Effective knowledge management provides not only the basis for the use of Chatbots in IT Support, but also brings many benefits to the conventional support context. As an introduction, the following example should demonstrate the importance of being able to access the right information at the right time:
A caravan is trekking through the desert. What is most important for the travellers’ survival? For most, the first thing that comes to mind is probably water. However, if the journey continues over several days, the caravan may not have the capacity to carry all the water it requires. The decisive factor is therefore knowledge, e.g. information that identifies where the caravan can replenish its water supply on its way through the desert. In this situation, information about the required object is more important than the object itself. The information provides the basis for planning the route with milestones and rest breaks, or under some circumstances, for the decision to discontinue the journey, e.g. if the destination can no longer be reached. The great advantage: The travellers know this in advance and not first when it is too late.
And this is the moment in which knowledge management excels and shows its real value.
In knowledge management, not only the possession of information plays a role. If we return to the example of the desert caravan, in addition to the question “what is needed?” (water), it is equally important to clarify “How do you find what is needed? (Information on where water can be found along the route, e.g. a map) and who needs the sought object? (Can they read a map and how long do they need to cover the distance between waterholes, etc.)
And this is exactly the problem faced by many companies in the technical support context. Either the necessary information simply doesn’t exist or, if it exists, it can’t be found. Or the information is found but is documented in a form that the user who needs it cannot understand and consequently cannot use.
This is compounded by the fact that the volume of information required in day-to-day business is growing steadily. It is therefore increasingly important that this expanding volume of data is well structured. If use of a virtual support agent is desired (see parts 1 of this series “Chatbots in an IT Support Context”), a well-structured knowledge management system with a knowledge database that conforms to specific rules is absolutely essential.
One of the first principles for an effective knowledge management structure is the division of information into so-called knowledge objects. Every object is assigned a unique ID and, if necessary, is stored in multiple languages. The quality of a knowledge object is measured in terms of the relevance of its information for the end users. If the knowledge object describes how to correct a fault, it also includes a description of all the symptoms that the user might identify in the respective product.
The clear, unequivocal description of symptoms is essential for success. The structuring of symptoms in so-called “Symptom Trees” or “Solution Trees” (decision trees that lead to an effective solution based on symptoms identified by the user), is an extremely important element of knowledge management.
Solution trees are comprised of a series of questions targeted to the user and their potential answers. These make it easier for the support agent (human or virtual) to understand and classify the question, and to finally match it with the correct knowledge object in the database. Key words are defined and assigned to each knowledge object in the database and this further optimises the quality of the search.
Finally, each knowledge object includes directions for resolving the respective issue. These take the form of step-by-step instructions that can be passed on to the user.
In addition to the significance of creating an optimal structure, other important cornerstones in a successful knowledge management system include a competent knowledge management team, regular reporting, database maintenance and updates, and also regular quality control.
If each of these factors can be realised, the company will benefit from significant advantages:
- User acceptance increases significantly, e.g. due to faster ticket processing in technical support.
- Technical support costs can be reduced through more efficient ticket handling. Especially in the case of low support levels, more tickets can be processed in less time.
- The time and effort spent training new employees decreases and, at the same time, dependence on the service provider drops.
- Through targeted analysis (frequency of knowledge object retrieval), recurrent software faults and problems can be pinpointed, assessed and rectified faster. This boosts efficiency.
- Employee satisfaction increases since lower support levels also have the opportunity to increase their expertise through the knowledge management system.
The first and most decisive step in the transition from human to virtual support agents is achieved with the successful development of a structured knowledge management system. This is the foundation. After all, a bot can only help when the necessary knowledge exists, can be found and is in a form that can be understood.
Learn how IT support can make the transition from human to virtual support in the final contribution of our three-part series “Chatbots in an IT Support Context”.
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