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Knowledge management systems

Knowledge management systems empower customers and employees to self-serve, saving your team time and resources. Try a KMS during a free trial.

Knowledge management systems: A complete guide

Senast uppdaterad February 7, 2024

Customer service reps can only talk and type so fast and handle so many cases at once. They can’t meet all demands or resolve all requests without some help—that’s where a knowledge management system (KMS) comes in.

Knowledge management solutions make it easy for reps and users to find the information they need quickly. These tools promote internal and external self-service practices that lead to better operational efficiency and outcomes. These systems work so well that 67 percent of users prefer using KMS self-service over speaking directly with a service rep. Read on to learn how to incorporate a KMS into your business.

More in this guide:

What is a knowledge management system?

A knowledge management system is a tool that enables you to gather, store, update, and access all existing knowledge within your business, be it troubleshooting guides, FAQs, or tutorials.

A KMS helps you provide self-service options to customers, employees, business partners, and more, making it easy to find and share information.

Generally, there are three types of knowledge contained in your KMS:

  1. Explicit knowledge: easily shareable information, like data
  2. Tacit knowledge: intangible and unique information, like personal customer experiences
  3. Implicit knowledge: information used for problem-solving and implementing explicit knowledge, like an instruction manual

Types of knowledge management tools

Your knowledge management app isn’t just one tool—it’s a combination of tools that promote self-service help to your users. Here are the three key types of knowledge management tools.

A list of the three common knowledge management systems for self-service: help centers, chatbots, and community forums.
  • Knowledge bases are reference libraries of company information that employees, customers, and reps can use to find answers to their questions.
  • Chatbots are AI-powered tools that can provide personalized customer service and answer customer queries by pulling relevant information from your knowledge base or FAQ software.
  • Community forums are online platforms where customers can ask questions and seek help from other users facing similar issues. Customer service agents can also respond to customer comments, queries, and feedback, offering direct support.

Real knowledge management system examples

Let’s take a look at how real companies use knowledge management best practices to improve their operations. Use these knowledge management system examples as inspiration for your own KMS.

  • Upwork: The online job marketplace prominently features a search bar at the top of its help center, so customers can easily find the information they need. Users can filter content based on their designated account type: freelancer, agency, or client.
  • Khan Academy: Members of this online educator can access community forums through Khan Academy’s help center. They can find peer-to-peer teaching tips or troubleshoot technical issues.
  • Sentral: Agents can reference the hospitality company’s internal knowledge base and submit requests to subject matter experts for more information. The company tracks the requests to identify where more documentation is necessary.

Benefits of using knowledge management systems

Knowledge management systems offer various benefits to your employees and customers. Here’s how a KMS can support your internal and external operations.

Some of the benefits of using a knowledge management system include 24/7 global support, increased customer retention, reduced customer service workloads, faster onboarding, and improved team alignment.

24/7 global support

With resources like troubleshooting guides, FAQs, and video tutorials, a knowledge management system’s comprehensive self-service library provides customers with worldwide, 24/7 support. An external, customer-facing KMS can offer multilingual support through language translation features, ensuring accessibility for a global audience.

Take Spartan Race as an example. The obstacle race and endurance brand created 40 help centers with Zendesk to better serve customers in the countries in which it operates. As a result, customers can access regionally relevant and up-to-date information on races and events 24/7. Customers get answers when they need them, without waiting for agent assistance.

Increased customer retention

When customers experience frictionless journeys with your company, they’re more likely to return. An external KMS smooths out customer journeys by providing quick, accurate answers to common questions, preventing the frustration that arises from waiting on hold for an agent. Your KMS can further contribute to customer retention by recommending relevant knowledge base articles and providing targeted solutions to the problems customers are experiencing.

Improved operational efficiency

A KMS can enhance customer and employee experiences by centralizing and organizing important information. External KMSs empower customers to find answers and fix issues independently, minimizing the need for agent intervention. This allows agents to dedicate more time to complex cases and focus on providing personalized care for higher-level issues.

Internal KMSs provide a similar level of support to employees. Instead of feeling frustrated while searching for answers or waiting for guidance from colleagues, an agent can easily access accurate information on their own. This increased efficiency helps them achieve operational goals, like reducing first reply times and resolution rates.

Faster employee onboarding

It's not always practical or feasible to assign managers or coworkers to guide new hires through every step of the onboarding process. An internal KMS can streamline the onboarding process by making it easy for new hires to find information on company policies, best practices, and training materials, freeing up experienced colleagues to focus on their primary responsibilities. New hires can learn at their own pace without waiting for guidance from their managers.

Improved team alignment

An internal KMS acts as your company’s single source of truth, helping to ensure everyone is on the same page. Instead of departments operating within data silos, each team references the same up-to-date information, eliminating confusion and conflicting document versions.

Get this: Fender uses an internal knowledge base to facilitate communication between teams that may otherwise have little interaction, such as business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) operations. The mega-guitar manufacturer now uses knowledge base software to bring together teams across the company.

How to create a knowledge management program

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of knowledge management, let’s look at how you can create your own program.

A list identifies the five steps for creating a knowledge base program: Gather resources, organize your knowledge, analyze your knowledge base activity, keep knowledge up to date, and integrate it with your other systems.

1. Gather resources

When it comes to knowledge management systems, there’s no such thing as a useless piece of information—only outdated information. Inventory your existing resources to see what you already have, what needs updating, and what you need to create. Some KMSs, like Zendesk, can highlight knowledge gaps using AI-powered tools that identify which articles need revising.

Tip: At this stage, it’s a good time to note which materials are intended exclusively for internal use. You’ll avoid accidentally sharing sensitive company documents and make it easier to structure customer-facing content.

2. Organize your knowledge

After you consolidate your company knowledge in one place, you have to organize it and make it easy to search. The general rule with knowledge organization is to think of it less like a dictionary and more like a cascade. Start with broad topics (categories) and work your way through subtopics until you end up with precise, niche information. Before you add categories and sections in line with knowledge base best practices, take the time to lay out your plans.

Tip: Your sales and service teams probably have a solid idea of what topics customers are most interested in or which products receive the most complaints and concerns. Reach out to your employees to craft guiding topics to inform the rest of your knowledge base creation.

3. Analyze your knowledge base activity

Your KMS is a great source of information for customer behavior and interests. Analyzing clicks, searches, and popular topics can provide a ton of valuable insight into what customers are most curious or confused about.

When users interact with your KMS, every button they touch is logged and reportable. To better illustrate this, take a look at a Zendesk sample report:

A screenshot displays the reporting page of the Zendesk knowledge management system.

The Zendesk KMS reporting feature lets you select any reporting period and then customize your metrics by channels and datasets like:

  • Articles: total number of new articles created in the knowledge base during the reporting period
  • Views: total number of article views during the reporting period by both customers and employees
  • Net votes: the difference between the positive and negative votes on articles during the reporting period
  • Subscriptions: the total number of user subscriptions for sections and articles during the reporting period
  • Comments: the total number of article comments during the reporting period

Based on these datasets, you can see which knowledge sections get the most hits and enhance those articles. You can also look at which pieces have the most comments and ensure all questions in that article are answered appropriately and effectively.

4. Keep your knowledge up to date

Bear in mind that if you update a product, you must update everything in your KMS relating to that product. That includes:

  • Instructional materials
  • Troubleshooting materials
  • Pricing information
  • Purchase locations (if applicable)

The goal of your KMS is to enhance customer satisfaction and make life easier for your buyers and employees. This is difficult to achieve if there are inconsistencies across your knowledge management solution.

Tip: If there are significant changes to the information in your KMS, send out alerts to notify your employees and ensure accurate information across all departments.

5. Integrate it with your other systems

To get the most value of your knowledge management app, make sure it integrates with key software, systems, and tools. For example, ticketing software can integrate with your knowledge base and suggest relevant articles for agents to use in their responses. With Zendesk, we offer pre-built knowledge and content management integrations to make your KMS as efficient and accessible as possible.

Frequently asked questions

How to choose the right knowledge management system

A good knowledge management system enables your team to do more in less time and with fewer resources, integrates with your support systems, and automates self-service—all of which Zendesk excels at. Discover how Zendesk knowledge management software makes information and resources more accessible for you with our free 14-day trial. Your customers and employees will thank you.

Related knowledge management guides

Knowledge management systems can take the form of many tools and systems. Explore more guides that can help you level-up your knowledge sharing.

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