January 29, 2014
Knowledge management (KM) initiatives are launched with the best of intentions. New technology is introduced, new processes for capturing and publishing content are rolled out, employees are given incentives to contribute knowledge articles, and customers are encouraged to access new online knowledge tools.
Within two to three months, positive business results are realized. With accurate knowledge at their fingertips, support technicians are able to resolve issues faster, reducing average handle time and increasing first-contact resolution rate. Customers find the new online content is extremely helpful, and adoption and success of self-service rises, reducing assisted support calls.
Then something changes. Within a couple of years, the formerly popular, dynamic, and cost-effective knowledgebase has become an obstacle, filled with outdated and duplicate content, and both employee and customer satisfaction suffer as a result. Metrics such as first-contact resolution and average incident handle time that improved a year earlier begin to reverse, and as new products and versions are released to customers with little or no associated knowledge content created, operational metrics begin a slow decline.
Here is some data to illustrate just how frustrated technology firms are with their existing knowledge management infrastructure. The annual TSIA Member Technology Survey tracks adoption, planned spending, and satisfaction with technology across 24 categories of tools and services. In the 2012 survey, KM tools had the lowest satisfaction rating of any category in the survey, averaging 3.32 on a 5-point scale (with 1 representing very unsatisfied and 5 representing very satisfied). In the 2013 survey, KM tools averaged a slightly improved 3.42 satisfaction score, still one of the lowest ratings in the survey.
Based on discussions with hundreds of companies over a number of years regarding failing knowledge management programs, it appears that there are three common denominators linked to the majority of companies who claim not to be getting the expected value from their KM expenditures. Those three common denominators are:
A common reason TSIA members cite for the lack of ongoing maintenance, and ultimately a failing KM program, is that project funding is eliminated or severely reduced. After the initial launch excitement wanes, and early metric increases begin leveling off, other projects become higher priorities, and staff dedicated to the KM project are pulled off and assigned to new projects.
While it is true that knowledge management projects need additional resources up front, it is critical that when creating the budget for a project, funding for ongoing content resources is guaranteed for the life of the project. If executives will not commit to long-term dedicated resources—whether those are specific people or full-time equivalents across a group of employees—the likelihood for failure is high.
Another reason cited for declining knowledge management programs is the loss of the project champion. KM initiatives are often pet projects lead by a supervisor or manager with a passion for the topic, and likely these project owners have experience implementing knowledgebases for other companies. If the project champion leaves the company, or is assigned to another department or project, there is no one left to rally the troops. Interest in the project fades, and work to create and maintain content ends.
Another common problem that can lead to inadequate content maintenance and declining KM success is a lack of insight into the success of the initiative due to having no analytics to help understand consumption trends and missing content. Companies using older knowledge tools, or those that leverage a general purpose data warehouse instead of a platform specifically designed for technical support knowledge management, are missing the analytics included in best-of-breed products that not only help track ROI for the project but allow sophisticated reporting on content trends.
Partnering with a knowledge as a service (KaaS) provider can overcome each of these common challenges and ensure your KM program is successful—for the long term. Elements to look for when evaluating KaaS providers include:
Below is a list of the KaaS providers currently active in the TSIA partner program. Each of these partners has expertise in complex B2B service and support, and can evaluate your current KM tools and processes and help you create a “get well” plan for the future.
TSIA members can find the full research report on which this blog post was based here.
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John Ragsdale is the distinguished vice president of service technology research, for TSIA. His area of expertise is in creating strategies for improving the service operations and overall customer experience by leveraging innovative technology. Ragsdale drives TSIA's highly regarded technology research agenda, delivering insightful, thought-leadership research and analysis on the most pressing business issues facing services leaders to enable them to better plan and execute their service strategies. He is also author of the book, Lessons Unlearned, which chronicles his 25-year career inside the customer service industry.
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