A practical guide to getting started with Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS)
Customer service teams deal in knowledge.
Consider your seasoned and experienced support reps. What sets them apart from their newer colleagues? Their knowledge. They’ve spent more time in training and dealing with all kinds of customer issues, and they now know specific things that help them resolve issues faster.
What if you could take this knowledge from the heads of experienced employees and make it available for your whole team to use?
Good news — you can! There’s actually a formal methodology for capturing and leveraging knowledge across your entire team (and company). It’s called Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS), and it’s used by customer service teams all over the world to improve their levels of service delivery.
What is Knowledge-Centered Service?
Knowledge-Centered Service is a relatively simple concept to understand, although it takes some hard work to implement. It’s a methodology devised by the Consortium of Service Innovation to help service organizations implement knowledge management principles into their workflows, enabling them to document solutions as a byproduct of helping customers.
When a customer support agent documents a solution, this means that the knowledge can be reused to assist future customers. Instead of troubleshooting the issue from scratch next time it pops up, your team can rely on the knowledge captured in the past.
We’ll dive deep into how the KCS methodology works in this post, but at the outset it’s important to know that KCS is a tested and proven system. If your support team commits to implementing KCS, you’ll see tangible improvements in efficiency, scalability, and in your help center’s performance.
Benefits of Knowledge-Centered Service
KCS helps customer service teams work smarter, not harder. It brings many benefits, both for your customers and for your organization. A few key benefits of Knowledge-Centered Service include:
Improved consistency in customer responses
Quicker time to resolution
Improved agent experience
Shorter training time for new customer support agents
Decreased operating costs
Improves consistency in customer responses
When customer service agents are using knowledge base articles to answer customer inquiries, customers benefit from the same consistent response every time. Because the original fix that one smart agent came up with has been documented for future use, team members don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.
Your knowledge base will evolve and improve over time (more on this below), but KCS is a key way of making sure your team is sharing accurate and consistent solutions with customers every time they’re needed.
Quicker time to resolution for customer inquiries
Customer service teams who implement Knowledge-Centered Service can reply to and resolve customer inquiries faster. The knowledge they need to solve an issue is likely already available at their fingertips — it’s simply a matter of finding the solution and relaying it to the customer.
This can yield significant improvements in customer satisfaction and loyalty, as customers appreciate a fast response and a reliable customer service experience.
Improves the agent experience
When agents have access to the knowledge they need to do their jobs properly, the agent experience is improved. They no longer have to hunt around to find information. They don’t feel stuck or stumped by customer questions. Once you have a robust knowledge base, they can simply search for a relevant article to find what they need to know.
A better agent experience should lead to higher levels of engagement and employee retention as agents, saving you money in recruiting and training costs.
Shorter time to train new customer service agents
Knowledge-Centered Service has the potential to drastically reduce the time it takes to onboard new customer service agents. Since common fixes are documented in your knowledge base, your training program doesn’t need to cover everything under the sun. New hires can consult the knowledge base whenever they have a question, delivering them the info they need right when they need it.
Decreased operating costs
Well-equipped customer service teams are able to accomplish more in less time, allowing you to scale your team with fewer resources. This more efficient model of operating a customer service team increases your profitability, since you’ll be able to support more customers well with a smaller support organization.
The double loop of the Knowledge-Centered Service methodology
The Knowledge-Centered Service methodology follows eight steps that are spread across the “KCS Double Loop process”. There’s a logical flow to these eight steps, starting with the steps in the “Solve” loop and eventually leading to the “Evolve” loop.
Let’s look at each step in the KCS process.
The KCS Solve Loop
As you might expect, the Solve Loop focuses on support agents responding to requests from customers and documenting their knowledge as a byproduct. When you’re just getting started with KCS, documenting your team’s common solutions can take some time, but it’s well worth it for the time you’ll save down the road.
1. Capture knowledge
Any time a new customer inquiry is solved by your customer service team, the solution is documented as a new knowledge article (assuming it hasn’t been documented already). This step happens during or immediately after the interaction with the customer, enabling your support agent to capture vital context that may be forgotten later.
2. Structure knowledge
Any knowledge that is captured should follow a structured template. This structure creates consistency in content, making it easy to capture new knowledge and search existing knowledge.
3. Reuse knowledge
Once documented, organizational knowledge should be reused as often as possible. This is when you start to see the return on your investment in implementing the KCS methodology. As agents encounter customer problems, a quick search enables them to locate and reuse previously documented solutions. Ideally, related knowledge articles (and other helpful resources) should be linked together, making the knowledge base the go-to resource for every customer inquiry that comes in.
4. Improve knowledge
Your knowledge base is never finished. The KCS methodology recommends having agents update (or recommend updates) to existing articles in real-time as they identify gaps in your knowledge base, ensuring that your most popular articles will always be kept up-to-date. This approach focuses on just-in-time improvements, rather than comprehensive overhauls to your knowledge articles.
The KCS Evolve Loop
The Evolve Loop is the second loop in the KCS Double Loop Process. It operates continuously in the background of your support organization, focusing on larger improvements in your business.
5. Content health
This step revolves around reviewing your content for overall usability, accuracy, and relevancy. It’s about managing your help center to keep it useful for your agents and your customers. As you review your content health, you’ll check for items like accuracy, ensuring no broken links or outdated images, and making sure everything reflects your product or service’s evolution.
6. Process integration
KCS practitioners need to ensure that the process for creating content is consistent with the rest of their team’s workflows. Instead of being an extra task, creating and improving knowledge should be inextricable from the process of helping customers. It should be as easy as possible for support agents to document new or updated solutions.
7. Performance assessment
KCS is aligned with business goals so that practitioners can understand whether agents have been successful and have adhered to the KCS model. It’s usually recommended to implement key performance indicators that focus on lagging indicators — the outcomes you want to achieve with your knowledge base. This will likely include measures like customer self-service rates, time to resolution, and employee engagement.
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8. Leadership and communication
The leaders in your organization bear the responsibility to communicate the values of KCS and the role it should play in knowledge management. They will lead the way in promoting KCS and ensuring the team members understand its benefits. This step in the process is an ongoing one — leaders need to be focused on continually communicating the value of documenting, sharing, and improving knowledge. Implementing strategic incentives may be a part of this step.
5 steps to getting started with Knowledge-Centered Service
As you can see, Knowledge-Centered Service is a holistic approach to capturing and leveraging knowledge across your customer service team. It’s not something that you can implement overnight — it’s a strategic and valuable long-term play.
If you’re just getting started with KCS, consider starting with these five steps:
1. Define KPIs and objectives
When you’re first implementing KCS, it’s important to define KPIs and objectives that will indicate whether you’ve made progress in your strategy. These objectives can relate to customers, employees, or processes that you’re trying to improve and should be tied to core business metrics, such as First Contact Resolution or the ratio of support costs to revenue.
2. Create a content template
You’ll see higher KCS adoption rates from your support agents if you make it easy for them to capture new knowledge when they’re working with customers.
You may need multiple different templates for different issues. For example, ServiceNow uses three KCS template types: Solution, How To, and What Is. Templates should include sections that capture what the customer issue is, which area of the business the problem relates to, and the exact steps the agent took to resolve the issue. It’s also a good idea to include applicable keywords to improve searchability, as well as any related resources.
3. Develop and outline your process
Customer service agents should follow a consistent process when it comes to implementing KCS in their daily workflow.
You’ll need to make it clear what steps they need to take in finding or documenting knowledge, and how to flag an article for review. If you use Zendesk Guide, it’s easy to request or create new knowledge within the Context Panel. A tool like Answer Search makes it exceptionally simple for agents to find and reuse answers from historical support tickets or your help center.
A critical part of this process is helping agents understand that your knowledge base is the first port of call when they’re helping customers. This will require building a new habit, so it may take some time and repetition to achieve.
4. Create a KCS knowledge base for your employees
The backbone of your KCS strategy is your internal knowledge base for your customer service representatives. This will be the central storehouse of knowledge and the first place agents turn to when they encounter a problem. The knowledge base should be easily searchable and present content in an easy-to-find format.
Zendesk Guide is the logical solution for Zendesk customers, but you can also look at third party knowledge base software like Helpjuice. If you’re using another ticketing system, chances are it includes some kind of knowledge base component as well.
5. Teach your employees the new system
Teams implementing Knowledge-Centered Service will need guidance on how to properly implement the methodology before they can be successful. This is related to the “Leadership and Communication” step in the Double Loop Process — you need to make sure every customer service rep understands the purpose of KCS and how it can help them be more effective with customers.
A little extra time spent documenting issues can pay huge dividends down the road.
Knowledge-Centered Service is important for any organization with a customer service department. It’s a proven and effective way to improve the level of service you offer your customers.
Without KCS, you’ll find it hard to scale your support organization and repeatedly deliver great experiences for your customers. But when agents take advantage of KCS, they have a better experience and overall productivity and effectiveness is enhanced.
If you follow these practical steps for Knowledge-Centered Service, you’ll eventually embed KCS into your organization’s DNA. Over time, you’ll build an increasingly valuable library of resources for your customer service team and customers.
Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She’s a blogging sensei — you’ll often find her writing case studies, help documentation, and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates.