How to Start a Knowledge Base: Simple Yet Surefire Approach
Early in my career, I made the jump from defense contractor to customer support agent for an up-and-coming IT Service Management solution provider. Being new to the team and industry, I felt completely out of place. After the initial product training, I was pointed to a lab computer and told to start diagnosing a set of customer issues. I felt completely lost.
Over time, with significant amounts of studying and leaning on my peers, I figured things out and eventually became one of the go-to analysts. The challenge with this method was that this vast empirical knowledge was locked in each analyst’s brain. When we lost an employee, we also lost their extensive expertise. Eventually, a knowledge base initiative was started.
Why investing time and effort in a knowledge base setup is a good idea
While there are some obvious reasons to have a knowledge base, like:
- Speeding up the resolution time of customer issues.
- Maintaining employee productivity and satisfaction at work.
- Increasing analyst time-to-effectiveness.
- Delivering consistent solutions.
There are a few not-so-obvious reasons to maintain it, such as:
Eliminating tribal knowledge
This is knowledge that's held privately by individuals with the intention of increasing their value, yet makes the organisation vulnerable.
Improving the perception of your organisation and products
Providing responsive, accurate resolutions can eventually lead to product satisfaction and customer retention.
Reducing IT support costs
If the knowledge base is tailored properly and made available to self-service users, whether through a web portal or a virtual assistant (chat bot), then issues may be resolved, without even requiring a call to the service deck.
This is sometimes called Level 0 support. Also, with analysts closing issues faster, their productivity increases, often eliminating the need for added headcount.
Where to start with setting up a knowledge base
Most modern service management solutions include an integrated, yet unpopulated, knowledge base repository that's ready to receive your valued input.
Even though there are many great knowledge base vendors out there, they may not be able to integrate with your service management environment. Also, while not a knowledge base solution, SharePoint offers a knowledge template that can get you started.
In addition to standalone knowledge base solutions, you may wish to consider populating your knowledge databases with packaged knowledge. These knowledge packs, offered by various companies, focus on topics like Windows, Office 365, Adobe, macOS and others. These concentrated, ready-to-use knowledge packs are highly valuable, assisting young IT support organisations with helping customers and quickly resolving issues.
While many organisations can utilise pre-packaged knowledge, most organisations also support unique solutions that require specialised knowledge. For an established organisation, that's been providing support for quite some time, they'll already have valuable information in the form of past support tickets that can be quickly put into a knowledge base.
If the organisation is new or a new solution has recently been released, engineering teams will be heavily relied on for initial support knowledge.
Nearly all modern IT Service Management solutions will have the functionality to initiate new knowledge articles directly from resolved and closed incidents. For example, Ivanti Neurons for Service Management has an action link ‘button’ that seamlessly moves key incident data into a new knowledge base template.
It also includes workflows to vet, test and refine articles before publishing. The challenge is that ticket resolution data is often not written in a repeatable step-by-step, easy-to-understand format.
Motivating busy support teams to convert and document past incidents into decent articles and to store undocumented data in a searchable repository is the challenge.
How to motivate your teams
The organisation mentioned at the beginning of this blog had a wonderfully effective method of extracting information from analysts’ brains. It used the carrot and stick approach.
First, the stick. As part of everyone’s yearly goals, each support analyst was required to produce a set number of original knowledge articles per month. The target was typically 5–10 per month, which wasn't unreasonable based on our call volume. Not achieving the target number impacted one’s annual review. To ensure superior quality articles were being submitted, articles were first reviewed for duplication.
Next, articles were reviewed for accuracy by distributing them to other team members for technical review. Lastly, they received a final review before being made available to the targeted audience, whether it be analysts only or both analysts and customers.
Next, the carrot. Articles were tracked for usage and analysts were rewarded by the number of times an article was used to successfully resolve an issue. A decent IT service management solution with an integrated knowledge base should support this level of reporting.
Based on monthly usage, analysts whose articles were used the most during the month to resolve incidents received a substantial prize at the end of the year – some gifts were worth several thousand dollars.
Throughout the year, campaigns were created to motivate and remind the teams of the requirements and the rewards. The result was the creation of a sizeable, growing and highly valuable repository of product-specific articles in a brief period.
However you go about motivating your teams to create knowledge content, it'll take a concerted effort and constant reinforcement. The rewards for your efforts will be worth it.
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