Knowledge management best practices

A Q&A with Forrester's Kate Leggett on knowledge management best practices


Following our recent webinar, “How to Deliver Best-in-Class Customer Self-Service,” featuring Kate Leggett from Forrester, we discussed how companies should set up their team of agents and various best practices to ensure a successful content life cycle and knowledge management practice.

Here are the highlights:

Zendesk: What performance metrics should agents be tracked on for knowledge?

Kate Leggett: Agents should be tracked on knowledge use, knowledge creation, knowledge maintenance and knowledge quality.
Example metrics for knowledge use include:

  • Number of cases closed that include linked knowledge: This could be knowledge that is already present in the knowledge base or agent-created new content.
  • Search activity: This is the number of searches for a topic area covered by a certain piece of content written by an agent. It is indicative of the value of the content that the agent is providing by writing new content.

Example metrics for knowledge creation include:

  • Knowledge creation volume: This measures the productivity of an agent in terms of number of articles created within a predefined timeframe.
  • Knowledge reuse: This measures the amount of knowledge used by other agents that was created by a specific agent.

Example metrics for knowledge maintenance include:

  • Knowledge edit volume: This measures the amount of knowledge that the agent has either edited or recommended an edit for. This indicates the proactivity of the agent to take responsibility for the health of the knowledge base.

Example metrics for knowledge quality include:

  • Knowledge quality index: This measures how well the agent is creating knowledge that meets a predefined content standard. Typical measures of quality include whether knowledge is organised properly according to predefined templates and whether that knowledge is usable.
  • Knowledge feedback: This indicates the volume of feedback received on created knowledge. A higher amount of feedback is indicative of an incomplete or inaccurate solution.
  • Satisfaction rating. This measures the rating of knowledge (e.g., five-star ratings) and indicates customer and agent satisfaction when the knowledge is used.
  • Content modification score: This indicates the scope of rework that is needed to optimise agent-created knowledge.

Zendesk: How should knowledge management teams be structured?

Kate Leggett: There are many roles that must be staffed for a successful knowledge management project. Not all roles are needed, depending on the complexity of your knowledge management programme and the types of authoring workflows that you implement. Potential roles are described as:

1. Knowledge management executive champion/Head of support or knowledge
This executive champions the role of and approves the strategy for knowledge management. The executive is responsible for funding and staffing the knowledge management programme.

2. Self-service business owner
This business owner is responsible for the web and/or mobile customer experience. This role works closely with the knowledge base owner to ensure that knowledge base content can be accessed via customer self-service.

3. Knowledge base owner
This role is responsible for the tactical execution of the knowledge management programme. Tasks include but are not limited to: defining the overall taxonomy of the knowledge base; defining content standards (templates, tags, voice); and defining the knowledge management authoring and publication process. This role manages the overall health of the knowledge base by ensuring content is created and reviewed via predefined processes. This role also co-ordinates activities with the self-service business owner to ensure that knowledge base content can be accessed via customer self-service.

4. Category owner
Category owners are responsible for the health of a particular topic area within the knowledge base. They can be knowledge workers or agents with skills in a particular topic area.

5. Knowledge worker
Knowledge workers create knowledge base content. This role can be separate from a customer service agent role, or be represented as a task that is part of a customer service agent’s job.

6. Knowledge editor
Knowledge editors are responsible for revising content, with a focus on style and ease of use. This is an optional role for many knowledge programmes. For example, if social knowledge programmes such as KCS are implemented, this role is not necessary.

7. Conversational designer
Conversational designers script the dialogue and link to relevant knowledge base content used in conversational interfaces for automated customer interactions.

8. Knowledge base administrator
This is a technical role responsible for the deployment and maintenance of the knowledge base.

Zendesk: What skills do knowledge management teams need?

Kate Leggett: Depending on the role, the types of skills you may need will vary. These skills are defined as:

1. Knowledge management executive champion/Head of support or knowledge
This executive is responsible for budget and resources. This is a line-of-business role. Examples include VP of customer service, VP of customer experience and VP of operations

2. Self-service business owner
This is a line-of-business role. Skills needed are project and people management skills and marketing acumen.

3. Knowledge base owner
Knowledge base owners have excellent project management skills and a solid understanding of the content in the knowledge base. They are good communicators and are effective at working across organisational lines.

4. Category owner
Category owners have subject matter expertise for their content category. They should also have good writing and organisational skills.

5. Knowledge worker
Knowledge workers have solid technical writing skills, and solid knowledge in a particular content area.

6. Knowledge editor
Knowledge editors have good writing and editing skills, and a good understanding of the right content for customers.

7. Conversational designer
Conversational designers are good at writing customer-facing dialogue. They have good writing and editing skills, and they have a feel for natural conversations.

8. Knowledge base administrator
Administrators are technical resources whose expertise matches the skills required to maintain a vendor knowledge base.

Zendesk: What are the best practices for the content life cycle to keep content up to date?

Kate Leggett: Keeping content up to date is one of the most important facets of knowledge management. Content must continually be refreshed so that it is in line with user demand, whether that be for use by customers via self-service or for use by agents. If content is not kept up to date:

  • Customers will not be able to find answers to their questions, which will lead them to contact customer service organisations at an increased rate. This drives operational costs up and customer satisfaction down.
  • Agents will not have access to accurate, relevant content. This increases handling times and decreases customer satisfaction. If standardised, accurate content is not available for use, it also affects a company’s ability to comply with industry or company regulations.

An integral part of planning a knowledge management effort is to determine how to manage the life cycle of agent-facing content and customer self-service content. This requires deciding what user roles will be allowed to create, rework, review, and approve content for publishing. It also requires deciding what authoring workflows to use for content creation. There are two workflows that are commonly used. They are: 1) traditional workflows where content goes through predefined steps of creation, review and publication and 2) more social ones, such as KCS, where the entire agent population takes collective responsibility for content creation and maintenance.

Irrespective of workflow choice, best practices to keep content in line with customer demand are:

  • Run reports and analytics on a regular basis to understand the health of the knowledge base and where there are opportunities to make improvements. Archive content that is not used, rework content that is poorly rated, and review content that is the most used to make sure that it is relevant and complete. Also, create content for knowledge base searches that returned no results.
  • Allow any customer or agent who comes in contact with content in the knowledge base to rate content and give feedback on the content. Use these ratings and feedback to improve the health of your knowledge base.
  • Choose to give a select number of agents the ability to correct mistakes and improve published content in real time, ensuring more optimal content.
    Set expiry dates for content. This forces the review of all content within your knowledge base on a regular schedule.

For a more in-depth discussion on taking knowledge management to the next level, register for the webinar now.