Maximizing the Return on Your Support Knowledge Base

Maximizing the Return on Your Support Knowledge Base

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Maximizing the Return on Your Support Knowledge Base

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 Supoort 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.

Ready to accelerate the return on your support knowledge management initiatives?

We’re here to help you get the answers you need.

Reach out anytime to get answers and insights about the best ways to accelerate the impact of effective support knowledge management. Use the chat button at bottom right, send an e-mail, or click on my calendar to schedule a specific time to talk.

 

[1] Source: ServiceXRG 2021.  Note that cost per case varies considerably by the type and complexity of product supported.

Reduce your Support delivery costs.
Give your high-value customers the attention they deserve.

Exclusive ServiceXRG White Paper:

Self-Service Deflection — Maximizing the Use and Effectiveness of Self-Help and Automation

Download the ServiceXRG whitepaper, "Ensuring a Successful Journey to Customer Success"

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Self-Service Deflection Performance Trends

Self-Service deflection has averaged 22.2%. In 2020 self-help deflection stood at 19.8%. The industry trend for deflection has sloped down (-.5%) during the last decade. This article provides a historic view of deflection trends from 2010 to 2020.

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How to Define and Measure Self-Service Deflection Rates

How to Define and Measure Self-Service Deflection Rates

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How to Define and Measure Self-Service Deflection Rates

Using an accurate measure of deflection is imperative. If deflection is not measured correctly, it is easy to overstate the impact of self-help and service automation on assisted support demand. ServiceXRG has developed a proven reliable formula for measuring self-service deflection rates in your operations.

What is self-service deflection?

Self service deflection is the rate at which automated and self-help resources satisfy service demand that would otherwise be handled by assisted service staff. The average rate of case deflection within the technology industry is 23%. The attainable rate of deflection is highly dependent upon factors such as:

  • the maturity and complexity of a product
  • the skills of the users
  • the quality of tools and content provided by the service provider.

It is easy to overstate the impact of self-help, community, and service automation by equating their overall effectiveness with a direct effect on assisted support. Yes, many issues may be resolved through self-help and automated means. Yet not all are destined for or entitled to resolution through assisted support channels. For a case to be considered as successfully “deflected,” it must meet the following criteria:

  • The customer submitting the case must be entitled to assisted support.
  • An issue must be successfully resolved.
  • The customer submitting the case requires no further action from assisted support resources to validate or clarify the answer provided through self-help or automated means.

How do you measure self-service deflection rates?

ServiceXRG has developed the following approach to measuring self-service deflection rates. Each of the inputs for the deflection calculation are described below. Here are the steps:

  • Multiply the number of Self-Help Service Events by Entitled Customers for a specific period of time by the Success Rate: the rate that these customers indicate success in finding an answer using self-help resources.
  • Multiply this result by the Intent Rate: the percentage of entitled customers who successfully found an answer and indicated an intent to request assisted support if required.
  • Multiply this result by the No Further Action Rate: the percentage of entitled customers that successfully found an answer and indicated an intent to request assisted support if required and indicate that no further action is required to resolve this issue.
  • Target Value
Target value for deflection:

Deflection = Self-Help Service Events by Entitled Customers  X  Success Rate  X  Intent Rate  X  No Further Action Rate

I’ll now explain in greater detail some of the key terminology undergirding this formula.

Why does “entitlement” matter when measuring self-service deflection rates?

The idea of “entitlement” is critical to the accurate measurement of self-service deflection rates:

  • For a case to be considered successfully “deflected,” it must be submitted by a customer ENTITLED to receive assisted support. In other words, the customer had a choice and opted for self-help over assisted support.
  • A case cannot be deflected from assisted support if it is submitted by someone that is not entitled to receive support assistance.
  • Including visitors that are not entitled to assisted support in your deflection calculation will overstate the impact of self-help on assisted support demand.

How to determine customer “Entitlement” status

To establish if customers are entitled to assisted support, you must authenticate that they have engaged in a self-help event (e.g. support site and community visitors and those served through other automated means). Again, only customers entitled to assisted support should be included in your self-service deflection rate calculation.

Target Value for Self-Help Service Events by Entitled Customers:

Self-Help Service Events by Entitled Customers = The number of self-help and service automation events within a specific period of time for customers entitled to receive assisted support.

What is “Successful” deflection?

For a case to be considered deflected it must be successfully resolved using self-help resources or through unassisted automated means.

Customers will come to a support community or portal for a variety of reasons. They may come to view a discussion thread, read an article, browse documentation, view a video, or download a file. While this use of service resources is positive behavior, these “service events” do not always equate to a successfully resolved customer issue. Customers indicate that on average they find useful information 70% of the time when visiting a support website and 68% of the time when browsing support communities. “Useful,” however, does not directly translate into complete and successful answers.

How to measure Success rate

Success rate is the rate at which service events result in successfully resolved customer issues.

The best method for determining success is to ask customers directly. We suggest on-site pop-up surveys, post-transaction event surveys, and questions embedded in service resources.

In fairness, customer response rates to these types of data collection methods can be low. Nevertheless, customer feedback is essential to establishing the effectiveness of self-help resources and automated issue resolution tools.

Target Value for Deflection Success Rate:

Success Rate = Rate that self-help and service automation events within a specific period of time are successfully resolved.

The importance of “Intent” when measuring deflection

A deflection will occur when there is intent by the customer to seek assisted support to find an answer.

In situations where customers are “browsing” available support resources, but do not intend to seek support assistance, there is no opportunity to deflect from assisted support. Including “browsers” (visitors with no intent to seek assisted support) in the deflection calculation will overstate the impact of deflection on assisted support.

How to measure Intent rate

The best method for determining intent is to ask customers directly. We recommend on-site pop-up surveys or post-transaction event surveys to establish the reason for a community or support web site visit. Determine if the customer intends to seek assisted support if the self-help event is unsuccessful.

Target Value for Intent Rate:

Intent Rate = Rate that entitled customers indicate that their reason for using self-help or service automation is a first step in problem resolution and intend to seek assisted support if necessary.

“No Further Action”—the end of the deflection journey

For a case to be considered deflected, the customer must indicate that the answer found through self-help has completely resolved the issue and that no further action is required.

Some customers may successfully receive the information they are looking for but may still request assisted support to verify the answer. Customers that request assisted support to confirm the answer provided through self-help or automated means should not be included in the measure of deflection.

How to measure No Further Action rate

Determine if any further action is required to resolve a customer issue. We recommend on-site pop-up surveys or post-transaction event surveys to establish if a customer sought assisted support to validate, clarify, or confirm an answer received by an automated or self-help event.

Target Value for No Further Action Rate:

No Further Action Rate = Rate that self-help and service automation events within a specific period of time are successfully resolved andrequire no further action.

Implementing a Deflection Metric

Using an accurate measure of deflection is imperative for establishing the true impact self-help and service automation resources have on your assisted support demand. The inputs and process I’ve described above are stringent, yet necessary to developing effective Service and Success strategies in your organization.

We’re here to help.

Reach out anytime to start the deflection conversation. Use the chat button at bottom right, send an e-mail, or click on my calendar to schedule a specific time.

 

Reduce your Support delivery costs.
Give your high-value customers the attention they deserve.

Exclusive ServiceXRG White Paper:

Self-Service Deflection — Maximizing the Use and Effectiveness of Self-Help and Automation

Download the ServiceXRG whitepaper, "Ensuring a Successful Journey to Customer Success"

The Digital Transformation of Support

The Digital Transformation of Support

The Digital Transformation of Support

The digital transformation of support is defined by an increased use of digital technologies to improve and extend core support processes and enable new service capabilities. Digital transformation includes human-assisted, self-assisted and fully automated support transactions.

Support Digital Transformation

The digital transformation of support is enabled by customers desire to help themselves and their broad access to digital devices and platforms from which support may be requested and delivered.

The use of digital technologies in support is not new, but the rate of adoption by service providers and acceptance by customers has accelerated digitization.  Today most support transactions are digitally enabled, many do not involve direct support assistance or human interaction.

Support Digital Transformation

Some unique characteristics of Support Digital Transformation are noted below.

Support Delivery and Interaction

Support Digital Transformation enhances companies’ ability to engaged and interact with customers through assisted, automated and self-help service delivery channels.

Self-Help

Self-help tools and content allow customers to access information and resources they need to resolve their own issues.  Access to self-help is primarily facilitated through web support sites accessed from desktop computers and mobile devices.

Read more articles about self-help

Automated

Intelligent automation increasingly supplements delivery of some services freeing humans to focus on tasks not suitable to automation (yet).  Automated support includes unassisted transactions such as chat-bots, renewal notification, monitoring and alerting.

Read more articles about tools and support automation

Human Assisted

Digital support platforms enable humans to perform service and support transactions efficiently.  Ticket tracking and management, access to customer data and the ability to collaborate with customers through remote tools enhance assisted support transactions.

Technology Enabled

Support Digital Transformation leverages digital technologies to achieve predictable outcomes and enhanced efficiencies by leveraging customer data and organizational knowledge.

Process Efficiency

Vital support processes such as case submission, entitlement validation, escalation, and the interaction between support experts and customers are digitally enabled through, CRM, case tracking, escalation and bug tracking and customer success management platforms.  Support today cannot operate efficiently without extensive use of technology to enable core support processes.

Data Driven

Digitally enabled support processes assure that what is known about a customer and the products they use can help streamline, personalize and automate customer interactions.  Collection, storage and access to customer data including user preferences, usage behaviors, skill level, and previous interactions establishes a foundation to enhanced future interactions.

Customer data can be supplemented with product data including, configuration, health, and performance. Data access can help anticipate and respond to customer needs and monitor relationship health.

Knowledge Enabled

Customers have more options for access to support knowledge.  Well documented domain knowledge enables searchable knowledge access, just-in-time training, on-demand coaching and guided assistance (human and automated) delivering the answers customers need quickly.

Read more about support knowledge management

Additional Benefits

Support Digital Transformation offers the following additional benefits.

Expanded Channels

Digital technologies make access to support easier.  Customer can seek support assistance from mobile devices, the web, and directly though product interfaces.

New Service Value

Digital technologies extend support beyond its traditional boundaries.  Self-help, peer-to-peer communities, just-in-time learning, and ever-increasingly sophisticated automation assume a greater burden for overall support delivery.

Proactive

Digital capabilities introduce the means to deliver services before they are requested by customers.  Monitoring and analysis of data helps to anticipate customer needs and provide solutions before they are requested by customers.

Featured: Featured: Digital Transformation Through Support Web Site Design

The digital transformation of support is defined by an increased use of digital technologies to improve and extend core support processes and enable new service capabilities. Self-help tools and content provided through the web are fundamental to support’s successful digital transformation.  This Playbook outlines the five elements of well-designed support web sites.

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Related Articles

Maximizing the Return on Your Support Knowledge Base

The Support organization encompasses extensive experience and expertise about how to use and apply products. Access to this Support knowledge is the primary reason customers contact Support. This article explains how companies can maximize the return on the creation and distribution of Support knowledge.

read more

Beyond Self-Service Deflection

The use of Self-Service deflection as a basis to justify investments in Self-Service fosters an expectation that it is only capable of reducing costs. This article explains why Self-Service is vital to a successful service strategy and delivers benefits well-beyond cost reduction.

read more

Six Steps to Measure Self-Service Deflection

Self-Service deflection is the rate at which self-help and automated resources satisfy customers’ service demands that would otherwise be handled by assisted service staff. This article introduces a concise definition for self-service deflection and lays out six steps to reliably measure this metric.

read more

Self-Service Deflection Performance Trends

Self-Service deflection has averaged 22.2%. In 2020 self-help deflection stood at 19.8%. The industry trend for deflection has sloped down (-.5%) during the last decade. This article provides a historic view of deflection trends from 2010 to 2020.

read more

The State of Self-Service Tech Support

Self-service is essential for companies meet growing support demand but should not be the only strategy companies rely on to scale support delivery. This article assesses the state of self-service tech support and examines the use of self-help and service automation.

read more

Knowledge Management – Defining the Business Need

Knowledge Management – Defining the Business Need

Successful knowledge management is not achieved by chance, rather it is a function of understanding the scope of the required effort, establishing a clear vision of the expected benefits, and securing the support and resources necessary to execute.

Defining the Business Need

The formulation of a successful knowledge management strategy is based on providing answers to five fundamental questions:

  • What problem 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?

Although it may not be possible to answer these questions conclusively, it is essential to invest sufficient effort towards a reasonable response to each question.  Further, there must be organizational acceptance.  Failure to articulate answers to the fundamental questions may result in unrealistic expectations or lack of executive support to achieve project objectives.

Providing answers to these questions is not only required at the inception of a knowledge management initiative but must be an ongoing activity as the project evolves and matures.

Featured: Measuring the Return on Knowledge Management

As knowledge management mature, it is essential to conduct a formal cost – benefit analysis to determine the proper level of investment. Continued success will come from efforts to enhance content creation processes, employ enhanced technologies and deliver tangible business value by leveraging knowledge assets. This research report introduces an approach to measure the return from knowledge management initiatives.

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Related Articles

Maximizing the Return on Your Support Knowledge Base

The Support organization encompasses extensive experience and expertise about how to use and apply products. Access to this Support knowledge is the primary reason customers contact Support. This article explains how companies can maximize the return on the creation and distribution of Support knowledge.

read more

The Digital Transformation of Support

The digital transformation of support is defined by an increased use of digital technologies to improve and extend core support processes and enable new service capabilities. Digital transformation includes human-assisted, self-assisted and fully automated support transactions. This article defines and introduces key characteristics of the digital transformation of support.

read more

Knowledge Management – Defining the Business Need

Successful knowledge management is not achieved by chance, rather it is a function of understanding the scope of the required effort, establishing a clear vision of the expected benefits, and securing the support and resources necessary to execute. The formulation of a successful knowledge management strategy is based on providing answers to five fundamental questions.

read more

Beyond Deflection – What to Do with Your “Savings”

Self-help and service automation (e.g. chatbots) provide a means to save money and lower the overall costs of service delivery.  Consider however that savings from deflection represents an opportunity to reinvest to improve service outcomes by reallocating staff to high value activities (e.g. onboarding, adoption, retention, expansion, etc.).  This article introduces the top opportunities to reinvest in service.

read more

Measuring the Return on Knowledge Management

Measuring the Return on Knowledge Management

For knowledge management to yield maximum benefit the organization must properly fund and support the initiative. The lack of support is the primary reason for the failure of knowledge management projects.

Knowledge Management

The single largest asset of a service organization is the collective experience and expertise of its staff.  The ability to harness this asset through formal knowledge management processes and tools presents a significant opportunity for service delivery efficiency, yet it comes with a cost.

It is the need to access this expertise that compels customers to initiate a service request. The successful response to a service request depends upon the efficiency by which the appropriate knowledge can be transferred to the customer.

Like the oil under the ground, knowledge assets wait to be extracted, refined, and leveraged.  Effective knowledge management – the processes to capture, enhance and reuse an organization’s experience and expertise – offers the means to optimize service efficiency and maximize customer success through effective knowledge transfer. Whether through live assistance or self-services, knowledge is the fuel that drives service efficiency, innovation, and customer success.

The Need for Cost-Benefit Validation

Knowledge management appears to make good business sense and has led to many formal and informal knowledge management initiatives.  Informal knowledge management initiatives have largely been possible due to the minimal investment required to get started and make meaningful progress.   Formal projects often require more investment and the accompanying business justification.

Informal knowledge management initiatives are effective at leveraging common knowledge to address frequently asked questions, yet they are not capable of maximizing the return on knowledge assets.  As awareness of the power of harnessing intellectual assets grows and demands on knowledge resources increase, there must be a concerted effort to invest in the tools, technologies and people to achieve sustainable knowledge management activities.

For knowledge management to yield maximum benefit the organization must properly fund and support the initiative.  The lack of support is the primary reason for the failure of knowledge management projects.   Under funding of knowledge management initiatives is due in part to the difficulty in quantifying the tangible business impact from the efforts to capture and reuse content.

Featured: Measuring the Return on Knowledge Management

As knowledge management matures, it is essential to conduct a formal cost – benefit analysis to determine the proper level of investment. Continued success will come from efforts to enhance content creation processes, employ enhanced technologies and deliver tangible business value by leveraging knowledge assets. This research report introduces an approach to measure the return from knowledge management initiatives.

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Related Articles

Maximizing the Return on Your Support Knowledge Base

The Support organization encompasses extensive experience and expertise about how to use and apply products. Access to this Support knowledge is the primary reason customers contact Support. This article explains how companies can maximize the return on the creation and distribution of Support knowledge.

read more

The Digital Transformation of Support

The digital transformation of support is defined by an increased use of digital technologies to improve and extend core support processes and enable new service capabilities. Digital transformation includes human-assisted, self-assisted and fully automated support transactions. This article defines and introduces key characteristics of the digital transformation of support.

read more

Knowledge Management – Defining the Business Need

Successful knowledge management is not achieved by chance, rather it is a function of understanding the scope of the required effort, establishing a clear vision of the expected benefits, and securing the support and resources necessary to execute. The formulation of a successful knowledge management strategy is based on providing answers to five fundamental questions.

read more

Beyond Deflection – What to Do with Your “Savings”

Beyond Deflection – What to Do with Your “Savings”

Self-help and service automation (e.g. chatbots) provide a means to save money and lower the overall costs of service delivery.  Consider however that savings from deflection represents an opportunity to reinvest to improve service outcomes by reallocating staff to high value activities (e.g. onboarding, adoption, retention, expansion, etc.).  This article introduces the top opportunities to reinvest in service.

Potential Savings

Knowledge management, self-help and service automation offer significant opportunities to achieve cost efficiencies by developing and sharing information to help customers resolve cases without the direct assistance of service staff.  Efficiencies from self-help and automation create a potential dilemma for service organizations.  They can bank their savings or invest in customer success focused activities that yield increased satisfaction, retention and revenue growth.

Deflection

Deflection measures the impact that service automation, self-help tools, and content have on assisted demand.  When customer issues are resolved through service automation or self-help resources, thus no longer need assistance from service staff, they are considered deflected (there is more to deflection so check out our article on Defining and Measuring Deflection).

On average companies deflect just over 23% of cases by providing answers to customer questions through self-help or unassisted automated means.  When cases are successfully deflected fewer support staff are needed to handle assisted demand.    The cost efficiencies realized from deflected cases can be significant.

Bank the Savings or Invest in Growth

It is possible to view self-help and service automation as a means to save money and lower the overall costs of service delivery.  Alternatively, consider how savings from self-help, knowledge management and service automation can be reinvested to improve service outcomes by reallocating staff to high value activities (e.g. onboarding, adoption, retention, expansion, etc.).

New Opportunities

Consider opportunities to reallocate staff to the high value activities outlined in the table below.

Support Metrics, Benchmarks and Reporting

Support performance measurement is challenging. Contact me to learn how ServiceXRG can help you gain better insights into Support performance through the use of enhanced metrics, benchmarking and better support performance reporting.

  • Are you measuring the right support metrics?
  • Do you have access to necessary inputs and insights?
  • How well is your Support organization performing?
  • Can you generate the reports you need?
  • Contact us now to learn how we can help you gain greater insights and optimize Support performance.

Chat with us (see link on right side of screen), send an e-mail to tsweeny@servicexrg.com, or use our contact form.

Featured: Measuring the Return on Knowledge Management

As knowledge management initiatives take hold and mature, it is essential to conduct a formal cost – benefit analysis to determine the proper level of investment for knowledge management and define the expected return on this investment. Continued success will come from efforts to enhance content creation processes, employ enhanced technologies and deliver tangible business value by leveraging knowledge assets. This research report introduces an approach to measure the return from knowledge management initiatives.

Login to get your copy.  Not a member?  Check our Service Success Programs or contact us for details.

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