Article

What is knowledge management?

Published October 1, 2021
Last updated October 4, 2021

Knowledge management (KM) is the process of storing, processing, and sharing organisational knowledge; that is, the information owned by or contained within an organisation. 

It helps to keep all information in the same place, making knowledge transfer easier. There are generally thought to be three main areas of knowledge management:

  • Accumulating knowledge
  • Storing knowledge
  • Sharing knowledge

All three are important for businesses looking to improve both their internal processes and the access customers have to information. Let’s delve into the question of what knowledge management is and why it is important.

Types of knowledge

Knowledge management is often used to improve customer experience, and self-service portals are a popular way for customers to help themselves when they need help with easy-to-solve issues like printing a returns label.

However, acknowledgement management isn’t just for customers. Employees can also improve their knowledge through KM. When a business becomes a knowledge-centred organisation, it ensures that information about products, tips and tricks are shared openly across teams and departments. 

Knowledge can be broadly categorised into three groups: tacit knowledge, explicit knowledge and implicit knowledge.

Tacit knowledge is a more intuitive type of knowledge that is harder to share and learn, such as teaching different types of body language, or creative thinking.

Explicit knowledge, on the other hand, can be easily packaged up and taught such as a guide to using a product, or how to answer an email.

Implicit knowledge is knowledge that hasn't necessarily been outlined and stored within your document management systems yet. Perhaps it’s assumed that everyone already knows how to complete a certain task, or that customers already know the answer to a simple question.

What is a knowledge management system?

A knowledge management system, or knowledge management software, is how all of this information is stored and organised.

A knowledge management solution can take many different forms and is, broadly speaking, any kind of IT system that stores knowledge to support collaboration and improve understanding. 

This could take the form of:

  • Help articles to help customers with common support queries - and they can also be used by support agents to assist customers on social media, email or over the phone
  • Tips from community managers about tailoring your products and services for unique use cases
  • Information from product experts to help writers create official product documentation
  • Interviews, survey results or feedback from the customer success team
  • A voice of the customer programme
  • Best practice guidelines for both internal and customer use - for example internally, how to use your content management systems, or for customers, how to take care of a product
  • Product or service how-to guides
  • Knowledge bases for customers to solve their own problems
  • FAQs to answer common questions (meaning that customers don’t need to get in touch with your support team)
  • Lessons learned from previous customer interactions
  • Community forum

Benefits of a knowledge management system

Knowledge management systems exist to make life easier for both consumers and businesses, and the benefits are endless.

Improve the customer experience

For simple queries, customers don’t want to have to phone or email customer service - they’d much rather use a self-serve system. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 shows that high performing customer experience teams are 76% more likely to offer self-service, allowing customers to solve simple problems (like changing their password or printing off a returns label) themselves by accessing knowledge base articles.

Reduce costs

Where customers can solve their own problems, you’ll see a cost-saving benefit. Data from Forrester suggests that live customer support agent chats can cost as much as $6-12 for every single interaction. Put answers to common questions online so that customers can easily access the information they need and that cost could be reduced to as little as $0.25.

Improve customer support agent efficiency

KM is just as important for internal teams as it is for customers. Customers who use self-serve content can save agents a lot of time, and good knowledge management enables agents to become cross-functional collaborators. For example, once an agent successfully resolves a customer issue, they can document their learnings which can then be used by another agent in the future to quickly support a customer with the same problem.

Break down internal silos

Additionally, for internal use, a knowledge management system can enable people to share information across teams, helping everyone to do their jobs better. A KM surfaces knowledge throughout an organisation, and across teams allowing staff to self-serve, just as their customers do.

How to improve knowledge management

The best way to improve knowledge management is to establish a process that covers four key steps:

  • Locates the relevant information
  • Organises it in a logical way
  • Allows you to analyse and report on how the information is used
  • Enables you to frequently update the information

Locating the information

The first step in creating (or improving) your knowledge management system is determining what information people are frequently looking for. You need to identify the common issues, questions, problems or complaints people have. Once you’ve identified these, you can document the answers to them.

You can look through support tickets to find frequently asked questions. If you notice that the same things are coming up time and time again, there could be a simple solution: creating content that answers the question and is easily accessible for customers without having to contact you.

Organise the information

This is also a crucial step - there’s no point in having a wealth of content to help customers if they can’t find it. There are some simple knowledge base design strategies that you should follow to ensure all the information is easy to find, including:

  • Simplicity - the simper your KM is, the more effective it will be
  • Easy navigation
  • Short, easy to understand titles
  • A search bar so users can find their exact query

Analyse and report

With both customers and internal users depending on the knowledge base, a strong feedback loop helps ensure that reliable, accurate content is available for customers, agents and cross-functional teams. You can deploy AI to spot trends in what people are clicking on, searching for and bouncing from, so you can better understand what articles are most effective and which ones don’t quite hit the mark.

Continually improve

A knowledge management system should be an ever-evolving knowledge base for staff and customers. Taking an agile approach to maintaining the knowledge base helps ensure it stays fresh and relevant.

Ready to improve your knowledge management system? Find out how you can use Zendesk's knowledge management software to streamline processes and make more information and resources more accessible. Your customers, and your agents, will thank you.