Poor Knowledge Domain Experts (KDEs). We provide a three- or four-day KCS℠ design workshop for the KCS Adoption Team; we provide two days of training for KCS Coaches; we provide a day or two for leaders…but for the KDEs? We usually hand them the relevant section of the KCS Practices Guide and wish them luck. They’re the subject matter experts, right? They’ll figure it out.
Predictably, this doesn’t work as well as it might. And earlier this year at the Consortium for Service Innovation’s annual member summit, I learned what works better, thanks to an insightful and informative presentation by Peter Case, Knowledge Services Manager at PTC, a leading provider of platforms and solutions in the Internet of Things (IoT) space.
PTC’s KCS program was already effective. Over a period of five years, they had captured almost 200,000 articles in three languages, of which nearly a third were public. They had increased self-service five-fold while reducing incoming case volumes. Customer satisfaction with self-service was high—84% of article ratings were “useful.” But they felt they could improve further.
PTC’s KDEs did a good job at identifying issues during a biannual “new vs. known” study, but Peter discovered that they were less effective at taking action on what they were learning. He took on a mission, in his words, to “build a group of knowledgeable, discerning KDEs who see opportunities in their area, and are empowered to address them.” He gave them tools to show them where to focus their attention, and structure to tell them what specific things to do.
Tools and Structure
The tools let each KDE see which articles were most used, both on the customer portal and in the support center, and the ratio between the two. (Articles that are used more internally, relatively speaking, may point to opportunities to improve their usefulness to customers.) For any specific article, the tool shows KDEs further detail, including customer feedback.
For me, the real breakthrough was the structure PTC created. In a series of six month cycles, PTC gave KDEs a specific objective, then a set of objectives from which they could choose, then—with that experience behind them—they could set their own objectives, and define their own success measures. Objectives included
- Improve top articles to increase self-service success, reducing case volumes on the issues they address
- Plug a critical self-service knowledge gap
- Suggest a product or documentation improvement, and have the suggestion accepted
- Improve customer feedback on a frequently viewed, but lower-rated, article
- Drive improvements in web success through search tuning
Each of these objectives had specific and ambitious metrics-based goals, most of which were met. More importantly, KDEs now better understand their role and its importance. As they get more experience, they’re setting their own quests and objectives.
Rather than expecting KDEs to start off good at their jobs, we’re now recommending that our clients use this kind of approach to help them grow their skills. Our thanks to Peter and PTC for sharing their approach with the KCS community.