From Chaos to Clarity: How Support Can Build a Knowledge-Sharing Culture

Giorgina Gottlieb | September 20, 2019

On August 27, Squelch presented its third webinar in partnership with the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA). The topic was knowledge management, with a particular emphasis on How Support Can Build a Knowledge-Sharing Culture.

As with the previous two, this webinar was hosted by TSIA’s Distinguished Vice President of Technology Research John Ragsdale. He was joined by Dave Hare, principal consultant at ServiceXRG, who has over 30 years of hands-on experience building, designing, and managing world-class support and success teams at organizations like Symantec and Oracle.

This 45-minute webinar was jam-packed with industry research, expert insights, and practical strategies for CX professionals at all levels. Here’s a recap of the top takeaways.

Knowledge Management Basics

Hare kicked off the presentation by providing a simple definition of knowledge management (KM):

Knowledge management is creating, gathering, and organizing an organization’s knowledge as opposed to information.

He further explained that information is processed data, while knowledge is information made actionable.

KM: Potential vs. Reality

The potential benefits of KM are huge. As shared by Ragsdale, the TSIA Knowledge Management Survey asked respondents, “If your organization was sharing knowledge as well as it possibly could, it would improve the productivity of your team by what percentage?”

In 2018, 41 percent answered 30 percent or more. Preliminary results from 2019 indicate that figure has grown, with 48 percent responding 30 percent or more. With such a significant productivity boost on the line, implementing successful knowledge sharing should be a no brainer. So why aren’t more companies doing so?

Hare explained that there are three main blockers:

  • Technology: too many data storage options; legacy systems that are hard to maintain; new systems that are difficult to implement and populate with data
  • Process: lack of clarity regarding who is responsible for KM and proper steps for maintaining KM systems; re-organizations or changes in group structure that create fluctuating processes
  • Culture: incentives that reward knowledge hoarding rather than sharing

Of these, Hare pointed to culture as the biggest culprit — an assertion backed up by the TSIA Knowledge Management Survey.

Creating a Knowledge-Sharing Culture

Never one to diagnose a problem without also providing a prescription for solving it, Hare turned his attention to offering practical strategies for building a knowledge-sharing culture.

Start from the Top

As indicated by the survey results above, it’s crucial for leaders to set an example when it comes to knowledge sharing. So before rolling out a new KM program to employees, try to develop as much support as possible within the executive team. Having buy-in from the top brass can mean the difference between success and the status quo.

One way to build this buy-in is by focusing on the bottom-line impacts of knowledge sharing. For example, if you have a clear understanding of the average cost per case, you can use the previously-shared data on improved productivity to present a compelling case for the potential cost savings of KM.

Make Everyone Responsible

That said, ultimate responsibility for knowledge sharing cannot reside with leaders alone. When it comes to making customer knowledge accessible and actionable, it must truly be a group effort involving every member of the support and success teams.

On this point, Hare suggested a novel approach to incorporating knowledge sharing into performance assessments. He shared the story of a company whose higher-tier support agents were measured not by the number of escalated cases they solved, but by the number of escalations they avoided.

In order to accomplish this, the higher-tier agents began working more closely with first-tier agents via 1:1 sessions and lunch-time presentations to better train them on the knowledge and resources needed to resolve more complex cases on their own. In this way, a shift in key performance metrics contributed to a significant boost in knowledge sharing.

Encourage Other Teams to Participate

Once you’ve got the entirety of the customer support and success teams on board, the next step is to expand the knowledge-sharing effort to other departments across the organization. In particular, sales, marketing, and product development almost certainly possess information that would benefit customer support and success — and vice versa.

Hare shared that the best way to initiate this interdepartmental collaboration is by simply helping employees of the various teams get to know one another better. For example, order donuts or pizza and set aside space for members of two departments to mix and mingle. Once the various teams have stronger relationships with one another, it will be much easier to encourage a reciprocal sharing of knowledge.

Implement Proper Incentives

Finally, be sure to review your current structure of financial and other incentives to ensure that the organization’s actions back up its words in promoting knowledge sharing rather than hoarding. And to the extent you already have KM-driven incentives in place, consider whether you are incentivizing activities or outcomes.

As shown above, it is much more common for today’s companies to tie incentives to activities (e.g., creating a certain number of knowledge base articles) rather than outcomes (e.g., the accuracy and usefulness of said articles).

While such behavior is understandable — because activity is easier to measure than outcomes — this approach runs a risk. Employees may merely be going through the motions without experiencing the true culture shift that’s required for knowledge sharing to benefit both the company and its customers.

Questions to Consider

Hare concluded the presentation by offering five essential questions for organizations to consider as they begin implementing a new knowledge management and sharing strategy:

  • What problems are we trying to solve?
  • What benefits can we expect?
  • How will we measure progress against our goals?
  • What level of support is required from the organization?
  • What is the cost to execute this initiative?

Learn More

The full recording of From Chaos to Clarity: How Support Can Build a Knowledge-Sharing Culture is now available on demand.

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Image credits: TSIA