Knowledge management for customer service has always been a difficult proposition. It’s not that knowledge management fails to work; it does its job well, as proven by the numerous case studies that show real ROI, as well as the maturity of vendor solutions. The historical difficulty with knowledge management is that many buyers and users don’t understand the difference between knowledge management and content management — and typically view knowledge management as a heavyweight solution that’s laborious to use.

Perhaps it’s time to lose the too loaded term knowledge management and focus on what it is that customer service agents need to do their job — to answer customer questions in a complete, accurate, and reproducible way. They need access to up-to-date content that is aligned with customer demand and which is created in a collaborative way. This content must also be available to call center agents, as well as agents dedicated to the email, chat, and social communication channels. A subset of this content must also be available to customers via a web self-service site. All these requirements translate into a collaborative content hub.

Here are the main capabilities that make up a collaborative content hub:

  • Easy content capture. You should be able to flag information from any source (email, discussion forum thread, social media interaction) and effortlessly kick it off to be included in your collaborative content hub.
  • Democracy. Everyone within an organization (and customers as well) should be able to recommend information to be included in the content hub.
  • Flexible authoring. You must be able to create and publish content without arduous workflows. Not all content should be subjected to the same workflows. Some content, like service alerts, must be able to be published instantly. Other content should be able to be routed through review or legal compliance flows.
  • Social content. Anyone who comes into contact with content  should be able to rate and comment on content.
  • Content comes in all flavors. Not all content is curated. Content within the hub should include discussion threads and content residing in other repositories (like content management systems and bug databases).
  • Collaborative. A certain segment of agents or customer-facing personnel should have the authority to change content and republish it without arduous approvals.
  • Content and process. Content from the content hub must be linked to customer service business processes — for example, to case management processes, so contextual and personalized content can be pushed to the agent at the right point of the service interaction.
  • Relevance. Reports are a fundamental capability of a collaborative content hub, as you need to understand content usage so you can evolve content in line with customer demand.
  • Agility. You need to stay ahead of the curve. To do this, you need to mine social sites out of your direct control and use text analytics to understand conversations that customers are having about your products and services (for example, social conversations about a particular product issue). You then need to use these insights to generate content and push it out to your customer base to proactively deflect contacts from your contact center.

A collaborative content hub is more than traditional knowledge management. It is a synthesis of knowledge management, discussion forums, collaborative authoring, search, gamification, reporting, and text analytics that no vendor is tying together right now. Do you think  there is a need for such a content hub? Let me know your thoughts.