The knowledge a company holds is a crucial and integral part of its value. Along with real estate, inventory and other tangible assets – not to mention its branding and ethos – it’s essentially what makes the company what it is. The ease with which knowledge flows around a business affects every aspect of it. Create bottlenecks in knowledge sharing and it becomes inefficient; keep your knowledge bases open and accessible and its net value will increase.
Think about what happened when you last went for a job interview. You weren’t asked to show the interviewers your car and your phone – you were questioned about what you know, how you would cope with certain situations, what makes you tick. These are all intangible assets that you hold in your head.
Multiply that by the number of employees and partners, and you have a lot of heads holding terabytes of critical knowledge that can be put to good use if the right systems are in place.
Now imagine the company without that knowledge, and you can see straight away that it’s almost worthless. What good is all that high tech equipment and fantastic products if nobody knows how they work? If every team member has access to all the knowledge assets with a couple of clicks, it becomes clear that you’ve added value to the business.
This is why all companies should have a robust knowledge management (KM) strategy.
Although as an asset, a company’s knowledge is something to be coveted and protected for competitive reasons, there’s also a wealth of knowledge that it’s beneficial to share. We’re thinking about the knowledge related to your products and services. They’re the things people jam your call centres help desks by asking questions about.
If that knowledge could readily be accessed by your customers (and would-be customers), something miraculous happens: you add value to your business. This is where knowledge management systems enter the fray. They are revolutionising businesses by harnessing the brain-based assets held in your staff and partners, and putting them to good use.
What is a knowledge management system?
A knowledge management system (KMS) is a solution, or collection of solutions, to find, collect, manage and direct useful data within an organisation. That data can come from anywhere in the business or the wider ecosystem, and is used internally and externally as deemed most effective by the organisation.
Knowledge management software comes in many forms. A lot of businesses use customer relationship management (CRM) suites to keep on top of the dealings they have with customers, ex-customers and leads. Customer data and customer support are just two examples of a knowledge management system, however.
Any system that takes explicit knowledge and makes it available to employees and/or customers is using knowledge as an asset. All the KMS does is make that collecting, finding and sharing logical and easy.
What makes a good KMS?
As you can probably imagine, the knowledge management process can be complicated when businesses are large and customers are many. So when you’re looking for knowledge management tools, there are several important things you should be looking out for if you’re looking to stick to best practices throughout your operations. We’ve listed some of the most critical below.
Ease of access
Always remember that training your agents comes at a cost, so any time saved in the process is advantageous, especially if you have relatively active staff turnover. Look for platforms that are intuitive and straightforward to pick up – in short, those that are built with agents in mind. Trying out free demos of platforms is always a good idea.
Assuming you’re planning on growing, you’re inevitably going to get more enquiries and customer tickets as you have more of them to deal with. That’s why coming up with a solid knowledge management strategy should include choosing systems that grow with you.
Your customers’ experience depends on you having answers in real time, using live chat, social networks and telephone, so making sure it grows as your company becomes more complex is paramount. Always make sure your solution isn’t limited by size, bandwidth or the ways it can work with other emerging solutions into the future.
Integration with other platforms
The knowledge management solution you get out of the box should only be the start of the solution. It should come with apps, plugins and integrations that let you work seamlessly with your other eCommerce, CRM solutions and learning management systems. Whether your KMS is the hub that feeds all other platforms, or is itself the plugin that you use with another main suite, it’s that cross-platform interoperability and data sharing that matters the most.
Getting the right person or department to respond to specialised queries or complaints quickly saves time and money for a help desk. The more you can automate that process, the better. That’s why you should look for the best routing and intelligence options in your platform. It gets customers to the answer or the person they’re looking for more quickly, and that makes for more satisfied customers and a super-efficient team.
The advice and information content you put out there is the public’s interface with your team. It’s often their first port of call before they elevate an issue to a chat or a call. That’s why it needs to be as perfect as possible, and the best way to achieve that is through collaborative publishing.
The more eyes and ears you have on a piece, the more opportunities you have to make it sharp, useful and accurate, so customers can sort out their own problems in their own time. Any decent knowledge base software should have collaboration at its heart. After all, it is rarely one person’s knowledge that makes the difference – it’s the sum total of all the knowledge assets the company has that gives it value, especially since it is constantly growing.
Collaboration can also come in the form of contributions from your customers, too. Have you ever seen a company’s forum, where people discuss its products and services, sort out each other’s problems and help the team come up with new knowledge base ideas? They’re not as scary as you might think – and can even help with your search engine optimisation.
Computers are excellent at spotting patterns and trends – better than humans, in many cases. So why not put them to work filtering out the most frequent queries and having them direct to self-help sections or the correct agent? Machine learning can also be used to inspire new help content, and even the products and services you offer, as customer feedback is an excellent indicator of faults and unintuitive features.
Find out more
If you’re interested in diving more deeply into the field of knowledge management, have a look at this study by Warwick University, where the case becomes inarguable. If you’re already convinced, check out our customer services solutions and have a play with the demo. As any taxi driver will tell you: once you’ve got the knowledge, you know exactly where you’re going.