Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS), also known as Knowledge-Centered Support, enhances how customer service and support teams access and use knowledge to deliver greater value to customers, employees, and stakeholders. Each time a problem is solved in a KCS organization, that knowledge is stored in a way that is easily accessible to others.
KCS empowers everyone in the organization to share collective responsibility for maintaining the knowledge base and informs how people in the organization solve problems. Additionally, KCS helps facilitate and increase the rate at which newly onboarded agents can get up to speed.
What are the benefits of KCS?
Organizations that implement knowledge-centered service find they improve key support team metrics like these:
Faster response to and resolution of customer inquiries
When KCS is implemented, knowledge-centered support teams can trust that the knowledge available to them to answer customers’ inquiries is up to date and easy to access. KCS ensures that these teams don’t have to spend time searching for the information they need. Instead, they can more quickly respond to and resolve customer inquiries.
Improved consistency in support team responses
With KCS, customer service teams answer the same question in the same way, making communication consistent across the organization. Because knowledge-centered support teams review the same content, they can flag any inaccurate or outdated information for revision or make those revisions themselves. This enables constant improvement of the knowledge base and enhanced consistency in support team responses.
Enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty
Because KCS helps an organization respond to and resolve customer inquiries faster and more consistently, it also helps improve the customer’s experience throughout the entire customer journey. Satisfied customers are more likely to become repeat and loyal customers.
Enriched insight for marketing and sales
When a knowledge-centered service organization implements KCS, it can gain deeper insight into what customers are asking about and looking for. That insight can inform the creation of focused marketing and sales materials, which are added to the knowledge base.
Lower costs and higher ROI
When customer support teams are able to find the information they need to easily answer customer inquiries, they can do more in less time. This results in leaner and more efficient teams that cost less to manage. Because customers are more satisfied, customer retention increases, as does revenue.
Faster onboarding for new customer service team members
KCS can streamline the onboarding process and reduce training time. That’s because all the information a new customer service team member needs to do their job is easily accessible. This helps them increase their confidence and gets them quickly up to speed and productive.
How does Knowledge-Centered Service work?
The KCS methodology works by integrating knowledge into the customer service workflow. Problem-solving informs knowledge, which is collected in a database. That knowledge evolves, based on use and demand. This continuous improvement loop allows an organization to manage, share, and transfer knowledge in a more organized and efficient way.
KCS helps knowledge workers efficiently use the knowledge base via a double loop process. The KCS methodology’s continuous improvement loop informs how knowledge is captured, structured, and managed over time. The improvement loop includes the solve process and the evolve process, which reinforce each other.
The steps in the solve process (also called the Solve Loop) include:
- Capturing knowledge: When a customer or stakeholder inquiry is solved, that knowledge is captured based on customer context.
- Structure knowledge: The captured knowledge is recorded using a template that makes the knowledge easily searchable and consistent in format.
- Reuse knowledge: Words and phrases used to search for knowledge are preserved, which makes search faster and also identifies areas for developing new knowledge.
- Improve knowledge: Because customer service team members constantly review the available knowledge, they can update it or flag it for review by subject matter experts. This process ensures all knowledge base users can have confidence that the available information is current and accurate.
The components in the evolve process (also called the Evolve Loop) include four systemic reviews:
- Content health: This review ensures that the knowledge in the database is captured appropriately, consistently structured and formatted, and systematically analyzed for accuracy.
- Process integration: This practice ensures the process for creating knowledge base content is consistently integrated into the knowledge management workflow.
- Performance assessment: This practice helps organizations understand how to define the roles within KCS, what to measure, and how to establish and assess key knowledge management performance indicators that align with business goals.
- Leadership and communication: This practice ensures that the established KCS policies and procedures are communicated and followed throughout the organization and that all members of the organization understand the benefits of KCS.
Examples of Knowledge-Centered Service
KCS belongs in any organization that must provide information that solves client or stakeholder problems in a timely manner. Examples of KCS methodology in action include:
- IT service desks, where employees or clients call in for solutions to computer or technical issues.
- Healthcare organizations that maintain knowledge bases for consumers to reference regarding conditions, treatments, and wellness advice.
- Manufacturers that maintain a customer service hotline or public database of product information.
- B2B service providers that maintain call centers and self-service online customer portals.
- Financial institutions that require customer-facing employees to stay current on complex, always-changing products and services.
How to implement KCS
Organizations that are successful with KCS implement it in waves with small groups. This allows the process to be refined as it is implemented. Suggested steps include:
Step 1: Determine goals and metrics
Determine what customer, employee, and process goals should be improved once KCS is established. Then, determine realistic metrics for those goals. Goals and metrics should be reviewed at least annually as KCS is implemented and moves into different phases.
Step 2: Develop content guidelines
Develop a content template that ensures knowledge will be developed in a consistent way to make it easy to find and read that content. The template should guide the service rep in defining:
- The issue as described by the customer or stakeholder.
- The specific product(s) or process that the issue entails.
- The steps taken to resolve the issue.
- The underlying cause of the issue, if apparent.
- Metadata including descriptive keywords.
Step 3: Define and practice the workflow
Create the KCS workflow and disseminate it to your customer service and support teams. This is the flow of how you expect your teams to use the knowledge base to answer inquiries. It can be as simple as receiving an inquiry and determining if a relevant article is found in the knowledge base. If an article is found, the team member reviews it for accuracy. If the article correctly answers the inquiry, it is used. If the article does not correctly answer the inquiry, the team member corrects it or flags it for a subject matter expert to correct. If the article does not exist, the team member creates it using the content template.
Step 4: Set Up the knowledge base or incorporate it into the workflow
If no knowledge base exists, it must be set up. If there is an existing knowledge base, it must be made available to the customer service and support teams.
Step 5: Implement Training
Train the first phase of customer service and support teams in using the KCS workflow to capture, store, and reuse knowledge.
Knowledge-Centered Service best practices
Knowledge-centric organizations use these knowledge-centered service best practices to get the most from KCS:
During the early phases of a KCS workflow, it is important that coaches and managers emphasize to customer service teams the benefits of reusing and updating existing content rather than creating new content.
Measure and monitor
Help KCS users improve their performance over time by measuring and monitoring their performance and effectiveness.
KCS succeeds when service teams collaborate and share knowledge. Incentivize service teams to improve existing content and to suggest new content based on customer inquiries.
In a mature KCS workflow, inquiries begin to shift from known problems to new problems. Share these new problems with product and service teams in order to improve customer satisfaction. Then, gather the information necessary to create new knowledge to share.