Virtually every department, from sales to customer service, relies on a management system to improve efficiency and facilitate work. A management system in this context describes specific guidelines and procedures for managing company knowledge. It also refers to the technology on which the system is built. The main role of a management system is to keep the department organized and well managed.
A knowledge base management system overlooks a company’s knowledge base. It is used primarily by customer support departments, however, since virtually every employee in the company can contribute to the knowledge base, the scope of this management system often involves other departments as well. For instance, the customer support department will often rely on knowledge from field experts and sales agents. A knowledge management system can help efficiently direct information like that between departments making it a powerful asset to customer support departments.
To understand how a knowledge base management system works is it important to understand the difference between a knowledge base application and a knowledge management system. Although the two terms are often used synonymously, a system is structurally more complex. Whereas a knowledge base application can be a sufficient support tool on its own, a management system involves a dedicated knowledge base administrator or a knowledge base team responsible for managing support information.
Even companies that don’t have large amounts of support information can improve customer service and reduce support costs with the help of a knowledge base application. Knowledge base applications are self-reliant and do not require a dedicated knowledge base administrator, content writers, knowledge management guidelines and procedures, or other expenses. A company can create several detailed articles that address the most sought out customer support questions and expect to see return on investment.
For companies that deal with large amounts of support content a knowledge base application alone simply does not suffice. Between updating existing articles, writing new support content, and trying to maximize the overall performance of the knowledge base, a more structured approach is required. This is where the role of a knowledge base management system comes in.
A knowledge base management system is designed for managing large and complex databases of support content. The system is comprised of a software application and a set of guidelines and procedures for managing knowledge.
The software application is the fundamental part. It provides knowledge base administrators with the tools for managing knowledge bases, routing information, and tracking knowledge base performance. The management system and knowledge base application often come bundled as a platform. For example, Safeharbor’s SmartSupport platform includes a knowledge base, community forum, and call center functionality all in one. It also offers powerful tools for disseminating support content and improving kb performance.
The guidelines and procedures that oversee knowledge management are an equally important component of the system, especially when dealing with large knowledgebases that contain hundreds of articles. Knowledge management guidelines and procedures are necessary for developing an efficient management system. The better organized and managed the system is the more successful it will be at maximizing customer satisfaction and reducing support costs.
A successful management system needs guidelines and procedures for handling support content – which, after all, is the main part of a knowledge base. Guidelines and procedures establish how support content is created, collected, formatted, distributed, and maintained. (This article focuses on the role of knowledge management within a knowledge base management system. For more information about knowledge management, visit Safeharbor’s knowledge management services page.)
When developing guidelines and procedures for their system, administrators should first establish how support content will be created. A popular approach for efficiently creating and collecting knowledge this is knowledge centered support (KCS). KCS describes a set of practices and processes that focus on knowledge as the key asset. An example of KCS is the practice of creating content as a by-product of solving problem. Next time a user submits a support ticket, turn the answer to that question into a knowledge base article. This will help users that might face the same problem in the future. Why answer the same question multiple times when it can do it once?
Because the format and quality of support content can be very inconsistent, administrators also need to develop a review process for information that enters the knowledge base. Support content can include external or internal documents relating to projects or products, team knowledge and agent insights, private or public company data, and more. Review procedures for knowledge base content might include editorial practices that evaluate content quality or workflow rules that determine who reviews content and publishes new articles.
Once the content has entered a knowledge base, administrators need to have guidelines for storing and sustaining knowledge. This will ensure that articles remain up to date and are correctly tagged and indexed.
Finally, a knowledge base management system needs guidelines for sharing support content. These guidelines should overlook how content is disseminated and how users and employees access and interact with it. Can a knowledge base user comment or leave feedback? Are some articles only visible to employees and customers and others to all of the users?
Does your company need a knowledge base management system? It depends. For companies that dot not utilizing a knowledge base application it makes financial sense to start small: equip their website with a knowledge base application and populate it with a few well-written articles that address the most common problems. An intuitive knowledge base application can be left in the hands of a customer support or web administrator. If the knowledge base starts to deflect calls and more support content can be created, the company should consider implementing a knowledge base management system.
For companies using a knowledge base application, the decision comes down to how integral a knowledge base is to the performance of the customer support department. Since knowledge base is a type of web self-service it is low cost and low maintenance. However, expanding the function of knowledge base beyond a few dozen articles takes a dedicated knowledge base administrator who understands knowledge management. If the company expects to grow its knowledge base, building a management system is the most releasable route to take.
Companies looking to expand the role of their knowledge base should consider building a knowledge base management system. Whether the goal is to lower customer support costs, make sharing company documents easier, reduce employee training time, or for other ends – a knowledge base takes hard work to maintain. A management system simplifies this task and helps maximize knowledge base ROI.
Safeharbor can build your knowledge base management system. Our multifunctional knowledge base platform provides kb administrators with all the necessary tools for creating and managing company knowledge. The platform empowers administrators with tools for monitoring and improving knowledge base performance with a unique article optimizer. Safeharbor also specializes in knowledge management. Our professional staff can help you set up a knowledge base platform, work with you to create support content, and develop procedures and guidelines for your knowledge base management system. Visit our solutions page for more information.
Author: Dmitry Minyaylov