consistent information on all
service channels will help customers answer
their questions quickly, and confirm trust in
the brand and company, which ultimately
improves loyalty. This consistency will also
encourage customers to use self-service
options without having to call an agent to
validate answers, which is more expensive
for organizations to support.
Reduced resource and maintenance costs
Consolidating multiple knowledge bases into
a single, global repository makes it easier
for employees to update and disseminate
content across the enterprise. Where
applicable in the organization, consolidation
also decreases technology support costs
for maintaining and upgrading multiple
knowledge bases.
Reduced customer service costs
Accenture client experience shows that a
highly functional knowledge management
system can help customers resolve issues
using self-service methods, which leads to
call deflection and reduced call volume.
An effective knowledge base can also
help customer service agents resolve
customer issues the first time, potentially
reducing average call handle time and
resulting in fewer repeat calls. Additional
benefits organizations can achieve include a
reduction in failed searches and an increase
in the accuracy of search results.
When combined, these operational
improvements can have a vital effect
making it possible for organizations to
optimize the customer experience, and,
ultimately, drive growth.
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Contact Us
For further information, please contact:
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Gregory Nye
Copyright 2012 Accenture
All rights reserved.
Accenture, its logo, and
High Performance Delivered
are trademarks of Accenture.
This document is produced by consultants at Accenture
as general guidance. It is not intended to provide
specific advice on your circumstances. If you require
advice or further details on any matters referred to,
please contact your Accenture representative.