Knowledge sharing

Knowledge management and beyond: How to evolve your knowledge sharing to improve CX


Ahead of MyCustomer's digital event discussing knowledge management's role in customer experience transformation, Peter Massey demystifies how organisations can facilitate a knowledge sharing cycle in a complex customer service environment.

11th Mar 2022

What is knowledge management?

A really simple definition is giving the right answers to the questions customers pose. That knowledge is key to success in sales and service. Knowledge management is the “how” you do this in operations, both human and digital.

knowledge management

Knowledge is the key to meeting customer sales or service demand. Knowledge comes in many forms in a business: content, websites, collateral, training, FAQs and so on. It is the key to how it is possible to organise operations in the most effective way to meet customer demand.

“Knowledge sharing”

We started using the phrase “knowledge sharing” quite a few years ago to describe instead how knowledge as a commodity is no longer “managed” in the traditional sense. It doesn’t just sit in one library or file or under any one person’s control.

You can’t just manage knowledge

One of the key points in our belief that “the customers and the front line know” is that they have the knowledge that’s useful to the business. But we can’t always “manage” what customers know. We have to relax and follow it, observe what’s in it, make it useful to our business and to other staff and to other customers. This is what “knowledge sharing” is about. Knowledge moves from many places to many others and is not simply owned or easily managed by experts in the business.

Knowledge sharing driven on social media

“Customer help customer”, “c2c”, “crowdsourcing” and “crowdservicing” have become common over the last decade. These approaches rapidly became part of the social media whirl around customer experience, feedback and contact. Not least because the tools customers had were simpler more powerful than those the business had eg Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; Amazon, Tripadvisor or AirBnB reviews; Trustpilot and so on.

Egain webinar

Help the sharing have purpose

A further point to note is the presentation of the knowledge. Many companies have vast libraries of
useful data that isn’t used. Sometimes it is out of date, but often it is just inaccessible. You may be able to search or google the key words but the amount of information then presented is overwhelming or irrelevant. Even when it is relevant it has often been written by someone who is using it for a different purpose. A product designer does not write in the same way that a conversation about the product will flow in person. This is the reason that rating engines and forums work well for customers and staff alike. We’ve all seen rating on websites - “was this answer helpful?". It helps the relationship between questions and answers. But getting a fully successful answer can be rare.

Language of the customer, choreography of the conversation

In wikis, forums and communities, whether amongst customers, amongst front line staff or both, the language is understandable and the conversation usually relevant. Organising the information so that people can find it can be hard, but there are many tools available to help this. Apple’s support forums are good examples. Starting with maybe ten categories, you drill down to the subject and then down to the answers. It’s well presented and very effective.

You may not afford all the technology but allowing frontline staff to build and present the knowledge for themselves and others to use, can be very powerful. They know the questions, use simpler language and can present the answers they way they use them in real conversations. And sharing this internal data with external customers can be very powerful and cost effective. The critical component in making knowledge sharing work is linking knowledge to demand:

  • using the customers’ words
  • describing what customers want (understanding demand)
  • sequencing and layout according to demands.

The classic case is Amazon’s top demand “where’s my stuff?”. Take a look at the Amazon site and see where and how many times it occurs. In exactly that customer language.

How do we approach knowledge sharing?

The formats and mechanisms for handling knowledge may vary widely so how do we approach the subject?

At the heart of understanding how to facilitate knowledge sharing in this complex environment is to look at the publishing cycle. In essence what we are doing in a publishing cycle is is as follows:

  • Clarifying the need, question or “customer demand” we trying to meet
  • What or who is the source of data to meet this need and how best is the need met
  • How and where is the information is best presented if it is to be used effectively
  • How did the right information get to the right place
  • How well is the information used and how effective it is in meeting the need
  • How will we know how we are doing and how can we do better
  • What tools can we use to help knowledge sharing

We will structure these dimensions of knowledge sharing into six elements and we’ll take a look at these in more depth.

  1. Diagnostics
  2. Content
  3. Presentation
  4. Publishing
  5. Management information
  6. Tools

1. Diagnostics

The start point is to know what a customer wants. The customer demand. And to know it in the customers’ words. In the Amazon model we talk about “where’s my stuff?”. In utilities and telcos it might be “where’s my bill?”, “my bill is wrong” or I don’t understand my bill” - much more useful than coding these customer demands as “billing”.

Customer demand is the first piece of information to be managed and shared. It drives the flow of work and information in the business. It sets up the questions to be answered, the information required and the sequence for presenting that information.

It may be obvious to share your most frequently asked questions in the order they are most frequently asked, because it helps customers identify where to get help. But many companies do not do this on their websites or voice systems. Furthermore they often do not train staff in the most frequently asked questions and most frequently successful ways to handle and resolve those questions.

These flows and sequences can be understood at 3 levels:

  • The customers’ end to end journey, during which their need occurs, in a customer journey map. This journey will cross channels and business functions [see mapping tools and the index of customer effort].
  • The more detailed outcome trees, showing the potential outcomes and the decision trees with information maps containing questions, answers, options. [see outcome tree templates]
  • The detailed transaction for information such as the choreography of a call or the web pages.

For example: the demand may be “where’s my stuff?” (WMS) as part of a customer’s buying journey. The outcome tree may start with the demand WMS and have 3 outcomes - resolved, not resolved or generates a further need e.g. “my credit card isn’t accepted”. Along this path between the demand and the outcome there are trees and branches which end up at one of the 3 outcomes. For example: Who are you, was the order actually placed on the system, was the order placed on the warehouse, was it in stock, is it in delivery, did it get delivered and so on.

The supporting information at each branch would include the right diagnostic questions to ask, formatted in the right way for the customer or the member of staff. These questions would need to be sequenced and use prior knowledge to minimise the customer effort across the choreography of the interaction. It would include the most frequently successful answers to the most frequent customer demands. The choreography may include the movement from home page, to help tab, to support page, to FAQ, to resolution, to account page, to log in, to “where’s my stuff” tab, to resolution.

In addition we will need to consider the impact of knowledge on the operating model. For example, the flow within the business needs to be optimised. E.g. do I have a single web site with FAQ or divert someone to a support forum off the main website; E.g. Do I have a single phone number with no IVR and multi-skilled agents or do I have separate phone numbers for different stages, topics or products going to more deeply skilled groups.

2. Content

Content is the generic term for the information that can be used. For example it includes:

  • FAQs
  • Answers
  • Company policies and procedures
  • Regulatory compliance and instructions
  • Contextual, news and public information
  • Related transactional, history, record data
  • Product information and customer data

3. Presentation

Presentation represents the way in which information appears to people. It includes:

  • Usability
  • Relative positioning and emphasis
  • Suitability for purpose
  • Clarity and understanding
  • Language
  • Sequencing
  • Audiences or participants e.g. of staff groups, of customer types and segments, of expertise
  • Branding, formatting
  • Design
  • Auto re-presentation according to usefulness rating
  • Access for restricted abilities e.g. Hard of hearing, reduced sight, etc

4. Publishing

Publishing is the activity of getting the right information to the right place in the right form. Traditional publishing meant company to customer. Today publishing has many forms such as customer to customer, staff to staff. It no longer has to be approved in advance before publishing, but this depends on the business rules applied.

The elements of publishing include:

  • Sources
  • Resources
  • Service level agreements (SLAs)
  • Creating, writing and authoring
  • Editing
  • Testing, piloting and improving
  • Auto or multiple editing
  • Sign off and business rules

5. Management information (MI) about knowledge sharing

In order to know how well information is being used, the frequency and success rating of its use is vital information if we are to continually improve resolution, create content and present it. In many cases this feedback and rating information is provided by customers or staff.

Examples are:

  • Resolution success rates
  • Rating of perceived impact, usefulness or success
  • Usage or participation volumes
  • Service level performance
  • Accuracy and error rates
  • Usability ratings e.g. Star ratings
  • Recommendation ratings e.g. Retweets, likes, diggs
  • Feedback e.g. Comments made

At the leading edge companies are starting to:

a) Share what customers are saying e.g. First direct real time customer sentiment sharing; Mini dealers’ customer ratings on sales and on service

b) Show what customers are talking about e.g. Apple’s support forums show the major issues by volume of participants, the sub questions in each issue by volume and then one can drill into the actual questions and answers concerned.

Maybe “sharing information” would be a better title than management information.

It is also possible that customers will overwrite or re-present information to improve it for example in wikis such as Wikipedia. In this case the MI becomes such things as the rates of change, the number and frequency of participants.

The range of tools for knowledge sharing is proliferating widely since so many social media, phone and web applications are growing beyond traditional structured knowledge management systems.

The range of knowledge sharing tools include:

  • KM systems
  • Content management systems (CMS)
  • Search engines
  • Intranets
  • Websites
  • Contact handling systems
  • Wikis, communities, forums and social networking platforms
  • Focus groups and post- interaction surveys
  • Social data around public and commercial sites
  • Tweets and micro blog
  • Blogs and video blogs
  • Widgets such as digg it, likes, retweets





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