Cinda Daly. Who is the champion of knowledge sharing in your organization?

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1 This interview is recreated here by permission from HDI, a UBM Americas company. The interview first appeared in SupportWorld, November/December, Knowledge Management at Coveo: Transparency and Collaboration Across the Enterprise and Out to Customers Diane Berry, Chief Knowledge Evangelist and Ed Shepherdson, Vice President of Business Optimization and Adoption When it comes to knowledge management and Knowledge-Centered Support best practices, Coveo has a decided edge. They re in the business. In a nutshell, Coveo technologies harness information from across any system and source in an organization s infrastructure and securely transform it into relevant, contextual, actionable knowledge for users. Coveo is positioned in the Gartner 2014 Magic Quadrant as a visionary leader in enterprise search technology. It quickly became evident talking with Coveo s Diane Berry and Ed Shepherdson that this organization walks the talk. They have robust tools, tools that they create. But, without the philosophy, culture, and processes infused throughout their company, they wouldn t be much better off than any other company even with the best tools in place striving to sustain knowledge management initiatives and bring enterprise transparency to employees and customers. They re a small, young global company, headquartered in Quebec City, Canada, with about 200 employees spread across Canada, the U.S., and EMEA. It was simply delightful to uncover how Coveo champions knowledge management best practices, collaborates across the enterprise, and opens the vault for their customers. I looked for tidbits you can use to advance your own KCS programs, regardless of your tools. Cinda Daly. Who is the champion of knowledge sharing in your organization? Diane Berry. There is no single champion; knowledge sharing is engrained in our culture. We reach into all our systems and share openly throughout Coveo. We re spoiled. We have our own technology, we use it extensively and live inside of it. Based upon the kind of work we do and the technology we take to market, we leverage what we call the long tail of knowledge within our company. That long tail is knowledge that goes beyond the 20% that is normally curated and shared within an organization. We Daly Interview Transparency and Collaboration Across the Enterprise and Out to Customers Page 1

2 understand security and trust it so that we re able to open all of our sources to everyone and know that they ll only see what their role and permissions dictate. Ed Shepherdson. Organizational transparency sits at the root of our knowledge management practices. As an organization operating in an era of pervasive socialization, coupled with the fact that our technology enables us to share our information easily, we are a social company. Our engineers, product developers, support people, marketing people, everyone. We all share. This is what we do, and social collaboration is part of way we do business today. Daly. You said that knowledge sharing has been in your culture from the beginning. What insight would you share with others that don t have this culture fully engrained yet? Berry. It s very important to understand that knowledge sharing goes beyond technology. You can t just put everything in every system and assume that people will use it. Be sure that you have the processes in place so that the knowledge that is being shared is the knowledge people need to do their work. Daly. Ed, you very recently transitioned to a new role from vice president of customer success. With that hat back on, tell me a little bit about your support organization? Shepherdson. Our customer support organization is not large, about 15 people. Because of our organizational transparency we have deep repository of knowledge and an inherent network of people that extends outward to our experts in R&D, in product management, in marketing who all have direct access to the content and the people surrounding it. We are always regenerating and optimizing knowledge so we don t have to recreate the wheel. So while the group s function is customer service, they aren t limited at all in their scope or access to knowledge. What this network allows us to do is respond quickly, accurately, and with high quality. We re interactively driving the customer conversation, guide them to the answers they need. Our support workflow continues seamlessly, without putting people on hold. Our customers get a very strong sense that when they have an issue, we are in control of that issue and will resolve it for them. Daly. What frameworks do you follow and what toolset underpins your customer support organization? Shepherdson. The Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS) methodology was built into our products and our processes from the beginning. Everyone takes responsibility for the knowledge they create and use, a core KCS principle. For sales and customer support, we use a leading CRM system with an integrated knowledge management capability, a SaaS-base customer service tool, and an Ask technology that drives askcoveo, our community interaction platform. Daly. To what extent do you make knowledge directly available to your customers? Shepherdson. We opened our support portal about two years ago. Our goal was to create the same experience for people who ask a question in the portal and can look up solutions themselves as it was to ask a human being. Our customers have a conversation with the information, and when they use the portal, they have more time to describe the situation. In so doing, since it s a navigational experience, they start uncovering background information that often leads to the answer they need as a standard part of the self-service workflow. Sometimes they don t ask their question in a succinct way, or ask the right question about their problem because they might incorrectly assume what the problem Daly Interview Transparency and Collaboration Across the Enterprise and Out to Customers Page 2

3 actually is. Through the flow of information that is gathered during the inquiry, we can guide them to better define the issue and, potentially, uncover the resolution. Daly. How did you encourage customer adoption? Shepherdson. This environment came about in large part because our customers requested it; so the transition was really not at all difficult. Customers could easily see their own cases, add comments to their cases without having to make a phone call, and access that information outside work hours. That was clearly beneficial to them. We used the case logging mechanism to drive adoption and encouraged our customers to use the portal as the most effective way to open a case. When people called in, we directed them to the portal log in page. If the agents log the case in the portal for them, we let them know that all updates about the case will come through the portal. Once the call is logged, we send out a portal link so the customer can monitor progress and, ideally, begin searching for answers on their own. Berry. At the same time we launched the portal, we opened a new community for Sitecore developers, a shared environment for developers and implementers to ask technical questions, design questions, and share ideas about different ways to use the solution. Shepherdson. The community was a centerpiece, and we marketed the two capabilities together. It s quite a rich repository that benefits everybody; they share experiences, techniques, best practices which builds trust among the members of community and enhances the use of Sitecore. Daly. How much of your knowledgebase is open to your customers? Shepherdson. There is a lot of cross reference to the actual Coveo knowledgebase, but there are two different worlds. There s no limit to the sources of where the information comes from, but sharing this knowledge is more than just giving access to a technical document. Our products are easy to use, but there s a level of complexity to understand. It s the how to, why, where, and the interrelationship of all the variables. So, to open the knowledgebase meant understanding the right customer context, the right type of information that our customers need, and then packaging that information for them in the optimal way. Context is critical for guiding people through the knowledge to reach the correct conclusion. Daly. What impact has this level of knowledge sharing had on customer satisfaction? Shepherdson We have a focused set of customers who are quite technical; they re IT developers. When we opened the portal, it did improve customer satisfaction; although we had a pretty high rate to begin with. What our portal did was reduce the customer effort; they recognized that we were not only helping them solve problems, we were making it easier for them to do business with us. Daly. Some people are skeptical of the information they might share, or uncover, fearful that they might be sharing incorrect or incomplete information, or divulging proprietary information. That s sometimes a barrier to knowledge sharing. How do you address that fear? Berry. Open sharing, of course, is based on good security practices and permissions. With that in place, you listen to the crowd; let them curate knowledge. Let them speak through their use of data, then let the data speak, based upon the use, to the knowledge management champions in each department. Let Daly Interview Transparency and Collaboration Across the Enterprise and Out to Customers Page 3

4 people know about the state of knowledge curation, and let people say what they think about that knowledge. It s a fundamental KCS principle that we embrace. People are smart, and employees want to use the most recent data. If they find benefit from using the knowledge, and see others benefitting as well, they ll also start contributing. It becomes a very virtuous cycle. Daly. That s a good segue to talk about Coveo s use of KCS principles in other areas of your enterprise, specifically your HR group. What drove that migration? Berry. We have about 200 employees. We grew 50 % last year, and are growing another 50% this year; Our hiring organization needs to support this fast growth; so it s been very important to onboard people quickly. One of the greatest contributors to our success is based on our transparency and the amount of information that we make available to people. We didn t need to recreate the wheel when we introduced the process to the hiring organization. Daly. Your experience is consistent with our findings in the HDI/itSMF research, Service Management: Not Just for IT Anymore. More than half the organizations are applying service management principles in areas outside of IT, and knowledge management is one of the most common practices showing up across the enterprise. Enabling technology was the primary driver for 67% of these organizations. Berry. It s important for organizations practicing knowledge management, or any other discipline, to make sure that when they acquire tools those same tools are extensible to the rest of the organization. That s a very important tenet. Beyond the tool, when people can t find information, they stop looking, use wrong information, or, worse yet, use no information. At that point, decisions become less than optimal, products they are creating may be less innovative than products they ve created before; they re reinventing the wheel too often, especially when it comes to regulatory guidelines. Historically, companies have curated about 20% of the content they have because it s really all they can manage to do. In those cases, they have to rely on the crowd, on employees to help curate that content. And, if they fail to do so, they make 20% available, their KM initiatives will be doomed to siloes and failure because people won t trust it. So business strategy and growth hinge on knowledge sharing. Daly. How do you train your employees when it comes to knowledge management? Berry. Companies have to help employees gain skills and knowledge as they need them in the flow of their work. When you can present knowledge that way, it helps your organization become more adaptive and flexible, particularly in a rapidly changing environment. We have very extensive onboarding training in our R&D headquarters in Quebec City, including a full day of training on our tools and knowledge sharing practices. We focus on their integration into the culture of the company, not knowledge sharing behaviors per se, although they are trained in KCS principles. Shepherdson. When you look at organizations that have many systems of record, they often spend hours and days teaching people what system to use, where to go, how to find information in that system: Use SAP for this, use Service Cloud for that, use.... Just fill in the blank. This is all wasted effort. Daly Interview Transparency and Collaboration Across the Enterprise and Out to Customers Page 4

5 We teach people how to find information. They don t care where the information comes from; they just want the information they need when they need it. It accelerates new employee confidence and integration into the company, and it accelerates the curve for them to start contributing knowledge as well. We ve found that this eliminates almost 40-50% of the onboarding effort. Daly. What role did your customer support team play in bringing KM to your HR organization? Was it a planned initiative, or did it happen organically? Berry. It happened organically, and there have been tune ups along the way. If anyone is feeling a lack of knowledge or information, or they know what our tools can do but they don t have what they need, they re not afraid to speak up. My advice is always to listen to your employee users, empower them to speak up, and when they do, follow up on that feedback. Shepherdson. I spend a considerable amount of time with business optimization and adoption. Everyone at Coveo has a voice; they can ask, request, and share information. The most important thing we can do is understand what knowledge our employees are using and what knowledge they pass on to others The best catalyst for organic growth, or for breaking down silos, occurs at that point when individuals realize that the information they are producing is being used by someone else in another organization. Or, realizing that the information they re uncovering from another silo is of real value. Understanding how and why people use the information gets groups working together on identifying and filling any gaps that they might not have known even existed. Daly. How do you measure success and build continuous improvement into your knowledge management program? Shepherdson. An analytics view of how your content is used is key to that. When you can identify knowledge usage patterns, there are a number of great outcomes. One is the ability to look for key training areas. For example, when a group of customer service people are 20 searches while others with the same job function can do three searches to find what they need, perhaps they don t know how to ask questions. If I see people searching for information but they re not using the content that emerges as a result, I can look for knowledge gaps in the repository. And, if agents are answering the same question over and over again, I ll want to understand why people aren t finding that answer in the selfservice portal. It s not that you don t want to have a good first contact resolution rate. But the question should be, why is the first contact resolution so high? Is it because they are asking all easy questions and should be using another channel to find answers. An analytics view of how your knowledge is being used is invaluable across the board. About the Author: Cinda Daly, CEO and content strategist, Focus Events, brings her career achievements as an impact player in content strategy, marketing, customer service, and events to enterprise clients. Projects include a variety of initiatives in global event management, online media, and community building, built on a foundation of high quality editorial content, customer advocacy, and knowledge sharing. Daly Interview Transparency and Collaboration Across the Enterprise and Out to Customers Page 5

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