To follow on from my pizza-based KM post yesterday, KMWorld hosted a webinar entitled, "31 Flavors of Knowledge Management,"* so I signed right up. [I missed the subtitle of "Which flavor is right for your customer service and support?" which might have been a little less interesting to me.] The hosts were Sheryl Kingstone from Yankee Group and Michael Tarbet from Consona CRM. (As is the custom, the archived webinar will be available in a few days at the KMWorld.)
The talk was fairly familiar for KM circles: They started with a discussion of the basic flavors of KM (written text, search, and case-based reasoning). While it may be a surprise to see CBR in this list, it makes sense in the context of the help desk where CBR is more prevalent. The next step was a discussion of tacit / implicit knowledge that people have but is much more difficult to access. The speakers also acknowledged the vast resources of knowledge outside the company itself: other customers who might interact through customer forums (company controlled, I assume) - and don't forget the many social networking services out there.
Then the discussion jumped into the Rocky Road of fragmented knowledge. Particularly from the customer's point of view, information and knowledge about products is spread around in far too many places: sales, customer fulfillment, customer service, internal experts, company website, other customers, external websites (knowledge silos anyone?). What is to be trusted? Why can't more of this be pulled together into a more cohesive interaction for the customer. In my mind, this is where the vendors could have come in and said some version of "buy our portal," thankfully they didn't. The discussion flowed into the idea that there is a "real time knowledge cycle" amongst these customer interaction points, and that they should be as integrated as possible.
And then there are many more KM flavors that apply to customer service and support. These all have to work on that knowledge cycle and include: Community, Channels, Analytics, Processes, Personalization, Self-learning maintenance, Search and Knowledge management. They didn't talk about all of these elements, but they made an entertaining link between knowledge and ice cream toward the end of the talk: "Imagine knowledge as an ice cream sunday with zero Calories." In other words, if you can find a way into the knowledge of your customers, sales, customer support, and other experts, it can bring you many benefits.
Overall, this was an interesting way to frame the discussion of KM in the customer service setting. Just be sure you don't push the metaphor too hard.
* For people outside the United States, "31 Flavors" is a reference to Baskin-Robbins' tag line for their ice cream stores. Their website claims they now how more than 1,000 flavors - though not all at one store. Ice cream is a great KM tool as well. As a child, I probably learned just as much about baseball at the soft-serve ice cream place after games as I did during the games themselves. Today we might call that a debriefing session.