What Is A Collaborative Content Hub For Customer Service?

Knowledge management for customer service has always been a difficult proposition. It’s not that knowledge management fails to work; it does its job well, as proven by the numerous case studies that show real ROI, as well as the maturity of vendor solutions. The historical difficulty with knowledge management is that many buyers and users don’t understand the difference between knowledge management and content management — and typically view knowledge management as a heavyweight solution that’s laborious to use.

Perhaps it’s time to lose the too loaded term knowledge management and focus on what it is that customer service agents need to do their job — to answer customer questions in a complete, accurate, and reproducible way. They need access to up-to-date content that is aligned with customer demand and which is created in a collaborative way. This content must also be available to call center agents, as well as agents dedicated to the email, chat, and social communication channels. A subset of this content must also be available to customers via a web self-service site. All these requirements translate into a collaborative content hub.

Here are the main capabilities that make up a collaborative content hub:

  • Easy content capture. You should be able to flag information from any source (email, discussion forum thread, social media interaction) and effortlessly kick it off to be included in your collaborative content hub.
  • Democracy. Everyone within an organization (and customers as well) should be able to recommend information to be included in the content hub.
  • Flexible authoring. You must be able to create and publish content without arduous workflows. Not all content should be subjected to the same workflows. Some content, like service alerts, must be able to be published instantly. Other content should be able to be routed through review or legal compliance flows.
  • Social content. Anyone who comes into contact with content  should be able to rate and comment on content.
  • Content comes in all flavors. Not all content is curated. Content within the hub should include discussion threads and content residing in other repositories (like content management systems and bug databases).
  • Collaborative. A certain segment of agents or customer-facing personnel should have the authority to change content and republish it without arduous approvals.
  • Content and process. Content from the content hub must be linked to customer service business processes — for example, to case management processes, so contextual and personalized content can be pushed to the agent at the right point of the service interaction.
  • Relevance. Reports are a fundamental capability of a collaborative content hub, as you need to understand content usage so you can evolve content in line with customer demand.
  • Agility. You need to stay ahead of the curve. To do this, you need to mine social sites out of your direct control and use text analytics to understand conversations that customers are having about your products and services (for example, social conversations about a particular product issue). You then need to use these insights to generate content and push it out to your customer base to proactively deflect contacts from your contact center.

A collaborative content hub is more than traditional knowledge management. It is a synthesis of knowledge management, discussion forums, collaborative authoring, search, gamification, reporting, and text analytics that no vendor is tying together right now. Do you think  there is a need for such a content hub? Let me know your thoughts.


Collaboratin in Customer Service: Social Learning in Practice

I agree with your point about social content: "Anyone who comes into contact with content should be able to rate and comment on content." How many companies post FAQs that fail to answer questions? FAQs need a social dimension in order to remain dynamic and relevant. In other words, all FAQs need to be presented as moderated forums so that knowledge about products and services remains current and limitations are candidly addressed.


And its not only customers that need to comment on content, but its also customer service agents who are using the content on a daily basis, as well as all customer-facing personnel. Making your content social should be a company-wide initiative.

Social Content and Outsourcing Partners

Good point Kate. I did some strategic consulting with a customer care outsource company a few years ago whose agents were allowed to access the FAQs of their client but unable to change any of the content.

Not Sure I Agree

Not sure I really see the difference between the KM programs of the past few years and the new "Content Hub". I understand that you are calling for more freedom for people to create, maintain, update and generally control the content that is needed for reps or customers to access. I also understand the call for more data from more sources. But I am not sure I see that as any different than what people were trying to accomplish with strong KM programs. Maybe the difference you are trying to highlight is that with Content Hubs, it is truely a community based initiative without the restraints of some of the typical KM systems. If that is the case, then I agree with you.

The challenge that will continually come up over and over again though is not just creating content or managing the content. The challenge with KM or KB or Content Hubs etc will always be searching for the right answer. No matter how much information you have, how many pieces of content you have or how many authors you have in your new Content Hub community, you will always have the problem of finding the right answer at that moment in time. And if you design your Content Hub or the like around the lowest common denominator, which in my mind you should, then you will always be stuck with searching for answers and a list of 20 things or more coming back that you have to read through to find the answer. Look at the "Content Hub" that Cspire Wireless or Sprint have deployed for their Self Service site and you will see that they are curating content from many different sources to provide back search results that seem relvevant. But you still have to search through a bunch of items to find the answer that will be helpful to you, in context for your situation. That is still a flawed way of finding information in my mind.

I am not pretending that I have the exact answer to this problem, but I believe that it will always be a problem until we are able to recreate the human brain in digital format so that the system we are using is able to understand exactly what the user is asking for and point them to the right answer right off the bat instead of making them search for it over and over again. Using NLP and AI technology is the start of this I think, but only the start. There is still some ways to go until we have fully realized the true potential of the combination of democratized content and finding that great content at the right time, in context for the user.....

We agree

"Maybe the difference you are trying to highlight is that with Content Hubs, it is truely a community based initiative without the restraints of some of the typical KM systems. If that is the case, then I agree with you."

Of course, curation of content is important as long as it does not remove information about the limitations of a product or service simply because it conveys a negative sentiment. My point regarding an outsource partner's inability to change content on the client's FAQ was simply meant to convey the idea that, especially in self-service, the challenges involve social ecosystems of customers, partners, and the business itself. NLP and AI may help at the margins. However, I think that shared curation responsibilities are more likely to approach a solution to the findability problem you highlight. The key distinction, like it always has been in knowledge management, is whether emphasis gets placed on repositories or social organizational processes.

My first attempt to outline an overall strategy focused on the "learnability" of services. http://skilfulminds.com/2010/03/29/learnable-services-crm-and-social-bus...