Knowledge Management Explained
Defining Knowledge Management
Knowledge management is the process of capturing, creating, sharing, using, optimizing, and managing information, insights, and knowhow in an organization. It is also a set of practices to maximize the business value of an organization’s knowledge by delivering it proactively or on demand at critical points in business processes.
- Types of knowledge
- Why is knowledge management important?
- Knowledge management by industry
- How do you find information in the knowledge base?
- Why do knowledge management initiatives fail?
- 10 things to look for in a knowledge management solution (and provider)
- The Knowledge Hub
- Knowledge management success stories from clients
- Knowledge adoption: making it easy
- Get more answers
1. Types of knowledge
Explicit knowledge is knowledge that can be readily articulated, codified, stored, and accessed. What you find in your enterprise knowledge base is mostly explicit knowledge. It can be a knowledge article, PDF, blogpost, video, user’s guide. Expertise that your contact center agents, authors, and leaders capture in the knowledge management system, or user posts harnessed from social media and communities are examples of explicit knowledge.
Tacit or Implicit
Some people make a distinction between tacit knowledge and implicit knowledge while others consider them to be the same. Tacit knowledge is the opposite of explicit knowledge. It is a kind of knowledge that is difficult to express to others by writing or using words. (Schmidt and Hunter, 1993). It is not tangible or codified or immediately shareable in words or documents. Tacit or implicit knowledge is normally associated with individual experiences and is difficult to transfer except maybe through observation and association. Knowing when the dough is perfectly kneaded is tacit know-how. Being able to tell what a customer needs to feel better in a customer service scenario can also be an example of tacit or implicit knowledge.
This includes simple information such as a customer’s account balance, a retail store’s hours of operation, or the status of an order.
This includes “how to” information on procedures, i.e., how to do something. Examples include how to set up autopay, how to return merchandise, etc.
This includes the knowhow to solve a customer’s problem by asking the right set of questions through in-flow conversational guidance and/or taking the right next steps in a process through in-flow process guidance. This kind of guidance requires the use of advanced technologies such as AI reasoning.
Pull knowledge is contextual knowledge served to customers on demand, i.e., when they ask a question.
Push knowledge/in-flow knowledge
Push knowledge is contextual knowledge pushed to customers in the course of their journeys to help them make progress in their journeys or to contact center agents as they interact with customers in the form of conversational (next best thing to say) and process guidance (next best steps to take).
Crowdsourced knowledge is gathered from a community of contributors. An example is a tech support community, consisting of knowledgeable members, which can be focused on a certain company, product, or topic. The upside is the ability to quickly tap into the expertise of a community or the “crowd” and the possible downside is the quality of content, which is even more important in highly regulated industries.
Knowledge that is scrubbed for quality, organized, and presented.
2. Why is knowledge management important?
When it comes to contact centers and customer service organizations, knowledge management is a critical—and often missing—technology piece.
A. Analyst view
Here is what Gartner had to say:
Gartner analysts have previously cited knowledge management (KM) as the No 1 technology for enhancing the three main customer service perspectives of operational performance, CX, and employee experience.
We couldn’t have articulated the dire need for knowledge management any better!
B. Customer experience
Knowledge-related issues are the top deterrents to getting good customer service, according to a massive consumer survey, conducted by Forrester Consulting:
- Different customer service agents give different answers (41%)
- Customer service agents don’t know the answer (34%)
- Can’t find answer on website (31%)
C. Agent experience
Not surprisingly, these issues are mirrored on the agent side.
D. Employee experience
The knowledge deficit extends beyond the contact center.
This is not even counting the time they spend in recreating knowledge that they are unable to find or the time it takes them to chase experts and get answers from them. Imagine cutting even a fraction of that wasted time across your entire workforce with modern knowledge, which helps them find answers quickly or guides them through an unfamiliar process or helps them with decisions. The business value will be nothing short of transformational!
3. Knowledge management by industry
Knowledge can add value to any business in any sector. Here are examples of industry-specific knowledge.
- Answers to tax-related questions
- Advice to a consumer on how they can improve their credit score
- Explain a bank’s service fee policy
Communication Service Providers/Technology
- Troubleshoot an internet connectivity problem
- Recommend a mobile plan, based on a consumer’s needs, wants and preferences
- Answer questions on how to use a device
- Recommend a health plan
- Answer questions about billing
- Explain coverage policies
- Explain eligibility for government plans such as Medicare and Medicaid
For more information on industry-specific KM, refer to the following sections.
- Knowledge management in banking
- Knowledge management in financial services
- Knowledge management in government
- Knowledge management in healthcare
- Knowledge management in health insurance
- Knowledge management in insurance
- Knowledge management for outsourcers
- Knowledge management in retail
- Knowledge management in tech industry
- Knowledge management in telco
- Knowledge management in travel and hospitality
- Knowledge management in utilities
4. How do you find information in the knowledge base?
Search is an old-time tool still popular with people and providers. A search box in the front end is a simple UI to maneuver. It’s the technology behind the box that has gotten very sophisticated over the years with various access methods powering search and improving findability.
Virtual assistants or chatbots
Virtual assistants or chatbots are the cool automated way of finding the answer your website visitors are looking for. The chatbot is the first responder to a customer query, looking for information from one or more knowledge repositories, that then also is the guide transferring customers to agents for assisted help. Virtual assistants help agents similarly by listening to their interactions and suggesting answers.
AI-based guided help
This is a conversational, dialog-driven guidance that guides customers and prospects to the single right answer, whether it is a resolution or the next best step or a decision in a process. It is the differentiation that businesses need to thrive and delight.
5. Why do knowledge management initiatives fail?
Knowledge management got a bad rap in the past since many initiatives have failed over the years. There are many reasons for these failures, technology being just one of the reasons.
The following are the most common reasons of failure:
- Trying to “boil the ocean” in terms of objectives and scope
- Taking an inside-out view on how customers might look for answers
- Missing one or more of the technology building blocks
- Cobbling together disparate building blocks of KM from multiple vendors, creating siloed content, context, and process chaos across touchpoints
- Relying on vendors that simply “check the box” in KM or do not possess domain experience
- Embarking on big iron projects with tool kits that make vague promises of transformation in the “next century”
6. 10 things to look for in a knowledge management solution (and provider)
Knowledge management is a confusing market and selecting a vendor can be a daunting process. When you go about choosing providers, you need to look at the “whole product” to maximize the likelihood of success. Here are the ten components of the whole product to look for in the vendor selection process.
“KM is not about technology” is a misleading cliché that has been around for many years, but technology clearly matters in the new automation-first era. Look for the following capabilities unified into a Knowledge Hub.
- Consolidation of content silos, including own content and existing enterprise content through mirroring, federation, and pre-built integrations
- Profiled access to the content
- Multiple knowledge types: data, information, knowhow, and insights
- Multi-layered personalization, based on context, user, interaction channel, and other factors
- Intent inference, powered by Machine Learning
- Search methods: Federated, faceted, guided, instant answers (ala Google’s featured snippets)
- AI reasoning for conversational and process guidance
- Knowledge analytics for ongoing optimization
- Rich functionality out of the box
Does the system offer breadth and depth of capabilities out of the box for quick time to value? Watch out for toolkits that will require huge investments in time, money, and effort to build best-in-class functionality. Also, watch out for point products that do not have all the essential technology building blocks for successful KM—you will then have to acquire multiple point products, which will create technology and knowledge silos and you will be struggling perpetually with integrations and knowledgebase synchronization.
- Domain expertise
Does the vendor have KM domain expertise and offer best practices for success end to end—from initial deployment to value creation and expansion? Does the vendor offer expertise specific to your industry sector? You do not want to roll the dice with a newbie, who will be learning at the expense of your career!
- Time to value
In a world operating at the speed of digital, knowledge initiatives often die a quick death if they don’t show tangible value in a matter of days or weeks. Ask for examples where the vendor has shown quick business value and how long it took.
- Security, scale, and compliance
Is the solution compliant with privacy and security standards such as PCI, NIST SP 800-53, HIPAA, HITRUST, and FedRAMP? Can it scale to tens of thousands of agents? Ask for success stories at scale.
Does the vendor have a method for modeling and measuring the business value of the solution? Do they have a strategy for content management—what to mirror, federate, migrate to their system, or eliminate? Does the vendor have a systematic engagement and collaboration methodology to report progress on an ongoing basis and work towards short-term and long-term goals in concert with your business?
- Implementation and support services
Does the vendor offer comprehensive services and a proven implementation methodology, informed by domain expertise and best practices? You want a provider, who has been in the trenches and even solved corner cases, guiding implementations to success. Can the vendor bring partners to the initiative, where needed? Here are the services to look for:
- Managed services
- Knowledge creation
- Reporting and analytics
- Education and certification
- Online and in-person education, training, and certification at scale
- Connectors and extensibility
KM systems cannot function in isolation. To be effective, they need to integrate with other systems, including those already deployed in your enterprise. Furthermore, forward-looking organizations want to extend the capabilities of packaged SaaS solutions by innovating on their platform. Check if the provider offers the following enablers for enhancing the solution:
- Pre-built integrations with ECM, CRM, and other systems of record for 360 context
- Rich API library
- Developer portal and enablement
- Marketplace for complementary solutions
- Risk-free innovation
Does the vendor put skin in the game by offering a production pilot at no charge? Do they make it a Wow pilot or just shoot for an MVP trial, or worse yet, give you a toy sandbox and walk away? Do they provide best-practice guidance to success? Piloting the solution with project stakeholders is critical to adoption and success.
- Client success
Does the provider have a track record of success with Global and Fortune 500 companies? What were the scale and business value from those deployments? What was the time to value? How do clients rate them on a trusted client review site like the Gartner Peer Insights?
Vendor selection is the critical first step in any knowledge initiative and can spell the difference between boom and doom. Using the above checklist will maximize your odds of success.
So, gain the edge with knowledge through a smart selection of providers.
7. The Knowledge Hub
The Knowledge Hub™, a concept conceived by eGain in the context of enterprise knowledge management, is a unified approach that combines all the essential ingredients of knowledge management into one solution. Combined with the vendor’s domain expertise and proven success, it can help you avoid deterrents to knowledge success and create transformational business value.
No wonder Gartner has rated us #1 in knowledge-powered digital customer engagement automation!
We have been an eGain customer for 2 years. The Advisor and Customer Experience benefits we expected are being over delivered. (A $10B financial services company that is an eGain Knowledge client, a Gartner Peer Insights review)
eGain Knowledge Hub includes these capabilities
- Omnichannel content management
- Profiled access
- AI-driven conversational guidance
- Interactive process flows
- 360 context
- Insights, powered by ML
- Personalized widgets and portals
8. Knowledge management success stories from clients
- A leading telco improved FCR by 37% and NPS by 30 points, while speeding up agent time-to-competency by 50% across 10,000 agents and even 600 retail stores.
- A hyper-growth SaaS company improved agent confidence in answer by 60%, finding the right answer by 33%, speed to answer by 67% and consistency of answers by 62%.
- A hyper-growth retailer deflected up to 90% requests for agent-assisted service with knowledge-backed virtual assistant
- European telecom reduced unwarranted handset returns and exchanges by 38% through better problem resolution in the contact center, while enhancing agent experience by 90%.
9. Knowledge adoption: making it easy
Imagine having the opportunity to buy a new car with an expert sitting on your side and providing free guidance for 30 days and still being able to walk away from the car! That goes beyond your traditional test drive. eGain offers a unique, no-charge production pilot—not a toy sandbox or a traditional paid pilot—to try out any of our solutions, knowledge hub included, for 30 days, with guidance for success from an expert. No other vendor has put such skin in the game. The program is called “eGain Innovation in 30 Days” for knowledge. If you’d rather start with a phone conversation with an expert, you can contact us to set up a meeting. We look forward to the conversation!
10. Get more answers
- The State of Knowledge Management in 2023: Untapped Potential for Business Value
- What is a knowledge management system?
- What are knowledge management tools?
- 7 ways modern knowledge management helps slash operational costs
- What is a knowledge management process?
- Knowledge management training
- The 8 attributes of the best knowledge management software
- How to choose a knowledge management platform for 2022
- Knowledge management system examples
- Conversational AI Explained—What is it and Why is it Important
- eGain Knowledge Hub Joins with Microsoft SharePoint
- How eGain Knowledge Hub is the perfect match for knowledge management with SharePoint
- Contact Center Knowledge Management: How to Select Vendors
- Knowledge dimensions: The many factors of knowledge management in the age of disruptive work
- 2022 Readers’ Choice Award – Best Customer Experience and Support: eGain
- How ‘Albert’ transformed our knowledge-based contact centre solution
- Knowledge and training: Peanut butter and jelly for the customer contact center toast
- KM + Training = Super-Workforce
- Knowledge Management: Don’t Do Digital Customer Service Without It
- Gartner MQ for Enterprise Conversational AI Platforms: eGain, The New Kid in the Block And The Only KM Vendor to be Included!
- The Growing Need for Knowledge Management
eGain Special Edition
Knowledge Management for Dummies
Thought leadership from Forbes
Knowledge Management: The Missing Ingredient In Digital Transformation Targeting Customer Engagement
Modern Knowledge Management: Up Your Query Handling Ante To Differentiate CX
Customer Self-Service: How To Take It To The Next Level with Knowledge