A Salesforce knowledge management dashboard depicting answers for multiple topics such as for how one can return bulky items.

What is Knowledge Management? The Complete Guide

Top talent resigning? Here’s how knowledge management keeps their know-how from going with them and still provide great customer service.

Knowledge management defined

Knowledge management means capturing, organising, and distributing information that is critical to providing customer support. Ideally, this knowledge is available in a centralised digital library that agents, field service technicians, and customers can access from anywhere for fast, quality service.

Knowledge management built into customer service software helps to improve decision-making and problem-solving. It’s important because it makes sure your employees always have the right information to deliver better results.

It’s also essential to have so that you don’t lose important information when your most experienced, high-performing agents and field service technicians leave. Without their knowledge and expertise, you put customer satisfactionopens in a new window at risk. You also need time, money, and resources to recruit replacement talent. There’s a lot at stake for your business! Knowledge management lets you bottle employee expertise so you and others can always easily access it.

What is a Knowledge Management System?

A knowledge management system is a software platform or framework that lets organisations capture, organise, store, and retrieve knowledge and information. It helps facilitate knowledge sharing, collaboration, and decision-making within an organisation, ultimately improving productivity and efficiency.

Why is knowledge management important?

Consider what’s happening at your company today. You likely have FAQs and knowledge base articlesopens in a new window to guide your contact centre agents and field service technicians, but how often is that information updated? How much of it is duplicative? Which topics are simply not documented at all?

The reality is that often much of the knowledge required for effective customer support operationsopens in a new window is stored nowhere other than your employees’ brains or in multiple siloed systems, such Confluence, Sharepoint, Google Drive, as well as their own electronic devices, notepads, and libraries.

Effective knowledge management is important because it saves both agents and customers time, so you can continue providing quality customer support. Thanks to technology and artificial intelligence (AI), you can now more quickly and efficiently capture this knowledge and share it across your team. Use generative AIopens in a new window to draft knowledge articles, and then put them through your company’s standard review and approval process before publishing.

Resources you create can also be shared in your self-service portalopens in a new window, allowing customers to help themselves and further save on costs. Bonus: Einstein Search Answersopens in a new window uses knowledge-grounded generative AI to surface answers to commonly asked questions in your self-service portal or agent console.

Dig into our latest customer service research.

High-performing service organisations are using data and AI to generate revenue while cutting costs — without sacrificing the customer experience. Find out how in the 6th edition of the State of Service report.

What does a knowledge manager do?

A knowledge manager is someone whose role it is to ensure your knowledge base is being used throughout the company – correctly. This might include developing the processes and protocols for knowledge management, making knowledge accessible, and finding ways to capture new knowledge.

So where do you start with knowledge management?

Types of knowledge to capture

Before you start documenting your institutional knowledge, you want to be aware of the various types of knowledge agents and field service workers use when helping customers. Here are some to consider:

  1. Explicit knowledge. This is the straightforward playbook your support team relies on to do their jobs. It includes FAQs, guidelines, and documented procedures, like how to handle a service outageopens in a new window.
  2. Tacit knowledge. This is experiential insights gained through frontline support — like a veteran support agent’s gut instinct for handling a tricky situation. Or, an experienced field service tech’s ability to just know how to fix any kind of machinery. While tacit knowledge is gained through experience, it can also be passed along through mentoring.
  3. Structured vs. unstructured knowledge. Structured knowledge includes neatly categorised resources like databases or FAQs. Unstructured knowledge includes informal sources like emails and Trailblazer Community threadsopens in a new window, which often yield rich insights, but need to be properly captured. You can use generative AI to turn both structured and unstructured knowledge into a new knowledge base article.

Benefits of knowledge management

Why is knowledge management important? Documenting your institutional knowledge, centralising it, and continuously updating leads to smoother support operations and a better customer experience.

More specifically, benefits of knowledge management include:

  • A more efficient workflow. Knowledge management reduces the time agents or field service technicians spend searching for information, allowing them to focus on problem-solving.
  • Better problem solving. With accurate, up-to-date information at their fingertips, your team can more quickly make the best decisions to help the customer.
  • More accurate content. When grounded in your company’s knowledge, generative AI can produce accurate and trusted information‌ — helping your team feel confident they’re providing the best help.
  • Faster resolution. Better information leads to faster resolution. Simple as that.
  • Improved customer satisfaction. Faster resolution leads to greater customer satisfactionopens in a new window and the related benefit of higher customer retention.
  • Consistency. Proper knowledge management ensures a standardised approach to common customer issues, supporting a cohesive brand experience.
  • Knowledge retention. Preserving institutional knowledge reduces the impact of staff turnover on the quality of support your team provides.

Cost savings. New agents onboard quickly, reducing training costs. Plus, a great service experienceopens in a new window helps you retain customers, saving on the cost of acquiring new ones.

Knowledge management use cases and examples

You’re likely already using some form of knowledge management system in your organisation, but there may be room to improve. We’ve already mentioned having AI write the first draft of new knowledge articles. You can also use AI to scan existing content, identify outdated information, and suggest updates in your customer service software.

And with Unified Knowledgeopens in a new window, you can connect all of your company’s different knowledge sources into Service Cloud to entrust agents with better grounding for AI-generated replies, article recommendations, search answers, and more.

Here are a few other examples of what’s possible with knowledge management for both customer service and field service today.

  1. Generative AI in the help centre. You may already have a help centre where customers can read up-to-date knowledge base articles and resolve their own issues. (And this is great – our research finds that 61% of customers prefer to use self-service for simple issues). Thanks to advances in AI, you can now help both customers and agents find answers faster by offering them generative AI-powered search answers based on your knowledge base articles. That way, they don’t even have to read a relevant article — your chatbot or help centre site can simply tell the customer exactly what they want to know based on what they search. We also offer the knowledge source with the answer, so agents and customers can trust that the answer is accurate and relevant. This is Einstein Search Answers in action.
  2. AI assistance to agents and field service techs. You can improve team productivity with AI-powered article recommendations, right in the console where agents work and in your mobile app from the field. For example, AI can recommend applicable articles based on similar cases or jobs from the past. The agent or field service technician then selects the most relevant article and clicks “draft email” using Einstein GPT. Next they review Einstein’s draft for accuracy before sending the email to the customer. This is known as knowledge-grounded email repliesopens in a new window, the process of retrieving the most relevant articles and drafting responses based on your company’s trusted data.
  3. Better employee training. An up-to-date knowledge base is an efficient way to help onboard and train new agentsopens in a new window and field service workers, as they can use it to find answers to common questions as they get deeper into their roles. Keep in mind that your knowledge base doesn’t have to be for text alone — you can include videos as well, if that’s a useful way to share information about resolving certain issues, especially in field service.

Knowledge management best practices

Knowledge management isn’t a one-and-done process. It’s an ongoing strategy required for effective customer service operations. We recommend:

  1. Regular updates: Be sure your knowledge base articles are regularly reviewed and updated to reflect the latest information. You may want to have veteran agents and field service technicians do this. As part of regular updates, the knowledge base needs to be assessed to determine if there are any missing topics.
  2. Cross-department collaboration: Collaboration between customer support and other departments helps enrich the knowledge base with diverse insights.
  3. User-friendly interface: Be sure your knowledge management system is intuitive so that both agents and field service techs can easily navigate. (And that customers can as well, for the customer-facing assets.)
  4. Feedback mechanism: Encourage your team to provide feedback on the usefulness and accuracy of knowledge articles. Use surveys or focus groups to capture this feedback and routinely act on it.

How to get started with knowledge management tools

  1. Start small and identify key knowledge areas: Determine the critical information needed for effective customer support. You’ll want to reflect on explicit and tacit knowledge, as well as both structured and unstructured, and make a plan for capturing all of it.
  2. Select a knowledge management system: Choose a platform that suits your organisation’s needs and integrates well with existing systems, especially your existing customer relationship management (CRM) software. Alternatively, you may want to upgrade to a CRM that includes knowledge management in its features.
  3. Create and organise content: This is a large undertaking, and you’ll want the right team members to oversee it. But in short, you want to develop and structure content in a way that is easy to search and understand.
  4. Training and adoption: Train your support team on using the knowledge management system and encourage its consistent adoption. Trailheadopens in a new window, Salesforce’s free online learning platform, is a great place for your team to get off to a fast start.

Bottom line: knowledge management is a fundamental component of successful customer support operations and crucial to successful AI. It provides a structured approach to handling information. And it’s well worth the investment. Knowledge management will improve your team’s customer support capabilities, boost both customer satisfactionopens in a new window and operational efficiency, and help you retain employee knowledge — even if they leave.

Looking for efficiency? Start here

See how you can help your agents and field service technicians become more efficient — and your customers happier. When you have a centralised, easy-to-use platform for your data, your team has all the information they need to provide the service customers expect.