How to implement Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) in Zendesk
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Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) is a popular methodology used in customer service organizations to capture and reuse agent (and organizational) knowledge, thereby improving the quality of support a team provides.
We’ve also created a more general guide on the KCS methodology and the benefits it brings for support teams.
At its core, KCS is a cultural mindset.
The Consortium of Service Innovation (creators of KCS) explain it this way: “KCS is not something we do in addition to solving problems. It becomes the way we solve problems.”
Most companies start their documentation journey by making an individual or a small team responsible for managing a help center or an internal knowledge base. That’s a great first step towards enabling self-service, and it can result in high-quality, helpful content. But producing documentation doesn’t automatically translate to everyone in your team using it.
Adopting the KCS methodology shifts your knowledge base to being a collective responsibility.
Everyone in your team becomes responsible for writing, contributing to, editing, and updating that content — so everyone has to use it. It’s a far more collaborative method, and the result is that your knowledge base grows faster and stays more accurate.
If you use Zendesk Support and Zendesk Guide as your primary support tools and want to try KCS, you can! Many of the features that are already available within Zendesk (or within the Zendesk Marketplace) work perfectly for Knowledge-Centered Service .
Applying Knowledge-Centered Service principles to Zendesk Guide
The KCS methodology is built on four fundamental principles:
Sometimes it’s easy to discount principles and jump straight into tactics, but these principles are foundational to the KCS methodology. Successfully implementing KCS relies on training your customer support agents to work in a way that aligns with them.
Say your entire support department has 100 people in it.
Implementing KCS correctly means that all 100 people should be involved in creating and maintaining knowledge. Why? Because Knowledge-Centered Service is built on the idea that the best people for writing and updating your knowledge base are the ones who have to use it every day.
It might be tempting to assume that implementing KCS in a team of 100 people will be messy and hard to manage. Often, the opposite is actually the case. The more people you involve in this process, the greater the amount of knowledge you can capture and the better quality content you’ll create — because there will be far more eyes viewing it.
To be clear, you can build checks and balances into your KCS process. For instance, you might enable anyone on the team to draft a new knowledge article, but it wouldn’t go live until a team lead reviews it.
But the principle of abundance means recognizing that every member of your team has something valuable to contribute.
Recognize and reward agents who contribute many updates. Incentivizing activities can help agents develop good habits in the early days of your KCS program.
Knowledge-Centered Service works for both internal and external knowledge bases. To apply this principle within Zendesk, you can:
Allow all agents the user permissions to edit and write articles in Guide.
If an agent encounters an issue without a related article, equip them to create an article that documents their solution immediately.
Recognize and reward agents who contribute many updates. Incentivizing activities can help agents develop good habits in the early days of your KCS program, but best practice is to include an end date to those reward programs.
Creating value is the concept that capturing knowledge as part of an interaction is valuable.
Your support team spends most of its time interacting with customers. Their primary focus is on solving each ticket. In fact, many teams try to maximize the time they spend on tickets and reduce any “distractions” outside of that.
KCS is only successful when working with knowledge is considered part of that core support process, not a separate task. The ideal process in Zendesk looks like this:
An agent opens a ticket and searches for the answer in your knowledge base.
If they find one, they use it. If they don’t find one, they write the response for the customer and create an article from it.
Providing a solution to one customer creates a little bit of value. Documenting that solution so it can be easily provided to thousands of future customers creates way more value. An agent may need to spend a little more time on that first ticket, but the downstream effects are significant.
The easiest way to enable this behavior is by using Zendesk’s native Knowledge Capture App (although many alternatives are available in the Zendesk Marketplace). The general goal is to make your knowledge base easily accessible for all agents using Zendesk Support, removing any barriers that would stop them from using it when they’re working on support tickets.
The last thing you want is someone spending time creating dozens of articles that will never get used. Fortunately, KCS isn’t about anticipating potential issues that customers or agents might need help with in the future. It’s all about the existing demand.
In the Knowledge-Centered Service framework, knowledge is a byproduct of an interaction. You create and update knowledge while responding to tickets, which means only useful articles end up in your knowledge base. Zendesk apps can help a ton with this:
Use a tool like Answer Search to help agents validate their responses and confirm an article is needed (before they create another one).
Cull articles that get written and don’t get linked, used, or edited for years. You can track this using Zendesk Explore or a third-party tool like Help Center Analytics.
The final KCS principle is trust. KCS is only successful if your team is engaged, empowered, and motivated. That means:
Trusting that every person on the team has knowledge that they can contribute.
Your team trusts that their work on the knowledge base is recognized and valued.
This doesn’t mean sacrificing quality for the sake of quantity. As mentioned above, you can adjust permissions so that agents can only create draft articles. Team leads — or a dedicated documentation specialist — can then review and publish it.
Be strategic, but remember that working with a principle of trust at the center means reducing bottlenecks wherever possible.
Using the Knowledge Capture App for the KCS Double Loop Process
The Knowledge Capture App is available to all Zendesk Guide customers. Fortunately, it includes most of the core functionality you need to implement Knowledge-Centered Service.
Your business is unique, and KCS can be implemented within Zendesk in many different ways. But let’s walk through one example showing what implementing KCS in Zendesk could look like.
Tackling the KCS Solve Loop in Zendesk
The Solve Loop is the meat of the KCS methodology. It’s all about how your agents capture, reuse, and improve knowledge as part of their day-to-day work. That might sound complex, but it’s more complicated in theory than it is in practice.
The Solve Loop has four steps: capture, structure, reuse, and improve.
Say you open a ticket and look for an article about a topic. When you’re just starting with KCS, an article will likely not exist. You can create an article easily with the Knowledge Capture App, without even opening a separate tab:
Decide what should happen when an article is created. You can either create a draft for review or have it published.
Create an article from the relevant template (more on this in the next step).
It’s easier to create and use knowledge when it follows a common structure. When your knowledge articles are structured, everyone knows what to expect — from agents to customers. To structure your Zendesk Guide knowledge base:
Set up some templates in advance for the different types of issues your team encounters.
Organize your articles in sections and categories.
Being able to search for and link content during an interaction is essential for KCS. It’s also the only way to ensure that your team isn’t constantly recreating articles that already exist.
When your team searches for an article and finds one that answers the question at hand, Zendesk enables a few core KCS tactics:
Use the Knowledge Capture App to search and link articles directly within support tickets.
Use the Knowledge Capture Dashboard within Zendesk Explore to keep track of which articles are used over time. This can help you understand what’s working and find ways to improve your knowledge base and product over time.
The final step of the KCS Solve Loop is to review and improve articles. When your agents find an article that is outdated or unhelpful, they should take one of two actions:
They can flag articles and leave a comment explaining what needs changing, which opens a ticket. You can use Zendesk triggers and views to route and manage that ticket, just like a ticket that you’d receive from a customer.
Agents can fix small issues immediately. For example, if a UI term has been changed in your product, Help Center Manager allows you to bulk update that word across all articles.
The KCS Evolve Loop in Zendesk
The Evolve Loop is the second part of the KCS Double Loop Process. Whereas the Solve Loop focused on the actual work of solving tickets and creating knowledge, the Evolve Loop focuses on continuously improving knowledge management across your company over time.
A big part of determining what knowledge management looks like across your company is dependent upon your company culture. You’ll need to work with other internal stakeholders to figure those pieces out. But there’s one other part of the Evolve Loop that’s critical for long-term Knowledge-Centered Service: developing processes that support the Solve Loop.
It’s about assessing what’s working and defining future improvements to your KCS process.
Content health & performance assessment
An outdated or low quality knowledge base doesn’t help your customers or your agents. If anything, it hurts your brand.
This means it’s imperative to review your knowledge regularly for accuracy and usability. Analytics are your best friend here. Zendesk has a few standard dashboards and recipes that can help (like the Knowledge Capture Dashboard). Apps like Help Center Analytics take those basic reports to the next level, unlocking significantly more value from your Zendesk Guide data.
To identify articles that aren’t performing well, try using metrics like article to ticket conversion rate. This metric (available within Help Center Analytics) helps you understand how successful an article is at deflecting tickets. Here’s how to calculate it on your own:
Article to ticket conversion = (# of tickets created after visiting an article / total article views) * 100
For example, if 100 tickets are generated after visiting an article and it has 1200 total views for the last month, then your article to ticket conversion rate equals (100/1200) * 100 or 8.33%.
Article to ticket conversion rate gives you clear insight into how well a help center article deflects tickets
Zendesk Guide also allows visitors to vote on whether specific articles were helpful or not, which gives you another useful data point for determining where you can improve your knowledge base. Apps like Help Center Analytics use this data to calculate a Helpfulness Score — the percentage of positive votes out of the total votes — which you can track over time and aggregate for each article, section, category, and more.
Lastly, remember that if you’ve involved your agents in creating knowledge base content, then part of improving your Knowledge-Centered Service might include coaching and training agents to develop better content..
The best way to integrate KCS into your support team’s processes is to ensure knowledge is easily accessible in Zendesk Support. KCS can’t be a separate task or project — it’s part of the valuable work your support team does all day, every day.
That’s why apps like the Knowledge Capture App make a massive difference for Zendesk users. Implementing Knowledge-Centered Service requires a mindset shift. It requires developing new habits. And it’s always easiest to develop new habits when they’re convenient.
Improving your support with knowledge management
KCS is a shift that can transform your support team's work and your company culture. Change goes smoother when the tools you’re using makes it easy to adopt. The less friction there is, the faster your team will get on board and the faster you’ll begin to see results from the change.
The great news is that between its native functionality and the app marketplace, Zendesk is already equipped with all the tools you need to get started using Knowledge-Centered Service.
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Written by Nouran Smogluk
Nouran is a passionate people manager who believes that work should be a place where people grow, develop, and thrive. She writes for Supported Content and also blogs about a variety of topics, including remote work, leadership, and creating great customer experiences.