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Evaluation and assessment of knowledge management software in support centers

1 May 2010
Anat Bielsky
A group of people sitting at computers

The knowledge support center software is an important tool for providing customers with a quality, professional, quick and reliable response. This tool is used by the representatives in direct contact with the clients. Service-providing organizations view quality customer service as an important strategic issue. The knowledge management software as a tool can contribute greatly to attaining this strategic goal.

Why assess and evaluate?

  1. To make sure we meet our own standards- for example, in order to ensure that a tool is regularly used, X monthly user entrances to the tool must be documented.

  2. To identify trends- for example, if we see that information regarding sales in a certain area is being used extensively, this can either mean that many customers have been calling about this area or that representatives don't feel confident with the knowledge they hold.

  3. For feedback purposes- the various evaluation tools allow us to detect difficulties or insufficiencies in the software's operation, then solve them.

  4. Planning future actions- by analyzing the evaluation, we can reach decisions regarding both future development the tool might require and planning further implementing of the tool among users. For example, if we see that the field raises an urgent need for developing a certain component in the software, we can prioritize it first when further developing the tool.

Using assessment and evaluation tools will allow us to improve the tool according to the field's needs and improve the processes aimed at implementing the tool among the users.

How can we assess and evaluate usage of the knowledge management software in a support center?

The tools available to us are:

  1. Quantitative assessment tools- in order to perform the quantitative data on the tool's usage (usually, in order to receive statistical data we must use designated software that provide us with numerical data on the users' actions). These tools allow us to receive a partial update regarding the tool's usage, through which we can know what amount of workers use this tool, identify usage trends (for example, at which hours users are most active) and review the users' explicit behavior (for example, what areas do users enter most and which the least).

When analyzing the statistical data, it important to remember the effect of artifacts on the received results. For example, the more the representative feels professional or is experienced, they might feel confident in the information in their head and use the knowledge in the software less. Another example is the effect of the various ways customers are approached which sometimes require an extensive use of operational systems and calls for minimal use of the information in the software tool, something that may lead to biased results.

Overcoming these artifacts calls for using qualitative tools.

  1. Qualitative evaluation tools- using qualitative tools such as: questionnaires, observing users answering calls in real-time, interviews, content analysis and users' focus groups enables us to "hear the users' voice" and understand their behavior better. Furthermore, we can know what the tool still lacks, if users are satisfied with it, etc. Thus we complete another part of our update on users' usage of the software. For example, by using qualitative evaluation tools we can know why users prefer entering certain content areas over others. Or why they prefer using other sources to receive certain information than the information stored in the knowledge management software.

Both qualitative and quantitative tools should be used to receive a more complete update on the knowledge management software's usage. Furthermore, it is important to evaluate regularly once in a fixed period (e.g. on a quarterly basis) and perform an in-depth analysis of the data to improve the tool and continue implementing its use.

Assessing the effect of the knowledge software on the organization's strategic objectives

As mentioned above, the knowledge software in a support center is an essential tool for attaining the organization's business objectives. In service-providing organizations, the knowledge software usually assists in attaining the following strategic goals:

  1. Improving the quality of the responses and the reliability of the data provided by the service representative- in this context, for example, organizations can review whether the following changes have occurred since the knowledge software has been implemented:

    - The organization has experienced a decrease in the amount of clients repeatedly inquiring about the same subject (has the representative given the client all the data they need in their first conversation).

    - A decrease in the amount of complaints from clients about public inquiries' quality of service

    - An increase in the number of 'thank you' letters from clients for the service they received

    - Satisfaction surveys show an increase in clients' satisfaction with the quality of the service

    - A decrease in the amount of sales cancellations due to low-quality sale

  2. Shortening the wait for receiving and providing service- in this context, what we should review is whether since implementing the tool the organization has seen:

    - A decrease in the time spent treating clients

    - An increase in the number of clients treated by each representative

    - Less complaints regarding the long wait

The conclusions reached from analyzing this data may be indicative of the effect the knowledge management software has on reaching the strategic goals. However, it is also important in this case to remember the effect other factors have on the received data. For example, a large number of "complex" inquiries during each workday can affect the number of clients the representative can handle as well as the length of each call. Another example: the number of received conversations can be affected by several external factors, such as: holidays, sales seasons.

In conclusion, it is important to evaluate and assess to ensure that the tool has been successfully implemented and answers the field's needs; more importantly, in order to ensure that the tool meets the organization's strategic objectives. The assessment isn't simple since it is difficult to quantify the tool's real advantages in ROI terms. However, knowledge management software tools in supports centers can provide various indicators of the tool's effect on the attaining the organization's objectives and thus present the organization's contribution to the organization.

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