Five steps to building a helpdesk knowledge base

Improving the quality of service delivery is a commendable goal, but our day-to-day workload sometimes means this remains an elusive fantasy. Few of us have the time to sit down and consider the benefits that a well-constructed, shared and used knowledge base can provide. In many organizations, the knowledge base is underutilized.

For example, in my experience managing the service desk-focused company, TOPdesk, I’ve seen periods of time when as many as 85% of companies with a service management solution either don’t use a knowledge base or are not using it to its full potential. In blunt terms, that’s a tremendously high number of organizations suffering from lack of efficiency.

In an age where we’re used to solving most of life’s questions by typing them into a search field, the concepts of knowledge management and “shift left” continue to gain momentum. The concept of shift left is the transferring of knowledge closer to the end user, equipping users with knowledge previously unavailable to them to solve problems and tasks themselves while still offering them assistance from the helpdesk, should they need it.

For the service desk, alleviating the need to handle every issue or doing away with the need to answer every call for help, these teams can (and should) spend more of their time on higher priority tasks. Of course, this requires a little work upfront:

  • Publishing available knowledge: You must publish your available knowledge. The answers to your organization’s most pressing technical challenges, for example, is shifting this information left to the user for his or her consumption. This places a useful layer of information between the service desk and the user, automating the process somewhat. This also is the start of the knowledge base. A knowledge base lets you get knowledge out the organization’s nooks and crannies - out of paper documents and people’s heads - into a solution where the information can consumed by internal users.
  • Encourage the sharing of such information: Straightforward advice. Once you have the knowledge base set up and you begin to populate it with information then encourage the service team to share what they have, what they collect or what they create. This invitation for information collection should also be extended to the end user, too, when possible.
  • Review the information, cultivate as appropriate: Review the information in the knowledge base regularly because it does no good to post information that is no longer relevant or information that is incorrect. Cultivate the most important information so that your users have the best data available to them and are not wasting their time reviewing pointless info.

Once the knowledge base is shifting information left, it’s time to think about how to maintain it for optimal performance. This is the process that your knowledge management should follow: publish, share, review, publish, share, review. The review process is important for the following reason: if you buy a new batch of printers for your team, if your instructions for changing printer paper relate to the previous model, these instructions are not helping anyone.

Beginning the process

At the start of the process there is little use in creating multiple documents in a short time. Instead, try to continuously deploy your knowledge base. Try to structure a process in which the service management analyst can identify if a problem might have been solved by the requester themselves, or if the issue only need the help of a technical analyst. If it’s an issue that could easily be resolved, like password resets, the analyst can create a knowledge item after the call. This can help other users find the information they need without having to contact support. If the analyst can't create the document at the moment of the call’s resolution, they can flag it to identify that the call has content that can be transformed into knowledge.

Create knowledge items

After a number of your service desks have tagged, you can begin actually creating the knowledge items, and prioritizing issues that have greater impact or that are time-consuming to analysts. Set aside time for document creation. Encourage teamwork, and try to create incentive campaigns to get the ball rolling.

Stipulate parameters

After some time working on the creation of knowledge items, you can create a new target for your operation: Every solved call must have a linked knowledge item. You can’t expect this to be completely effective, but with time as your processes mature your percentage of tagged calls also will increase. This will also help in allowing new analysts to get up to speed quicker, based on the experience from previous resolutions.

Share through self-service

With any call that can be solved without the help of a technical analyst and that already has a knowledge item containing a fix, that item should be sent to the user. To make this happen, you must introduce your whole organization to the convenience of self-service. You can communicate the usefulness of the self-service portal throughout the organization with posters, desktop cards, tutorials, screensavers or even a fun gadget. Put your mark on the tool and make it recognizable to the end user.

It is important that you continue to communicate during all the phases of the self-service portal implementation. Before the knowledge portal goes live, you can focus on announcements like: “Coming soon: the self-service knowledge portal!” Later on it can be useful to continue communicating as a reminder, keeping your employees motivated to use the knowledge base. It is important to make sure the knowledge base not only goes live, but that users use it.

Review your knowledge base

The last step, as previously mentioned, is to review the documents as often as possible. Create measures to evaluate the use of the documents and find out if they really are effective in solving the user's problems.

Improving the quality of service delivery is more than a commendable goal, it can be a reality. Few of us have the time to sit down and consider the benefits that a well-constructed, shared and used knowledge base can provide, and in many organizations, the knowledge base is underutilized, but not impossible to create once your follow a few step-by-step processes.

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