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Navigating knowledge management: A complete guide for success

Posted May 16, 2024
Illustration of two people combining shapes meant to symbolize the sharing of information that happens in knowledge management

Knowledge is power.

It has the power to inform, inspire, innovate and transform. Knowledge empowers individuals and organizations to make informed decisions, solve complex problems, drive progress and achieve success. But, it's not enough to simply amass knowledge. To unleash its full potential, knowledge must be accessible when it's needed.

For businesses, knowledge management (KM) is the key to harnessing information for strategic advantage. According to Research and Markets, the global market for knowledge management is projected to skyrocket from a value of $558.4 billion back in 2022 to a staggering $2.1 trillion by 2030. These numbers speak volumes, underscoring the pivotal role that KM plays in driving organizational success in an increasingly competitive landscape.

In the context of customer experience (CX), knowledge management involves centralizing and organizing information about products, services and customer interactions to ensure consistent and accurate customer support across all touchpoints. Read on to uncover the insights and strategies needed to navigate KM and discover how you can harness its power to drive meaningful results for your customer service agents and customers.

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management encompasses a range of processes, strategies and technologies aimed at capturing, organizing, storing and sharing the collective knowledge of an organization.

An ideal approach to KM leverages not only explicit knowledge, such as data and documented information like procedures, but also tacit knowledge, which includes the invaluable insights and expertise held by individuals. Without robust knowledge management processes in place, the tacit knowledge of your employees could be at risk: If employees leave, this information could be lost, potentially impacting organizational performance and innovation.

One of the fundamental principles of KM is the recognition that information isn't static; it's dynamic, constantly evolving as new insights are gained and experiences are accumulated. To keep track of organizational knowledge, given its dynamic nature, many brands make use of a knowledge management system, often called a knowledge base (KB). An effective knowledge base serves as a centralized repository, or a single source of truth, that provides easy access to reliable information.

The types of information captured in knowledge management include:

  • Documents (e.g., company handbooks or product FAQs)
  • Team data (e.g., strategies, competitor information and best practices)
  • Organizational data (e.g., org charts, workflows and brand info)
  • Organizational news (e.g., IT updates and structural changes)

Understanding the knowledge management process

Knowledge management is a strategic process that can be broken down into key stages:

  • Gathering knowledge: This includes collecting explicit and tacit knowledge from organizational sources. The gathering process can involve interviews, surveys and brainstorming sessions. New informational assets can also be generated using relevant organizational and customer data captured using technology like customer relationship management (CRM) software or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This step in the KM process also includes auditing existing resources such as training documents and policies to ensure all relevant information is accounted for and accessible.
  • Assessing the value of knowledge: Once informational resources have been gathered, the next step is to evaluate their relevance, accuracy and usefulness. This involves assessing the quality and reliability of the collected information and determining its significance to the organization's goals and objectives. For example, imagine a retail company is collecting data on customer preferences and purchasing habits to tailor their marketing strategies accordingly. Outdated information, such as obsolete industry trends or discontinued product information, may become irrelevant to the organization's goals over time, requiring regular updates or removal from the knowledge base to maintain its effectiveness.
  • Storing and organizing knowledge: After assessing the informational resources, they must be stored and organized to facilitate easy access and retrieval. This often involves creating a centralized repository, such as a knowledge base or database, where the information can be categorized and securely stored. Organizing resources may include tagging, indexing and structuring information to ensure users can easily navigate and search for them.
  • Distributing knowledge: Once the information has been stored and organized, the next step is sharing it with those who need it within the organization. This may involve implementing knowledge-sharing platforms, collaboration tools or communication channels to facilitate the dissemination of information. The goal is to ensure that the information reaches the right people at the right time.
  • Using knowledge: The final stage of the knowledge management process is using the information to drive value for the organization. This involves applying insights to solve problems, make informed decisions, innovate new products or services and improve processes and performance. This stage is the culmination of the stages that precede it and is the point where value is truly realized in the knowledge management process.

By following the stages, businesses can harness their informational assets for utilization across various functions within the organization.

Knowledge management examples

Knowledge management can be employed within an organization in a number of use cases, including:

Onboarding employees

When organizations need to quickly scale up their customer service operations and onboard new agents, providing access to a comprehensive knowledge base can ensure that new hires quickly acclimate to their roles and responsibilities. This includes having access to everything they need to complete their day-to-day tasks, from company policies, procedures and troubleshooting, to department-specific guidelines and best practices. In fact, according to eGain — a cloud-based software company that specializes in knowledge management — KM technology has the ability to reduce employee training time by up to 50% and increase agent speed to competency by up to 100%.

Internal communications

Effective internal communication is essential for fostering collaboration, alignment and transparency within an organization. Knowledge management facilitates the dissemination of important updates, announcements and information across teams and departments. This includes sharing company news, policy changes, project updates and more, utilizing channels such as intranets, email communication or knowledge bases to ensure widespread reach and accessibility.

Product enablement

Knowledge management plays a critical role in facilitating cross-sell and upsell opportunities for customer service agents. By providing comprehensive product information, sales collateral, training materials and competitive insights, organizations enable their teams to effectively communicate the value proposition of their offerings to customers and prospects.

Customer service delivery

By equipping customer service representatives with access to a comprehensive knowledge base, organizations enable them to resolve customer inquiries and issues efficiently and effectively. From product information and troubleshooting guides to frequently asked questions and best practices for handling customer interactions, a well-maintained knowledge base helps to enable agents to deliver consistent, high-quality support and customer experiences. Additionally, when paired with artificial intelligence (AI), agent-facing bots can crawl and surface relevant information from the knowledge base for agents in real-time, reducing average handling time (AHT) and improving the overall agent experience.

Self-serve customer support

In addition to supporting customer service representatives, knowledge management enables self-service support options for customers. Organizations empower customers by offering a user-friendly knowledge base or online portal where they can access relevant information, troubleshooting guides, FAQs and tutorials to find answers to their questions and resolve issues independently. Additionally, chatbots are an essential part of self-service and consistency is critical for a seamless transition between self-service and live support channels for customers. A shared knowledge management system is necessary to ensure that responses provided by chatbots align with live support.

Benefits of knowledge management

Knowledge management serves as a catalyst for organizational excellence, yielding a host of advantages that propel businesses forward, enhance the employee experience and improve customer satisfaction.

Organizational benefits

Fundamentally, effective knowledge management brings efficiency by streamlining workflows and processes to eliminate redundancies and reduce the time spent by employees searching for vital information. However, KM's impact transcends efficiency gains. It serves as a conduit for knowledge-sharing, preserving invaluable insights and expertise within the organization's collective consciousness. This widespread sharing of information mitigates the risk of knowledge loss due to employee turnover, creating continuity and resilience.

Moreover, by facilitating seamless communication and collaboration, KM dismantles information silos and assists in fostering a culture of openness and cross-departmental collaboration.

Employee benefits

Another cornerstone of knowledge management is its ability to foster continuous employee learning and development. By facilitating the creation and dissemination of training materials, KM nurtures a culture of growth and skill enhancement. This not only equips employees with the tools they need to excel in their roles, but also fortifies the organization's talent pipeline for sustained success.

Additionally, a recent study by IDC revealed that 35% of respondents listed "satisfaction and engagement improvements" as a "measurable business benefit they have experienced (or expect to experience) with their knowledge management system." This sense of ownership among employees cultivates a workforce that is deeply invested in the organization's success. Coupled with easy access to pertinent employee information like IT, HR and payroll knowledge base content, can lead to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates.

Customer experience benefits

The efficiency benefits of knowledge management also apply to an organization's overall customer experience operations. For instance, clients utilizing KM technology from eGain experience up to a 35% improvement in first-contact resolution (FCR). Additionally, a financial services brand, in collaboration with experts at TELUS International, reduced search time within their internal knowledge base by 83% through the implementation of an agent-assist bot. This enhancement in knowledge management operations resulted in a 9% decrease in average handle time and a 40% improvement in customer satisfaction scores.

But knowledge management alone doesn't guarantee easy access to high-quality information. Informational assets need to be regularly updated to safeguard against errors. Consider a scenario where a customer service representative at a software company is assisting a client with a technical issue. The problem encountered by the customer is a common one, recently addressed by the organization with a new and more effective solution. Thankfully, the organization's knowledge base was promptly updated with relevant information regarding the new fix. Consequently, the representative is able to quickly retrieve this updated information and provide it to the customer, ensuring the provision of the most up-to-date solution and information, thereby reducing the chances of further issues and enhancing the overall customer experience.

Knowledge management challenges

While the benefits of knowledge management are undeniable, organizations can encounter a myriad of challenges in implementing and sustaining effective KM practices, including:

  • Cultural resistance: According to the aforementioned IDC study, 30% of respondents listed "employees hoard knowledge to protect their status within the organization" and "employees are not motivated or rewarded to use knowledge management" as their top process challenges in leveraging information and knowledge today. Additionally, employees may exhibit reluctance to learn something new, viewing knowledge-sharing as an inconvenience or low priority if it's not a part of their core job function. Overcoming cultural barriers requires strong leadership, clear communication and incentives that encourage and reward knowledge-sharing and collaboration.
  • Overcoming knowledge silos: Silos occur when valuable information and expertise are hoarded within specific teams or departments, hindering collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the organization. Silos can even be the result of the technology deployed by different groups within an organization. A KMWorld survey, sponsored by eGain, revealed that knowledge silos are common within most organizations, with 36% of respondents using three or more KM tools, 12% using two or three and 31% unsure of the number they have. Moreover, "72% of respondents have no plans or do not know if there is a plan to consolidate knowledge silos into one hub of trusted knowledge." Breaking down these silos requires fostering a culture of openness and collaboration. An audit of your current KM technology stack along with the implementation of tools and processes that facilitate knowledge-sharing and transfer is also needed.
  • Knowledge capture and documentation: Capturing and documenting information in a timely and accurate manner can be daunting, particularly in fast-paced environments where priorities may shift rapidly. Organizations may struggle to record tacit knowledge, which is often embedded in individuals' minds. Additionally, ensuring the quality and relevance of captured information requires careful curation and maintenance.
  • Knowledge overload: Employees may be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available to them, making it difficult to find relevant details when needed. This can lead to inefficiencies, as employees spend valuable time searching for information or duplicating efforts already undertaken elsewhere. Effective knowledge management strategies must address this challenge by providing tools and processes to filter, prioritize and contextualize information.
  • Keeping up with the pace of change: As technology rapidly evolves, staying abreast of the latest trends and advancements, such as AI, is essential to ensure that knowledge management operations remain effective. Failure to embrace emerging technologies and adapt to evolving industry practices can result in brands falling behind and missing out on opportunities to enhance efficiency, accuracy and customer satisfaction within their knowledge management systems.
  • Technology limitations: While technology plays a crucial role in enabling knowledge management initiatives, organizations may encounter limitations in the tools and systems available to them. Legacy systems may lack the flexibility and scalability needed to support modern KM practices, while newer technologies may require significant investment and expertise to implement effectively. Engaging with a knowledge management partner like TELUS International can help overcome these technology challenges by providing access to specialized expertise, cutting-edge solutions and tailored support to optimize KM efforts. Additionally, if an organization's existing KM technology is difficult to use — as revealed by 32% of respondents in the IDC study as one of their top technology challenges — it can create barriers to adoption and hinder the full utilization of informational assets. Finding the right balance between technology capabilities, usability and cost-effectiveness is key to overcoming this challenge.
  • Knowledge decay: Information has a shelf life, and over time, it may become outdated or irrelevant. Organizations must actively manage informational resources to ensure their accuracy, currency and relevance. This may involve regular reviews and updates to documentation, ongoing training and development initiatives, and mechanisms for capturing and incorporating new insights and best practices.
  • Information security: It is imperative that organizations safeguard their sensitive information, while at the same time, ensuring accessibility. Threats such as data breaches, cyberattacks and insider risks necessitate robust cybersecurity measures and compliance with regulatory standards. Mitigating human error, implementing strict access controls and deploying data loss prevention technologies are vital to protecting intellectual property and confidential data.

By recognizing and addressing these challenges head-on, organizations can pave the way for successful knowledge management initiatives that drive innovation, enhance performance and foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Knowledge management best practices

To effectively harness the power of knowledge management within your organization, adopting a strategic approach that aligns with your organizational goals and empowers your employees is essential. Some best practices to consider include:

  • Identify your organizational goals: Understanding what you aim to achieve will help you tailor your knowledge management efforts to your specific needs.
  • Understand your employees' needs: Conduct surveys or interviews to gather insight into the preferences of your employees when it comes to accessing and sharing information. Once you've developed an understanding, tailor your KM initiatives accordingly.
  • Create a culture of learning: Using information effectively requires a culture that values learning and knowledge-sharing. Provide training and support to employees to help them better access relevant information and recognize and reward contributions to knowledge-sharing activities.
  • Pay close attention to your KB design: Ensure your knowledge base is well-organized and easy to navigate. Information should be logically structured and readily accessible to users, with intuitive search functionality to quickly retrieve relevant information.
  • Consolidate your customer-facing and agent-facing KB: According to Gartner, organizations that "undertake enterprise-wide knowledge consolidation projects can lower KM application maintenance costs by 15–40%." This can improve the speed and accuracy of resources being authored and released to multiple channels while shortening the time of training machine learning or natural language processing engines.
  • Don't rush: Introduce KM initiatives gradually to give employees time to understand the system and become proficient in its use. Provide training and ongoing support to ensure successful adoption across the organization.
  • Assign knowledge ownership: Designate specific employees or teams as owners of particular knowledge areas or resources. This helps ensure accountability and facilitates efficient management and updates of informational assets.
  • Implement the right technology: There are a number of tools available to support your KM initiatives such as document management systems, content management systems, wikis, data warehouses and more. Whatever tool you choose for your knowledge management initiatives, ensure that it is scalable, easy to use, customizable, flexible and secure.
  • Utilize the benefits of AI: Just as AI has been a game changer for countless customer service functions, ongoing advancements are reshaping the efficiency and effectiveness of knowledge management practices. For instance, AI tools can automate content tagging and categorization, with algorithms analyzing and classifying vast amounts of content, thus streamlining the organization and indexing of informational assets within a knowledge base. Another compelling use of AI in knowledge management is automated content creation and summarization, facilitated by natural language generation (NLG) technologies. These tools generate written content or summaries based on data, streamlining the documentation process. Additionally, AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants provide instant support and guidance to users and enhance accessibility to information resources.
  • Develop procedures: Establish clear guidelines and protocols for capturing, organizing and sharing knowledge. Document these processes to ensure consistency and enable continuous improvement.
  • Measure success and continually optimize: Define key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of your KM initiatives. Regularly evaluate performance against these metrics and use insights to refine and optimize your strategies over time.
  • Engage with an experienced KM partner: According to Deloitte, 75% of organizations say creating and preserving knowledge is important or very important for their success, but only 9% say they are ready to address this trend. Working with a partner that has experience in knowledge management can support your efforts and help you overcome the myriad of challenges that brands can encounter. Knowledge management partners can bring expertise, cutting-edge tools and technology to help create and preserve information across your organization. For example, TELUS International has been helping brands around the world enhance their knowledge management processes and elevate their CX for almost two decades. Our team of experts leverage the eGain Knowledge Hub™, a comprehensive knowledge management solution, to enable brands to offer hyper-intelligent self-service and empower their agents to perform at their highest level.

Drive success through outsourced knowledge management expertise

Knowledge management plays a vital role in an organization's success. It allows them to capture, organize and leverage their informational assets effectively.

As businesses navigate an increasingly complex and dynamic landscape, the ability to harness and capitalize on information becomes a strategic imperative for long-term success. By embracing knowledge management as a core business function and adopting best practices, organizations can cultivate a culture of learning, collaboration and continuous improvement. This positions them for sustained growth and resilience in the face of evolving challenges and opportunities.

Are you ready to elevate your knowledge management operations? Reach out to our team of experts today to discover tailored solutions designed to help you navigate the complexities of KM, unlock the full potential of your informational assets and drive success for your organization.

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