At its best, a Support organization holds extensive experience and expertise about how to use and apply products and services. Support also has technical acumen to help customers diagnose and resolve issues. Customers contact Support to access all that knowledge. Now let’s talk about maximizing the return on your Support knowledge base — and it’s importance to scaling Support.
The high cost of assisted support
In traditional assisted support models, representatives provide answers to customer questions on a one-to-one basis. While it can be effective, this mode of support is costly with the average cost to close a case over a hundred dollars ($105).
A primary way to scale support delivery is to add more support staff. But adding more staff to meet growing support demand is not sustainable.
Scaling Support with your Support knowledge base
The alternative to hiring more staff to scale Support is capturing and sharing Support’s knowledge and organizational expertise. To accomplish this, companies have implemented knowledge management initiatives.
Support knowledge bases often contain answers to known issues, descriptions about how to accomplish common activities, and tasks and insights about applying best practices. They can be combined with other repositories of organizational knowledge including:
- training curricula from learning management systems
- answers generated within Support communities
- product documentation, release notes, and other resources.
As organizations build Support knowledge bases, their ability to deliver answers to customers shifts from one-to-one transactions to a highly scalable one-to-many capacity. As the accrued knowledge of Support is captured and cataloged, customers can access it through self-help channels and automation. In addition, this same process assures that knowledge can also be shared across and among Support teams.
The cost of knowledge
The average size of a knowledge management team is 8% of total Support staff. or companies that employ methodologies such as Knowledge Centered Support (KCS), the total cost of knowledge management may be higher as individuals within the organization invest time and effort to participate in the knowledge creation and refinement process.
To establish your cost of knowledge, calculate the full-time equivalency of all staff members that contribute to knowledge management practices (full or part-time). Multiply the time invested in knowledge management by the average fully burdened salary of Support staff.
COST OF KNOWLEDGE = FTE X FULLY BURDENED SALARY
Alternatively, you can calculate the cost of knowledge by determining the number of hours contributed to knowledge management by each staff member and multiply by their actual fully burdened hourly salary.
The benefits of knowledge
The benefits of sharing knowledge are most easily calculated by measuring the time and effort saved by providing an answer to a customer – or sharing it among Support staff. The net saving may include:
- Saving associated with fully answering a customer question without the direct assistance of Support staff.
- Reducing the total time to resolve an issue by sharing information that partially helps resolve a question.
To calculate the savings from knowledge, determine how many hours of Support staff effort were saved. Multiply the saved hours by the average hourly cost of fully burdened Support staff.
BENEFITS OF KNOWLEDGE = HOURS SAVED X HOURLY STAFF COST
The return on your Support knowledge base
The return on knowledge (KM ROI) is the is the net benefit of knowledge management after you subtract the cost of creating knowledge. For the KM ROI to be positive, the KM BENEFITS must exceed KM COSTS.
KM ROI = (KM BENEFITS – KM COSTS) / KM COSTS
The return on your Support knowledge base depends on the quality of its content and the ability for customers and Support staff to leverage it to reduce Support delivery costs. Poor-quality content or the inability (or difficulty) to find the right answers within the knowledge base will significantly diminish your return on knowledge.
A Support knowledge base alone is not enough
In an ideal world, capturing Support knowledge and combining it with other sources of organizational insights should be enough to scale Support and deliver an acceptable return on knowledge. Unfortunately, knowledge alone is not enough.
Customers need answers to specific issues related to their unique circumstances. When customers work one-on-one with Support representatives, their specific needs (and the context of those needs) can be discerned.
When customers are left to search through Support knowledge repositories it may be more difficult to align specific articles with the ways that customer are searching for an answer. This mismatch between what customers search for and what exists within a knowledge base significantly diminishes the return on Support knowledge.
Context is key to delivering relevant answers to your customers
A Support knowledge base may contain answers to many customer questions, but it’s meaningless if customers cannot find what they need. One of the top reasons for the mismatch between what a customer searches for and what is returned is lack of context.
A few keywords entered by a customer are not sufficient to describe the full context of the customer need. The context may include:
- their configuration
- product version or model
- operating environment
- past issues they have reported
- any other revealing details.
A simple search has no context to better align a customer’s question with the actual answer. Further, the customer will not likely know if there is an answer or if they simply searched for the wrong terms.
When a search can expand beyond the terms a customer provides and establish the context for the customer issue, the probability of a quality knowledge base match is higher (provided, of course, that the content exists). If an answer is not available, the customer will seek an answer elsewhere.
Without context, companies cannot maximize the return on their Support knowledge bases. Companies may spend millions to develop their knowledge bases, yet the time and effort spent on knowledge creation and refinement is for naught, or at least significantly diminished, if customers cannot find documented answers.
Conclusion: Maximizing the return on your Support knowledge base
To maximize the return on your Support knowledge base you must make certain that you focus efforts on creating quality content — then ensuring that customers can find it. The quality of your search tools is the most significant ingredient to accelerate Knowledge ROI.
Search must be able to capture customer needs and establish the necessary context to assure that if relevant content exists within the knowledge base. Then it will be found and presented to the customer.