Knowledge management best practices: A Q&A with Forrester’s Kate Leggett

We discussed knowledge management best practices to ensure a successful km program with Kate Leggett from Forrester.

By Hannah Wren, Content marketing associate

Published April 10, 2018
Last modified July 27, 2020

The benefits of self-service are clear—it can increase customer satisfaction, boost agent productivity, enable a business to do more with less, and drive competitive advantage. But this is only possible if customer service organizations implement the right knowledge management process and km strategy to ensure knowledge sharing is effective. Support teams must make knowledge simple to consume and keep it up to date. They must tailor help center content to customers' specific needs so that customers can find the answers they’re looking for with little effort. And, they should pair self-service with AI to deliver knowledge in-context, allowing for customers to get answers from where they already are. Only then can a company reap the benefits.

We discussed how companies should set up their team of agents and various strategies to ensure a successful content lifecycle and knowledge management system with Kate Leggett from Forrester. Read on for the highlights and stay for the best practices:

Knowledge management best practices

  1. Allign metrics with your goals
  2. Structure your team with the right roles
  3. Develop your team's knowledge sharing skills
  4. Be agile

1. Allign metrics with your goals

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 knowledge article 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 re-use: 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 organized properly according to predefined templates and whether the 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 optimize agent-created knowledge.

Agents should be tracked on knowledge use, knowledge creation, knowledge maintenance, and knowledge quality.

    2. Structure your team with the right roles

    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 program and the types of authoring workflows that you implement. Potential roles are described as:

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

    • 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.

    • Knowledge base owner
    • This role is responsible for the tactical execution of the knowledge management program. Tasks include but are not limited to: defining the overall taxonomy of the knowledge base; defining content standards (templates, tags, voice); and defining knowledge management implementation, such as the 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 coordinates activities with the self-service business owner to ensure that knowledge base content can be accessed via customer self-service.

    • 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.

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

    • 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 programs. For example, if social knowledge programs such as KCS are implemented, this role is not necessary.

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

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

        3. Develop your team's knowledge sharing skills

        Zendesk: What skills do knowledge management teams need?

        Kate Leggett: Dependent of the role, the types of skills that you may need will vary. Here are some examples of roles that require a unique set of knowledge sharing skills:

        • 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

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

        • 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 organizational lines.

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

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

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

        • 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.

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

            4. Be agile

            Zendesk: What are the best practices for the content lifecycle, in order 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 be continually 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 organizations at an increased rate. This drives operational costs up and customer satisfaction down.
            • Agents will not have access to accurate, relevant content. This increases handle times and decreases customer satisfaction. If standardized, accurate content is not available for use, it also affects a company’s ability to comply with industry or company regulations.

            Keeping content up to date is one of the most important facets of knowledge management.

            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 expiration dates for content. This forces the review of all content within your knowledge base on a regular cadence.

            The knowledge gap

            While 69 percent of customers want to resolve as many issues as possible on their own, there remains a knowledge gap: only a third of companies offer a knowledge base and/or community forum, according to Zendesk’s Customer Experience Trends Report, 2020. But effective knowledge management isn’t as simple as just having a knowledge base or community forum. It requires a support team to have the right knowledge management software, strategy, process, and system for its km initiative to help them implement knowledge management best practices and create an organizational culture of knowledge sharing.

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