What is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge management explained

Knowledge management is the process of capturing, creating, sharing, using, optimizing, and managing information, expertise, and insights 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.

  1. Types of knowledge
  2. Why is knowledge management important?
  3. Knowledge management by industry
  4. How do you find information in the knowledge base?
  5. Why do knowledge management initiatives fail?
  6. Knowledge management solution: 10 things to look for in the technology (and provider)
  7. The Knowledge Hub
  8. Knowledge management success stories from clients
  9. Knowledge adoption: making it easy
  10. Get more answers

1. Types of knowledge

Explicit
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.

Informational 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.

Transactional knowledge
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.

Situational knowledge
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
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
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.

Curated knowledge
Knowledge that is scrubbed for quality and compliance but may not be easily consumable.

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.

Knowledge is the crucial missing piece in customer service

A. Analyst view

Here is what Gartner had to say:

Timely and contextual knowledge presented to agents in a clear and concise form is a pipe dream for most service environments, yet without it the service experience will always be in jeopardy… Knowledge is an underemphasized aspect of experience design and demands a higher prioritization.

Knowledge management is the #1 technology for enhancing the three main customer service perspectives of operational performance, customer experience, and employee experience.
September 2021, Gartner

Common mistake of CX leaders: Knowledge is an underemphasized aspect of experience design and demands a higher prioritization.

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!

Download Gartner Market Guide for
Customer Service Knowledge Management Systems, Jun 2024

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.

65% of contact center agents cited knowledge-related issues as their top hassles in providing good service to customers, according to an eGain survey of contact center agents worldwide. No wonder 84% of contact center agents hate their desktop tools.
(Source: Gartner).

D. Employee experience

The knowledge deficit extends beyond the contact center.

Workers across the enterprise spend 19%-35% of their time looking for information, knowledge, insights, or expertise during their workday.
(Source: McKinsey and APQC).

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.

Financial services

  • 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

Healthcare

  • 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.

Search for information4. How do you find information in the knowledge base?

Generative and conversational AI

Thanks to the resounding success of ChatGPT, the fields of generative AI and knowledge management have been reignited. Generative AI automates many knowledge management tasks while making it easy for users to find answers. It can also help the user find the answer needle in a document haystack and compile answers from multiple documents. Gen AI needs to be backed by robust KM to deliver accurate, consumable, and compliant answers

Search

Traditional search remains popular with many users. A search box in the front end is a simple UI to maneuver. It is 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, backed by AI reasoning, 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.

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.

Typical experience with a knowledge management solution

Missing knowledge management causes confusionThe following are the most common reasons of failure:

  1. Trying to “boil the ocean” in terms of objectives and scope
  2. Taking an inside-out view on how customers might look for answers
  3. Missing one or more of the technology building blocks
  4. Cobbling together disparate building blocks of KM from multiple vendors, creating siloed content, context, and process chaos across touchpoints
  5. Relying on vendors that simply “check the box” in KM or do not possess domain experience
  6. Embarking on big iron projects with tool kits that make vague promises of transformation and ROI in the “next century”
  7. Not communicating with key stakeholders about success milestones
  8. Not having an executive sponsor and champion to support the initiative

6. Knowledge management solution: 10 things to look for in the technology (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.

  1. Technology

“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
  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

  1. Security, scale, and compliance

Is the solution compliant with privacy and security standards such as PCI, NIST SP 800-53, HIPAA, and FedRAMP? Can it scale to tens of thousands of agents? Ask for success stories at scale.

  1. Strategy

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?

  1. 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:

  • Implementation
  • Support
  • Managed services
    • Knowledge creation
    • Reporting and analytics
  • Education and certification
    • Online and in-person education, training, and certification at scale
  1. 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
  1. 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.

  1. 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!

Customer feedback

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
  • Generative AI
  • Conversational AI
  • 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

eGain Special Edition

Knowledge Management for Dummies

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eGain Special Edition Book: 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

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