How to make the knowledge journey worthwhile for customers with effective self-service knowledge management
Breaking the inefficient 1:1 human interaction cycle–service desk interactions which take place via phone or e-mail–is an urgent matter for modern service organizations aiming to deliver exceptional customer service. If you’re looking to move away from older, less effective customer support processes, the adoption of self-service knowledge management is a key enabler.The best example of a company that has long broken the ineffective cycle of 1:1 human interaction is Amazon. How many hands or fingers do you need in order to count the number of times you’ve actually interacted with someone at Amazon by phone or email? I would bet to say no appendages are needed for the task because you can’t talk to Amazon. Yet, they are consistently ranked as the top-rated company globally in customer service.
With the right self-service platform that empowers your customers with self-service knowledge, you too can deliver Amazon-like experiences. What are the elements of a good self-service platform? There are numerous–too many to summarize in a single blog post. But you can check out my thoughts in other posts I’ve written on the Evergreen Systems blog.
What’s certain is that every organization has different needs when it comes to their service management needs. And while your service management platform is important, it is more important for your organization to easily provide your customers with the breadth of knowledge you and your team have about your product or service, because they expect it.
Poor, inconsistent knowledge reflects poorly on the IT Service Management pros because we are the owners of the knowledge in the eyes of our customers. Therefore, make your knowledge management efforts count. In my recent blog posts, I highlighted the Knowledge Centered Service model, or KCS model, which includes two loops that are essential for effective knowledge lifecycle cradle-to-grave process: the SOLVE loop and the EVOLVE loop. You can learn more about these two loops in a previous Evergreen Systems blog post.
Now, let’s take a look at three knowledge management best practices which are complementary to the KCS approach.
Best Practice #1: Enable Self-Service Search in Your Service Portal
To drive self-service adoption (and overall growth of) knowledge, you need to expose it for self-service in your ServiceNow service portal. And you need to be able to provide enough knowledge that is easily searchable for your customer.
Figure 1: Simplicity, clarity and ease-of-use in ServiceNow provides customers with great self-service knowledge experiences.
In the image above, you can see search results for expense management on the left-hand side. There are seven findings with their degree of relevance. But, what if we had gotten back 300 results? It might be difficult to understand that volume, but it can be filtered down to a more manageable level on the right-hand side–by looking at only catalog items, knowledge or business services.
The example above illustrates a very big value point in self service: to offer enough knowledge, easily searchable so that it’s worthwhile for the customer to use it in the self-service experience. Otherwise, what’s the point if all your valuable knowledge lives somewhere just taking up space, unused and collecting dust.
Self-service knowledge is a key weakness in many customer service environments, which is a shame because many of these same support centers have well developed knowledge, but only for the use of the support desk representatives. It hasn’t been reformatted and delivered to the customers for self service.
This is a missed opportunity. After all, isn’t this the point of knowledge management? To enable your customers to have access to as much information as they need about a particular topic of interest related to your product or service? As long as they can easily find what they need by a combination of search and filtering down the results, they will be happy with the experience.
Best Practice #2: Provide Useful and Sufficient Knowledge
When providing customers access to the self-service knowledge, you must simplify the presentation of the knowledge so that they know what to do with it.
Figure 2: Useful and sufficient information improves the customer experience.
Back to Amazon. In the image above, I am looking at a Starbucks coffee machine called a Verismo! I’d like to point out a few things about what I see on the screen that makes this self-service knowledge experience successful for me as a user.
- Customer Questions and Answers, or frequently asked questions (FAQ) are a primary and powerful form of knowledge. On the right are 36 FAQ questions that are answered, which I can easily search.
- Customer reviews are also useful in self service as they reflect actual user experience which might be relevant to me.
- Additional information is readily available. If I scroll down I can easily see additional detailed information on the product and can even download a product manual.
All of the above is useful and sufficient information for me to take actions in my journey as a customer
Best Practice #3: Give Your Knowledge A Home
This brings me to one of the BIGGEST problems companies face in knowledge management: information is scattered all over the place–knowledge here, FAQs there, manuals here, making it hard to find and use.
Figure 3: A single customer-centric destination offers customers an easy way to get what they need in their customer journey.
Your information needs a Home Page, where it all can come together. The goal of a good home page is to provide all the information your customer might need to make a self service decision and take action, regardless of what they are trying to do. Are they trying to request something? Change something? Ask something? Learn something? Fix something? YES. That is what a Home Page is for.
At Evergreen, we strongly recommend that our clients create home pages in ServiceNow for product and service support because it will greatly clarify, simplify and enable the service experience for customers. And we’re right there with them, helping them build powerful ServiceNow service management solutions to meet their needs through our ServiceNow services.
One final note, that can forever alter the customer-provider dynamic in your company. The homepage you build for all of this (including your knowledge) becomes the one place where the customers and all of the providers of a specific service can come together and have a direct dialog. This creates a collaborative work space of continuous innovation centered on a specific product or service. Want to better align IT with the business? Check. Want to improve customer satisfaction? Check. Want to feed innovation at the ground level, enterprise wide? Check.
So, while you are reducing your dependence on antiquated 1:1 human interaction cycle–service desk interactions, you are dramatically changing the value of IT in the business. As for knowledge? It improves faster, is better quality and remains more current if it has a home.
PS - if you enjoyed this blog post you may want to check out the related webinar at the link below!
About the Author: Don Casson is CEO of Evergreen Systems, an IT consulting firm helping medium to enterprise public and private sector organizations to dramatically transform their IT operations. Don is a frequent writer, blogger and presenter, and has delivered over 60 webinars on topics in Service Management, including IT and shared services.