Apr 18, 2015

Knowledge bases: One document for all cases

Sven Kolb and Harald Huber, Managing Directors of USU AG, are convinced that knowledge bases that can only search and find no longer meet today's demands at service centres. They explain the approach of ACTIVE knowledge bases in this interview.

USU has added a new attribute to the subject of knowledge management with the concept “active knowledge bases.” Does this little word really make the difference and if so, in what way?

Sven Kolb: Most professional customer service centres use a knowledge base. However, they tend to be document bases in our view, i.e. conventional technology. In contrast, ACTIVE knowledge bases don't actually manage documents, but active knowledge objects that support and assist users in the situation at hand.

Harald Huber: Active knowledge objects have a positive impact on search quality, for instance, because they reduce the number of documents. Let’s take one example: Companies often have various product categories where, for example, the details for terminating the agreement differ. And there are various types of termination, such as change of provider, relocation, etc. Those are typical cases in practice. In such a situation, many call centres copy the relevant knowledge documents or adapt them to the different variants. That means many search results and a lot of maintenance work. In “active” document technology, just one single document is enough. When users open such a document, they are asked what product category and type of termination is involved. The system then navigates them directly to the right passage in the text.

Sven Kolb: Thanks to this technological principle, we've been able to reduce the number of documents customers keep by 60 to 70 percent. As a result, agents are able to supply information far more quickly in practice.

So the documents are still searched for and read. Although they have a sort of "script function," does that still mean they’re simply read out?

Harald Huber: Not quite. Everything looks like a document in our ACTIVE knowledge base, so that users find it all familiar and simple. However, active objects support service agents and don’t just supply them with texts.

What does that look like in practice?

Harald Huber: Let’s take an agent who discovers incorrect customer data in the CRM system. Agents often don’t have permission to change the data. So they usually write an e-mail to the system administrator. An ACTIVE knowledge base lets editors create a workflow for this feedback very easily – without the need for any programming knowledge. As a result, interaction with the customer doesn’t become a productivity killer – good old Excel no longer has to bear the brunt as a means of recording and passing on information, for example. These special activities can be accomplished very easily, efficiently and neatly with an ACTIVE knowledge base.

You say it can help increase productivity by as much as 50 percent. Is that realistic? Can half the agents stay at home?

Sven Kolb: Productivity estimates depend on what is done at such a service centre, what the main processes are and how complex they are. Of course, you can’t simply cut the duration of calls in half with an ACTIVE knowledge base. However, you can often significantly cut the entire process time, forwarding work and call-backs you make. Whereas correcting an address can mutate into an unproductive game of e-mail ping-pong in the customary process, for example, you achieve a high effect at little effort with an ACTIVE knowledge base. And there are actually a raft of organisations who’ve improved their productivity by 50 percent in total. That’s also helped by the fact that we’ve integrated e-learning and correspondence management functions in our system.

That slashes the time and work involved in creating content: The contents for training, correspondence and provision of information are written once in the same system and can then be used over and over again.

Harald Huber: It’s ideal for users when they not only find content, but can also work with it directly. An ACTIVE knowledge base not only supplies users with documents, but also, for example, questionnaires to enable structured recording of queries from customers, feedback or complaints, correspondence material for e-mails, letters and social media, tests to examine their own knowledge, etc. And all that is naturally integrated in their environment.

An ACTIVE knowledge base is therefore not simply an extra system at the agent’s workplace, but makes work easier and reduces complexity.

Thank you for the interview, gentlemen!