Independent Contact Center Consultants: Bridging Strategy, Technology and Operations Since 2004

Let Wikis Break Barriers to Knowledge Sharing

Take a tour around a typical contact center, and you’ll likely see a cornucopia of resources that customer service representatives use to respond to caller needs. Along with the usual complement of software applications, they’ll have loose-leaf binders, a few typed and handwritten notes, assorted “yellow stickies,” and personalized lists of subject matter experts. Knowledge management (KM) was supposed to be the “white knight” that brought order to chaos by retrieving and cataloging information from a myriad of resources. Many centers struggle to afford the princely sum that most implementations require. Few have the patience and resources to tackle the design, process change, and integration work to reap the value from KM. Then along came wikis…

wikiWikis are special purpose websites that give nontechnical users the wherewithal to create and edit any number of interlinked web pages using a simplified markup language or text editor. Pages can be associated with a table of contents, an index, or other form of categorization. An integrated search engine delivers content by titles, keywords, and phrases. [Think Wikipedia.] For most users, the price of admission is Internet access and a web browser. For organizations, it includes a web host (third-party or premise-based), some applications software, and a community of users who are ready, willing, and able to contribute. Unlike KM systems that often take a year or more before the users reap the benefits, wikis can reach a critical mass of knowledge within a few months.

Knowledge Mangement Wiki
Structured, process-driven Loosely structured
Hierarchical governing construct Self-governance within community
User controls More open user commnity
Presents content from existing systems/databases with new material in a unified frame Populates new content on a wiki-based web site
Documents and text Text and attachments
Generally requires submission, editing, and approval of content before adding to knowledge base Generally incorporates new content when written and lets the user community serve as editors
Provides detailed metrics and reports Provides an edit history on each page plus listings of pages to which it is connected

A defining characteristic of wikis is the ease with which content can be created and updated by the community. Authoring/editing can be open to a general population or confined to registered users. Most wikis operate under the premise that it is better to post material quickly and correct mistakes after the fact than labor under a time-, process-, and cost-intensive regime that tries to prevent errors from happenning in the first place. Wikis can provide alerts when new content has been added. They maintain edit histories that specify recent edits as well as all edits made within a defined period. And they allow users to reinstate older versions of pages should the newer content prove undesireable.

Though some are concerned about posting content before it has been vetted thoroughly, most early adopters find such fears unfounded. Participants have a vested interest in the quality of the content and take their role as “judge and jury” seriously. With an appropriate goverance model, a modest amount of user training, and systematic review, a wiki can be a valuable addition to the centers support system.