With so much emphasis on how organizations need to be more human to connect with and satisfy their customers, a new report reveals insight around a Gartner prediction that’s decidedly unhuman: "By the year 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of the enterprise customer relationship without ever interacting with a human."

Quoted in the report, The State of Knowledge Management, the prediction sheds light on the growing self-service economy, while illustrating the importance of knowledge management (KM) across the enterprise.

However, the report, developed by thinkJar Research and sponsored by IntelliResponse, also notes 44 percent of organizations still don’t have a KM initiative in place. Further, it shows that 83 percent of customer experience professionals polled understand knowledge management concepts and tools, but still need to learn more and improve.

What You Need to Do

2015-16-February-Esteban-Kolsky.jpgIn the spirit of learning, we caught up with the report’s author, Esteban Kolsky, and asked him to give us his top recommendations for implementing a successful knowledge management initiative.

1. Maintain Your Knowledge

Despite the fact that maintenance has been proven to be the biggest success factor in KM, Kolsky noted that only 34 percent of companies have maintenance processes in place for their knowledge.

“Most people don’t do it and if they do, they don’t do it well,” he said. “If you want knowledge, you need to maintain it.”

He added that, because few people understand the value and need for maintenance, investment is not keeping pace with rising costs.

“Those who have KM initiatives don’t invest enough,” he said. “Maintenance costs increase an average of 8 percent per year, but less than 3 percent of organizations would invest 5 percent or more on maintenance over the previous year.

Kolsky recommended some cost-effective ways to maintain your knowledge.

First, use the tools that come with the system you purchased. He specifically pointed out reports that alert you to different areas that need maintenance, and those that show usage and satisfaction. “Very few people use the tools that come with software,” he said. “Once you do that, you can find areas where you can see results.”

For those who have customized their own KM solution, and may not have built-in maintenance tools, he suggests “finding ways to do maintenance that doesn’t break the bank.”

For example, using the Knowledge Support Service (KCS) methodology as a guide, companies can empower employees to maintain their own knowledge. The methodology focuses on allowing customer service staff to capture, structure, reuse and improve knowledge based on interactions they have with their customers.

“Even if you don’t have a specific person in charge of knowledge management, empowering people who have the knowledge is a huge step in the right direction,” said Kolsky.

2. Create a Knowledge Management Budget

Kolsky said that because organizations typically fold knowledge management into other budgets, it’s often difficult to prove ROI or justify additional investment. “Knowledge is something that the entire enterprise needs to invest in. If you do that, you’ll find yourself with an ROI that will power, justify and grow the investment.”

Indeed, according to the report, customer experience professionals reported that the top benefits of knowledge management include: higher customer satisfaction (28 percent), reduced handle time (22 percent) and higher first-time resolution (17 percent).

Kolsky does admit, however, that despite the proven benefits, it could be a long while before we see organizations implement an enterprise-wide knowledge management budget. “Getting people from different departments to agree is difficult,” he said. “Each business function sees their knowledge as the power they have and they’re not willing to relinquish it.”

In order to help drive investment, he recommends showing others in the organization that KM does have value by sharing successes and positive statistics.

3. Expand Knowledge Management Beyond Customer Service

Although customer service is one of the best use cases for knowledge management, organizations are certainly using it with other functions. According to the report, survey respondents use knowledge management for:

  • Customer service: 83 percent
  • Marketing: 44 percent
  • Sales: 33 percent
  • Training: 33 percent
  • Accounting/Finance: 12 percent
  • Human resources: 11 percent

“Find areas to expand beyond traditional uses,” advised Kolsky. “Find ways to create an enterprise-wide justification to bring in funding.”

It’s Not About the Technology

Kolsky cautioned against viewing knowledge management as simply just another technology tool.

“Most people see knowledge management as a technology,” he concluded, “but in reality, it’s a lifelong initiative of an organization.”

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by CaterinaAnna.