Knowledge Directories for client service: not only call centers
1 June 2013
A Knowledge directory is a solution intended for workers whose work is mainly characterized by providing service in 'real time', when the client is sitting in front of them or waiting on the line.
The knowledge directory enables the organization to improve its performances and service provided to workers by:
Creating uniformity regarding information provided to customers
Reducing the time spent on answering customers
Improving the workers' professionalism (a correct, updated answer)
The required improvement is manifested through:
Organizing and structuring the content
Adapting content to target audiences
Defining the organizational structure and supportive work processes in order to ensure content update
If we skim through history, the knowledge directory has become an excellent solution for sales and service centers especially in large companies in which the worker turnover is large and new workers must be 'taught' much knowledge in a short amount of time.
What have organizations/units that are not sales and service centers?
They established professional portals.
The professional portal is a platform for presenting business knowledge and information that enables sharing, presentation and performing activities in a manner that supports making business decisions. The professional portal enables the user to get a wide, inclusive in-depth picture of the professional world and therefore usually includes sharing professional documents, opinions, insights, tips and professional discussions.
What's happening today?
Today's world is full of information and knowledge; so much that we sometimes feel flooded. Meanwhile, organizations require their workers to become more efficient (perform activities in less time and conserve resources) while maintaining a high professional level. This demand contains an inherent contraction.
The professional portals in their classic form do not fulfill this requirement since professional depth is achieved by investing time and effort.
If a worker is in front of a client must receives updated information in real time, then also the worker not in front of the client doesn't have the time (or privilege) to read a 20 page procedure while he has an endless pile of tasks to perform.
The main differences between a knowledge directory and a professional portal
In a knowledge directory we'll emphasize focused knowledge that allows quick response through creating processed concise knowledge items. In terms of visibility, a typical page in a knowledge directory will include a built in item presented in a single window. In a professional portal, we'll emphasize professional widening and deepening through documents and consulting platforms. In terms of visibility, a typical page in a professional portal will include several items from different types (documents, hyperlinks etc.) presented in multiple windows.
So which solution is better?
Like in every good theoretical dispute- the best answer is a synthesis of both. Both solutions are good yet address different needs. A good combination of both will be the best solution.
If we focus on the worker and analyze his/her knowledge needs for optimal performance we will see that he is "surrounded" by three knowledge circles:
Immediate knowledge: knowledge that the worker requires in real time when in front of the client (for example, call scenarios, concise processed knowledge items)-knowledge directory.
Supportive knowledge and learning knowledge: knowledge that provides the worker with an elaboration in depth view of professional knowledge (for example, procedures, learning material)-professional portal.
Collective envelope- enables the worker to consult with colleagues and share knowledge. Social media solutions provide a solution for the collective envelope-professional portal.
How does one create this combination?
Create a professional portal that includes concise knowledge items and supporting tools (similar to those in a knowledge directory) as well as knowledge items such as learning material, documents and sharing components.
If you already have knowledge directory-it is safe to assume that some of the knowledge in the second circle already exists in the directory. It is recommended to think of integrating social media (circle 3) in a manner that enables their integration in 'real time' instead of acting as 'time consumers' (for example, answering representatives in real time by senior representatives through a forum so that all representatives can gain from this answer.
If you have a professional portal, it is recommended to structure complex procedures/work processes in a simple concise manner and create various supportive tools (calculators, simulators) that will shorten the 'work time'.
Since we are discussing a vast amount of knowledge we usually suggest packing the knowledge in a 'Real Time Knowledge Network". The knowledge network allows the user to navigate between items in the familiar standard way (navigating using menus or search engines) while automatically making related knowledge items accessible. These knowledge items can assist the user without him/her having to invest time in searching and navigating.
It's important to remember that:
A solution that works for one organization will not necessarily work for another. Adapt the solution to your organization, to the nature of the units and your different target audiences.
Resources: establishing a knowledge directory requires special resources especially human resources for creating content items and ongoing content maintenance. Call centers usually have a designated staff whose only job is to update the system since organizations understand the critical importance of updating the system when there are many workers answering many clients in real time. When not dealing with call centers investing resources in establishing and maintaining is not trivial. Invest only if required.
Change management: working with a knowledge directory as a work tool requires a change of the perception and behavior of both workers and management which are accustomed to working differently. It is important to understand that a change of this magnitude does not occur immediately. Sometimes, investing in a knowledge directory is not understood by the workers (and management) since they still don't see its added value. Be determined, patient and resist opposition.