The more you know: Knowledge management can be a crucial component for startup success

By Editor September 21, 2012
Doron Herzlich, nanoRep

Doron Herzlich, nanoRepGuest Column by Doron Herzlich, co-founder and CEO of nanoRep

The role of customer service has evolved significantly over the years from answering customer queries with ‘the customer is always right’ motto to converging customer service and knowledge management to maximize the business value of knowledge within a company. Knowledge should be used as a company asset. Early-stage startup companies should understand this so when they build the foundation of the company, knowledge management is a core focal point. Knowledge management initiatives that are focused on corporate strategic business goals can provide significant ROI and long-term competitive advantage by improving the total customer experience.

As Forrester Research analyst Kate Leggett puts it—the right knowledge delivered at the right time during customer service resolution is crucial for successful interaction. Today, to maintain a unified customer approach, delivering consistent answers to customer queries in real-time is a struggle given the volume of corporate knowledge that customer service departments manage every day. Knowledge management systems typically capture information from documents and employees and store the knowledge in a database. However, often times these databases fail due to the enormous amount of work it requires from employees supporting the knowledge initiative. In addition, the information is often stored in various silos that make accessing it cumbersome and sometimes impossible. What are some knowledge management strategies that startup companies implement to manage vast amounts of knowledge rather than maintain knowledge in disconnected silos that could eventually turn customers away?

Some effective methods for implementing a knowledge management system are:

  • Capturing Information from Customers: Knowledge capture is done from corporate documents, employees, management and customers. Most knowledge management systems focus internally and have employees contribute information to the knowledge base and overlook the customer contribution to the knowledge management system. By doing such, start-up companies side step their most important asset: knowledge that is in demand by the most loyal supporters of the company and the ones that ultimately determine corporate business success. Customer contribution to a knowledge base can be done as customers ask questions via email, forums, live chat, and interactive widgets on a company’s website or Facebook page, the questions and answers can be stored in the knowledge base. This serves as a unified repository for the entire wealth of customer-generated feedback and company responses. A knowledge base of this sort has the potential to become so robust that in just a few months it could answer and anticipate the majority of customer questions. The advantages are two-fold: customers receive the technology support, upgrade information, and billing accommodations they are calling about, and company executives gain a better understanding of customer demands, so they can offer an enhanced user experience and use the knowledge base to create strategic goals.
  • A Single Knowledge Base: A single knowledge base is crucial. It is important to enforce that all corporate information is located in a single knowledge base to avoid information stored in various silos that are difficult or impossible to retrieve.
  • Analytics: The ability to analyze the effectiveness of a knowledge management system and its impact on customers is a key component to aligning customer service initiatives with business goals. Keeping track of the information in a knowledge base and creating charts that easily demonstrate stored information, measuring customer conversion rates and traffic, and accessing frequently asked questions are all invaluable pieces of information that will help align the corporate strategy to customer demands and ultimately give a company a stronger competitive advantage.
  • Supportive Executive Team: The impact that a knowledge management system has on the larger business goals of a corporation should be voiced to the executive team so they will enforce that employees participate in the knowledge initiative.

Analyst groups such as Gartner and Forrester have echoed the importance of knowledge management in call centers and customer service departments. Knowledge management ensures self-service for customers that is flexible, cost-effective and allows for a greater ROI without the need for additional staff. Understanding the need for self service, nanoRep, a customer service software company, developed a single knowledge management system for sales and support initiatives.

The system provides customers accurate answers in seconds, from a single knowledge base, that extends across multiple channels—including email, forums, live chat, and interactive widgets for mobile devices, websites and Facebook pages. The scalable, self-learning Q&A knowledge management software operates in 34 languages and answers up to 92 percent of customers’ questions, enabling more self-service for customers.

In today’s competitive landscape, converging customer service and knowledge management is a key component to ensuring a positive customer experience and a wiser strategic business plan.

A serial entrepreneur, Herzlich has founded and served as CEO of a number of successful companies including Optibase (NASDAQ: OBAS), VCON (Euronext: VCON and acquired), Mediagate (assets acquired), Tricenet (acquired), and Cellex (privately owned). He also founded the STRIMM Consortium with seven companies. Doron holds a BSc. in Electrical Engineering from the Technion, in Israel.