A supporting department can benefit greatly from a good process to keep information in the knowledge base up-to-date. If a solution to a question has been documented well, customers can be helped more quickly by a service desk employee or even find the solution to their question in the Self Service portal themselves.
In practice it turns out that many organizations are behind when it comes to efficiently organizing knowledge management. Service desk employees often perform duplicate tasks: they spend a lot of time finding an answer, while another colleague recently resolved the same problem. This is obviously not the best resolution process.
In this article I will explain several knowledge management models – specifically the model that I believe is most suited to a service desks’ work: Knowledge Centered Service (KCS).
Different models for knowledge management
In practice we can define several models for setting up the knowledge management process.* Each model has its advantages and disadvantages:
1. Content specialist model: A team, often comprising technical writers, focuses exclusively on filling and maintaining the knowledge base. The advantage of this work method, is that the documentation time is not at the expense of solving problems and vice versa. However, this separation can impede the technical writers’ practical knowledge. Moreover, the people solving the problems feel less responsible for the contents of the knowledge base, meaning they don’t give as many suggestions for improvement.
2. Product specialist model: Mainly the second line (experts) are involved in writing documentation. As a result, the documentation directly meets the customer’s questions and the information is correct. The disadvantage is that the people solving the problems don’t always have time to document the solutions, because they often have to get to work in the case of an emergency.
3. Batch model: Every person solving problems writes items for the knowledge base, even if there isn’t any time. Many hands make light work, but there is a danger that solutions are not, or badly, documented. Reviews are mainly done by the second line (experts) so there’s often not enough time.
Knowledge management 2.0: Knowledge Centered Service
What is a good model to keep the documentation in a knowledge base up-to-date? A fourth model that is slowly making an appearance is KCS. This is a set of best practices and processes for managing and reusing knowledge, developed by the Consortium for Service Innovation: a non-profit organization that focuses on innovating services. KCS is developed specially for service desks.
The idea behind KCS is that a service department should not focus on calls, but on knowledge. Knowledge is not documented for processing a single call, but for all following customers with the same question. The documentation of this knowledge is demand-driven, instead of supply-driven.
The KCS Academy, a network of organizations that apply and develop KCS, lists the advantages of KCS as follows**:
• 50-60% shorter durations and 30-50% more calls resolved during first contact;
• Employees are more efficient: new employees are up and running 70% faster, and the employee satisfaction increases with 20 to 40%;
• a 50% increase in questions customer resolve themselves.
How does KCS work?
KCS comprises two parts: Solve and Evolve. Solve focuses on the daily use of the method: solving practical questions by documenting and improving knowledge, driven by customer and end-user demand. Evolve focuses on maintaining the knowledge base and refining KCS.
Solve: Safeguarding knowledge as part of the solving process
KCS is demand-driven, which makes safeguarding knowledge a permanent part of solving questions. The question and answer for every logged call are documented in the knowledge base.
For every question, the service desk employee needs to search the knowledge base to check whether an item already exists. If this is the case, he assesses whether the item is relevant and correct – and edits the item if necessary. He can then use the item to answer the question. If there is no answer to the question, the employee can follow the usual solution procedure, after which he adds the new solution to the knowledge base.
The knowledge base is the collective memory that belongs to every employee. Rewarding and stimulating collaboration and knowledge sharing leaves more time to resolve more complex questions and to research a problem’s cause.
The process flow is as follows
Frequently asked questions can be resolved quickly using this method. If the caller can consult the knowledge base, questions can even be prevented. Making knowledge available to everyone reduces the questions that need to be escalated to colleagues. This helps reduce durations and lower the costs per call.
Evolve: continuous improvement
Evolve focuses on continuously developing the KCS system by maintaining the items in the knowledge base.
In principal, everyone can publish items with KCS. The contents of the items range between informal information transfer and formal documentation. You need to make agreements about the structure of the items, helping you with uniformity. This template usually comprises the following headings:
• Description of the question/problem
Depending on the organization, you can add another heading that specifies the product version, or the environment of the problem (which Windows version, for instance).
Analysing existing items is an important part of Evolve. A second line specialist or problem manager researches proactively whether several customer questions lead to a singular item. Moreover, he researches whether there are multiple items that describe the same problem, but offer different solutions. This is how the knowledge base plays an important role in the problem management process.
The Evolve section also focuses on the further adoption of KCS within the organization. Here we can specify the following phases:
• Planning and design: the implementation of KCS in your day-to-day work;
• Adoption: making KCS part of your day-to-day work;
• Expertise: continue to improve processes and items.
Together with my colleagues we have put our experience and knowledge of KCS into a 6-step plan. Discover all the steps.
Go or no go?
There are a number of advantages to KCS compared with classic knowledge management models. To start with, bringing together the knowledge management processes and solving calls helps better meet the customers’ needs. There is also no delay in making relevant information available. Moreover, it takes little effort to document a solution in the knowledge base, because this process is very similar to resolving the actual call.
Similar to other models, there is a disadvantage to KCS. Working according to KCS only requires a minor adjustment to the way service desk employees work, but a successful adoption requires all service desk employees to change their processes. That’s why organizations need to put in the effort to adopt KCS.
The key to shorter durations and lower costs per call not only lies in advanced technical solutions, but also in setting up your knowledge management process. We believe that KCS is the best model for service desks.
The biggest challenge is changing the way service desks view knowledge management: knowledge management is not a task you do next to solving problems. Instead, it’s the way you solve problems.
For more information on how to successfully land KCS in your organization, check out Steve Brand and Stéphane Pinault’s SEE-talk ‘Sharing knowledge is power’.
Share Knowledge Better in your Organisation
Want more inspiration on sharing knowledge? Download our Knowledge Management e-book for tips and tricks and a way to calculate your time and cost savings.
*Collective Wisdom: Transforming Support with Knowledge [Kindle Edition], Francoise Tourniaire, David Kay
** Source: http://www.thekcsacademy.net/KCS/
*** Source: Synergies between ITIL® and Knowledge-Centered Support (KCSSM), Roy Atkinson, John Custy, and Rick Joslin
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