SmartSupport™ vs. SharePoint
Understanding the difference between a Content Management System and a Knowledge Management System
SmartSupport™ is a cutting-edge platform that unifies online knowledge base and community forum management. When choosing between a content management tool and a knowledge management tool, it is best to first outline what knowledge management is, so we can compare and contrast the two methodologies.
Knowledge Management (KM) is defined simply as structuring information for the purpose of support for products, services, and ideas. There are three core KM structures:
- Data – Simply content with no context, for example, phone numbers in a phone book.
- Information – Data with context, for example, there are phone numbers in the phone book, which are plain data, but if you refer to the index, phone numbers are segmented based on type of service, such as pizza restaurants. This is referred to as information, as now our piece of data has simple context, rather than just a listing of numbers.
- Knowledge – Insight gained by familiarity, sight, and experience.
Taking the pizza restaurants example one step further, what if a phone book user asks question about the information presented, for example: “What is the best pizza restaurant?” Now, this question is subjective and highly variable; the best pizza restaurant to one person might mean quality of ingredients and food preparation, while to another it might mean customer service, prices, or location.
Using standard Knowledge Management techniques and best practices, all of the pertinent variables would be presented to the user audience in a fashion suited for them to make the right decision about what is the best pizza place, answering their question in the process.
This is the act of creating knowledge, returning data about data and offering it in a method to answer a customer-centric inquiry in a context that the end user can understand.
Support Information Architecture: CM or KM?
Content Management (CM) is only one piece of the information architecture puzzle. While CM tools offer the ability to contribute, organize/index, review, approve, search, and retrieve content as standard features, they do not structure this content to fit specific needs or purposes, the core tenant of KM.
For example, if customers have a question about a product, they first access the knowledge base to see if they can answer the question themselves. Finding only technical documentation, specifications, and user manuals (which may actually have the answer they seek), they call the assisted support center to get the answer.
Using SharePoint, a common CM tool, an agent that needs to reference the supporting documentation for the answer to the customer’s inquiry would have a number of steps to complete before locating the solution the customer is looking for.
1. Access the SharePoint interface
2. Locate the document containing the relevant information (via search or browsing taxonomy structures)
3. Load it in its native application (Microsoft Word or Adobe Reader, for example)
4. Browse/navigate to find the appropriate content
5. Reform the content to answer the question —in the customer’s words — and then reiterate this back to the customer to finish the support interaction via case management in a CRM tool.
This entire interaction is a time consuming and costly endeavor for both parties involved, and if the correct answer is not provided, the agent may have to repeat this process multiple times.
If the content used needs to be updated based on revealing dialog with the customer, an agent might flag it for review and/or updates, in the process sending this document into a separate content management workflow, disconnected from the support workflow.
While this approach is adequate for managing document-control in the form of versioning and repository stability (low redundancy/accurate updates to the appropriate content), the separation of content management workflow from knowledge management workflow is a glaring flaw in document-centric methodology: it isn’t equipped to handle support volumes companies have to manage in today’s online environment.
In the Safeharbor SmartSupport™ Knowledge Management System, where content is customercentric, the approach is to create content driven by customer interaction. The key components of a knowledge management system with a customer-centric approach are a fast capture/reuse methodology, integration of content management within the KM environment, and the audiencing of data for consumers, not producers.
Using the example on the left for SmartSupport™, if a customer calls the assisted support center to ask a question, the service representative can perform a natural language search using the customer’s terms to interface with the multifaceted, federated content components of SmartSupport™—articles, FAQs, forums, subjects, indexes, tags, comments, and recommendations— to quickly surmise that this question has been addressed within the knowledge base.
There are no documents or applications to load, no information to sort through or summarize—each question has a distinct, stand-alone answer in the forms of SmartSupport™ articles and forum posts, written and tagged with data in the customer’s own lexicon.
If, during the support interaction, dialog reveals why the customer wasn’t able to find the answer to his question online, the agent can take first-person notes within the SmartSupport™ tool-set.
The agent can also choose to directly update the article in question to better serve the customer base, or by kicking off the content update workflow from within SmartSupport™. This is the heart of the fast capture and reuse method: tightly integrating feedback directly back into the management of that content.
Once the content has been initiated, the SmartSupport™ graphical user interface allows the author to quickly create rich, interactive media using straight-forward plug-and-play elements. Videos, images, and stylized web formatting are a click away.
After the content has been reviewed and approved for publication, it can be instantaneously dispersed amongst all of the customer interaction points — knowledge base, indexes, forums, search, and recommendations — all woven in the language directly influenced by the customer themselves and published in a configurable template that matches the look and feel of your site.
There are no files to copy and paste, databases to update, or complex validation processes. Using SmartSupport™’s cloud-based SaaS technology, your information is immediately available where and when you want it to be, without hassle.
Effectively, CM tools such as SharePoint are file storage mechanisms for the documentation, labeling, and archival of content, not for the purpose of giving timely actionable information from that content, as it is in SmartSupport™. Plugging your content into a CM tool without thought for KM is essentially throwing it down the proverbial well: one way in, one way out—answers can be pulled out, but the process is always arduous.
What is needed is a plan of action to achieve a vision for connecting people with answers—a support strategy for extracting knowledge from information in a fast and accurate way—not a content silo.