Last week, I had the pleasure of giving a TED-style talk on the future of knowledge management at the Technology Services World (TSW) 2013 Best Practices conference in Santa Clara. The event provided an enlightening forum to discuss the future of customer service, including how new technologies and approaches to knowledge management can empower individuals to become more informed and effective workers.
I had the chance to share our thoughts on how we need to transform knowledge management with the audience, but I also wanted to share them with you.
We’ve been brought up to believe that knowledge acquisition comes through repetition and practice. It’s a key component to Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, where he says that it takes 10 years to become world-class at one thing. And yet, most of us don’t have 10 years to devote to something with the amount of focus it requires to become world class. And we don’t have to, because we’re learning that knowledge is not sequential – it’s personal. The future of learning and knowledge management is not about practice or process – it’s about access and interaction, enabling people to follow their own paths through information based on their own levels of knowledge and experience.
Sugata Mitra, this year’s TED-talk winner, has proven that children, when simply given access to information and encouragement, are able to learn far beyond what we teach in our schools. Even in rural areas where there are no teachers.
And yet, how do we train our customer support agents? Not by teaching them where and how to access information, but by teaching them a process to solve similar cases, over and over. They are given knowledge bases, process flows, CRM systems, etc., but their minds are designed to address problems from a personal perspective. No two agents will take the same path—based on personal preference and their personal levels of knowledge and experience. And what happens when a challenge falls outside of the proscribed process? Process cannot handle context. This is when agents struggle and customers lose confidence. It’s where both customers and agents tend to defect… the customer to another provider and the agent to another employer, if it happens often enough.
Then there is the so-called “Google effect” – people no longer remember things they believe they can find, easily, on the Internet (or on your phone – my iPhone just died and I can’t call a friend I’m meeting this evening – I don’t know her phone number!). On the Internet, finding is easy, however in companies it is not. The Internet is homogeneous, meaning that search engines can easily “find” what you’re looking for, because they can index all web pages easily. In an organization, information is messy, it’s in too many systems, all with different structures and security protocol, and varied in location and format. It’s on-premise, in the cloud, and in social communities and other media. Not only don’t we remember what we know we can find, we can’t even find what we know we’ve created in the past!
So then, if learning and knowledge management are about access and interaction, and yet organizations have highly heterogeneous information infrastructures, making this nearly impossible, the question becomes, “How do we get the right combination of information, at the right point in time, regardless of where the information is – within our agents’ and customers’ contexts – so that it is highly relevant, and they can interact with it based on their own knowledge and experience?” The same question can be asked for each group of employees within an organization. And it is compounded by data overload.
The answer is Indexing & Insight technology. Coveo helps the service agent of the future, today, by presenting them with information that is relevant, no matter where they are, and no matter what they are working on. It’s personalized – just like on the e-commerce websites you visit—only it’s personalized as you open the application, because it knows what you’re working on. The future of knowledge management and access is information from anywhere, presented within any system, and personalized for the agent’s context, and for the customer’s.
The future of knowledge management is not about curation and repetition. Agents will be fluent in knowledge from the combination of information and data that is at their fingertips, and relevant to their context, without needing to memorize it and without remembering where it is located.
With technology, the future is now. Is your organization starting to use the knowledge management processes of the future?