What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge Management (KM) is the process where an organization collects, creates, organizes, analyzes, and shares knowledge among its employees and stakeholders at their time of need.
Any time an organization collects data to enhance the understanding of an area and makes it easily accessible to its employees is considered knowledge management. This can comprise of anything from a huge range of training documents to frequently asked questions, technical resources, process guidance, and more.
For contact centers, knowledge includes policies, products, systems, processes, and procedures within systems and databases. The information contained in knowledge management systems can be related to operations, employee skills, customers, transactions, and anything else relevant to the business.
If knowledge isn’t available when needed or there’s difficulty in accessing information, it can lead to a waste of time for the contact center and its resources. When agents take time to seek out relevant knowledge, the focus shifts away from the customer. In a worst-case scenario, lack of relevant knowledge may lead to adverse decision-making on the agent’s part and thus lead to potentially huge financial losses. This is why it’s important for contact centers to really think through their approach to how they manage their knowledge.
Without a knowledge management strategy in place, contact centers are less likely to achieve beneficial outcomes—like reduced average handle times, expected wait times, and efficient first-call resolution— in a timely manner. Developing the right knowledge strategy for your agents helps increase learning about their workplace, which leads to faster and better decision-making for future customer service interactions. It also helps streamline organizational processes like onboarding and training new employees, which can lead to higher agent engagement and retention rates.
To develop your knowledge management strategy, be sure to review the larger business goals along with which knowledge management tools may be already available. If there isn’t a solution in place, then this is where your team would seek out knowledge management software to help facilitate your strategy. By following these steps, your team can ensure it’s doing everything it can from a knowledge management standpoint to address the needs and demands of their contact center.
Now that we’ve presented what knowledge management is, how it’s utilized by contact centers, and the importance of having a strategy in place, here is where we take a deeper dive. Below, you’ll see the different types of knowledge that exists within a contact center. As you begin your journey, or reassess one that’s already in place, having a clear understanding of each type of knowledge can help fulfill different goals of your strategy.
Different Types of Contact Center Knowledge
If your knowledge management strategy doesn’t include a breakdown of the different knowledge types, then it’s incomplete. To ensure you’re on the right track, here are the necessary types of knowledge to consider:
If it can be written down and easily shared, it’s considered to be explicit knowledge. This type of knowledge covers topics that can be systematically documented like FAQs, instructions, diagrams, reports, manuals, files, folders, or videos.
Since it’s easy to understand, document, transfer, and communicate, explicit knowledge is the most commonly used type in any organization. It can be used to perform a task, make decisions, or share knowledge with customers.
If you already have the understanding and skills on a particular topic, that is considered implicit knowledge. Agents continue to grow this type of knowledge when they use their expertise during customer interactions. This way, they can see the direct impact of their implicit knowledge on the outcome, analyze the situation, and level up their customer service skills. Agents can increase their implicit knowledge by taking any customer experience and combining it with other types of data to solve future problems.
Implicit knowledge is not a part of a formal contact center knowledge base as it’s difficult to capture and document it in a scalable way. Typically, it’s stored in people’s minds and verbally passed on to the next agent.
When there’s data that’s hard to explain in a simple and straightforward way, that’s considered to be tacit knowledge. It’s often understood without being verbalized or put in writing. Because it’s informal and learned through experiences—often cultural, personal, or situational—it can be difficult to transfer, capture, or store.
However, if it can be captured, it should be added to your contact center’s knowledge base to make sharing that expertise easier with those who need it. An agent’s ability to solve a customer’s complaint at the perfect time during a call can be considered tacit knowledge. It can include a combination of observed social cues, experience, and various personal factors.
Procedural knowledge focuses on how to complete a task. Basically, it shows how a certain system works. For example, standard operating procedure (SOP) documents for performing a task can be classified as management of procedural knowledge.
Knowledge Management Process in Contact Centers
Now that we’ve gone through the different types of knowledge management data for contact centers, we’d like to go over the entire process. It can be complex for any one person to manage but it doesn’t have to be. The process of putting together a solid knowledge management system can be broken down into these five steps:
- Knowledge Creation
- Knowledge Organization
- Knowledge Sharing
- Knowledge Analysis
- Knowledge Optimization
Here we go into more details about each of these knowledge management steps:
1. Knowledge Creation
The process of knowledge creation starts with acquiring data. From contact center agents to outside experts, what’s added to the knowledge base itself can come from various sources. However, to acquire knowledge, the contact center should first identify the kind of information they want to draft, store, and disseminate. Known as a knowledge management strategy, this plan should be documented in a form that’s easily understood by all agents.
2. Knowledge Organization
Once the knowledge is obtained, understanding where and how it could be used is the next step. The best way to do this is by organizing it in a way that makes sense for overall business goals and everyday agent operations. With a proper management system in place, the knowledge can be stored in an organized manner for ease of future use. If there isn’t a properly organized system, utilizing that knowledge is either difficult or impossible, which negates the entire point of having it.
To ensure successful organizing, knowledge should be formatted in a way that can be seamlessly integrated into the existing company data network. Additionally, there should be security features included so knowledge can be accessed only by those with certified authorization.
3. Knowledge Sharing
If it can’t be accessed by the people who need it most, knowledge is of no use. For authorized agents, there needs to be a way to share knowledge using various integrations such as what’s in shared drives, websites, or other compatible applications. Everything from knowledge training to the exchange of knowledge where information can be enhanced or acquired through discussions with other employees and external experts is included in knowledge sharing.
4. Knowledge Analysis
Over time, every business, company, or organization needs to analyze whether or not the content in their knowledge management system is useful and relevant. This can be done by looking at the search results used by employees in their knowledge management system. Results from this give the organization an idea of whether the knowledge being shared matches the search keywords or if there is a need to change the content to fill in any gaps.
Knowledge that isn’t being used, or has been made redundant, should be deleted in a secure manner. Additionally, notes should be taken from the comments left by authorized viewers so the knowledge can be updated accordingly.
5. Knowledge Optimization
Upon completion of the analysis, the contact center is now ready for knowledge optimization. This includes things like fixing existing knowledge gaps and updating it with any new helpful content. Ideally, this should be done after soliciting feedback from knowledge management system users.
Knowledge Management Tools for Your Organization
There are a variety of tools that can be used for knowledge management. While they all have a similar end goal, most have a different aspect to their operational processes. When looking for a knowledge management system, organizations need to think about what’s necessary for seamless integration with current business uses and needs.
Unlike the internet, the knowledge stored here is not available to the public. Intranets are computer networks that exist only within an organization and are accessible only to employees at the company. This allows easy access to knowledge for anyone authorized to use it. It can include services like internal directories for better collaboration.
Wikis are web pages where anyone can publish information. While being a good place to store information and product catalogs, it might not be the most secure storage option. Being open to editing by anyone can lead to manipulation of sensitive information or potentially uploads of wrong information on pages associated with your organization.
Social networking allows employees and staff to connect with each other, contribute information, discuss various issues they’re interested in, and seek solutions to their problems. Knowledge management systems can use various social networking platforms to identify, store, and transfer knowledge.
Knowledge Management Challenges
For contact centers looking to level up their knowledge management, there are challenges to be aware of which include:
Finding the right type of knowledge management solution can be a challenge for any contact center. This is why it’s important to make sure whatever knowledge management offering your organization chooses is within budget, is connected to key information sources and has the necessary specifications to suit the needs of everyday work processes. To avoid selecting a knowledge management system that may not be the best fit for your organization’s requirements, make sure to research all the various features and benefits, including critical integrations.
Convincing employees to share information about their work on the knowledge management system can be difficult. Some view the knowledge they have as their secret weapon in a competitive industry or role. For this reason, they might not want to be part of a transparent system that shares their trade secrets with other teams. To fix this problem, think about instilling a cultural change from the top down where leadership and top management follow the same transparent system alongside their employees. This ensures that everyone across the board has the same access to great insights.
Information security is a big issue for almost every contact center across industries. The best solution is to invest in a knowledge management system or tool with robust security features that’s well-equipped to counter hacking.
Secure knowledge management systems are vital to protect things like:
- Backup storage facilities
- Access layers in large enterprises
Benefits of Knowledge Management in a Contact Center
Now that we’ve discussed what knowledge management is, the types of knowledge, the process for putting an organized system together, and the various tools, it’s time to discuss knowledge management benefits.
Knowledge management enables:
- Reduced cognitive load for faster decision-making
- Increased agent collaboration and content generation
- Better overall workplace communication
- Improved information quality by decreasing errors and complaints via self-service
- Secure intellectual property
- Reduce training time
- Boost first contact resolutions and call deflection
Reduced Cognitive Load for Faster Decision-Making
In customer service, every moment counts and nobody knows that better than contact center agents. With well-built knowledge management, contact center leaders and agents have access to the right kind of information at the right time for any particular customer service situation. What this does is help not only provide quality customer service, but it also reduces the cognitive load for agents. Instead of spending time reinventing the wheel to find the right information (or remember where it’s located), agents can access details about past customer interactions and outcomes to expedite making new decisions in real-time.
Increased Agent Collaboration and Content Generation
Effective and efficient knowledge sharing capabilities increases collaboration among contact center agents. With this in place, employees have access to other teams outside of their own group. This means more insights and understanding around various aspects of the contact center and at the same time exchanging insightful ideas. As an added bonus, access to past business initiatives enables agents to link concepts with new ideas for future innovative processes.
Better Overall Workplace Communication
Without solid knowledge management, contact centers don’t run as smoothly as they should. However, with the right system in place, communication among agents improves. It prevents employees from working in silos, increases cross-skill opportunities, decreases speed to competency, and empowers them to communicate about their work with other colleagues. This can happen across the organization so agents can find information, ideas, and support whenever they need it from any location.
Improve Information Quality by Decreasing Errors and Complaints via Self Service
The more information you have, the more employees will know and build off of for future work situations. As knowledge management continues to collect information and data from across the company regularly, it leads to a better quality of information. It’s boosted up to the next level simply because the information is routinely being updated. At the same time, irrelevant or erroneous information can be removed from the system.
Secure Intellectual Property
Right alongside basic information about a contact center and its operations, intellectual property (IP) is also gathered, organized, and stored in the knowledge management system. However, because of its sensitive nature, most contact centers likely have a heighten security layer around it. To do this, it can set permissions on who is authorized to access that part of the knowledge management system.
Reduce Training Time
Knowledge management helps optimize employee training programs. When new agents are onboarded, training packets are routinely checked and updated. This benefits not only new people, but also veteran employees. As these updates are made, all agents can utilize the information to learn more about the contact center.
Knowledge Management—The Vital Part of Any Contact Center’s Growth
To succeed in any industry, contact centers need to have easy access to information and knowledge. All silos should be dismantled to empower both agents and customers to share and search for knowledge in a highly secure and managed way.
If done correctly, entire contact centers will be more streamlined, effective in business decisions, and able to improve any systemic problems.