In his 1999 book Management Challenges for the 21 Century, Austrian-born American management consultant, professor, and author Peter Drucker wrote of the importance of “the coordination and exploitation of organizations’ knowledge resources, in order to create benefit and competitive advantage.” Today, businesses have embraced his point, demonstrating how maintaining and growing an organization’s information to assist its employees and customers offer those benefits and advantage. As a practice, this collecting and sharing of information is referred to as knowledge management.
Even prior to Drucker’s observation, the Consortium for Service Innovation had already begun its work in 1992 on Knowledge-Centered Service (previously known as Knowledge-Centered Support) or KCS®*. KCS is a method that focuses on organizational knowledge as a key asset that can benefit, among other things, customer service delivery. By standardizing and streamlining the publication and availability of information through the use of a knowledge base and a workflow process, the most up-to-date information (both new and evolving) can quickly be made available to both customer service agents and customers. KCS effectively supercharges knowledge management practices within a company.
But even beyond KCS, there’s more companies can bring to the mix to have the most effective knowledge management practice. Like many other business processes, artificial intelligence (AI) can further enhance both the creation and use of knowledge.
Mind the gap
The most fundamental challenge of executing knowledge management effectively, especially in customer service, is a lack of information. That’s not just the absence of appropriate articles addressing customers’ issues but also no understanding of what needs to be created (and in what priority).
Using AI, today’s knowledge management solutions help address these issues. AI can quickly evaluate customer cases to determine where documented solutions are needed. A dashboard can be used to visualize where relevant articles are necessary and the relative priority order to tackle the topics based on volume or impact on customers. By tapping into workflow, tasks to create new articles can be be sent directly to knowledge authors or subject matter experts. From there, a company’s standard review and publish workflow can be followed (using KCS or otherwise) to quickly address the gaps.
Holes in knowledge make it harder for customers to find solutions themselves as well as for agents to assist them. Sealing those gaps makes for overall better customer service.
But sometimes a lack of knowledge articles might not be the problem. In fact, it could be just the opposite. The difficulty could be locating the answer due to challenges with sifting through a large number of articles. These issues can be attacked on two fronts.
First, AI can surface similar articles based on the search results or when articles are viewed by agents or customers. This helps quickly zero in on the right solution or comparable helpful information from what otherwise could be a needle in a haystack.
AI can also help prevent duplicate or similar articles from being created in the first place. By examining key words and phrases, potential twin articles can be pointed out to writers during the authoring process. This not only saves wasted time and effort but also minimizes unneeded clutter in the knowledge base.
Sometimes when agents are working with customers, they may neglect to consult the knowledge base. They might believe no article exists for the particular problem they are assisting the customer with. For whatever the reason, this creates a missed opportunity to quickly offer a solution to the customer.
That doesn’t need to be the case. Imagine if agents had someone sitting alongside them, whose sole job was to find solutions to the problem at hand in the knowledge base. Enter AI.
As agents work with customers, AI can suggest potential articles from the knowledge base. Not only does this mean the agent isn’t spending time performing searches, it also ensures a higher potential of success. On top of that, when an agent identifies an article suggested as the correct solution, AI “learns” what is correct for that particular situation and further refines its suggestions in the future.
Building a successful knowledge practice
Peter Drucker’s original observation over a quarter century ago remains a strong commentary on the power and importance of knowledge. When properly curated and made accessible, it can propel the success of a company in all areas–and especially in customer service.
It begins by establishing a knowledge-oriented culture. Selecting the right knowledge management solution that supports today’s goals and the future is critical. Follow that by instituting lifecycle processes like KCS for fast and consistent results. But don’t stop there! Look to AI to assist with both curation and discoverability to ensure the best possible outcomes.
*KCS® is a service mark of the Consortium for Service InnovationTM.