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Knowledge-Centered Service 101: Understanding the Basics of KCS 

  • August 24, 2023

In organizations, knowledge is one of the most important assets. However, without processes in place to share and organize your knowledge, it’s hard to recognize the value that it holds. Benefits, like having an effective and efficient problem-solving process, reduced time to proficiency and improved products and services, are just a few that come with the sharing of knowledge. 

Knowledge-Centered Service® (KCS)  is a methodology that provides businesses with a strategy to best solve problems using knowledge. The  Consortium for Service Innovation  says “KCS is not something we do in addition to solving problems. KCS is the way we solve problems.” 

What is KCS?

KCS is a widely adopted methodology established by the Consortium for Service Innovation. It provides value to organizations and communities by making knowledge abundant and available so that problems can be solved. KCS is often used as part of an  IT service management (ITSM)  strategy to  push people to self-service their IT issues  using a knowledge base as part of a service portal.  

There are four KCS principles, the first being abundance. When an issue arises, it is either a known issue or a new issue. When someone presents a known issue, they are connected to the content that will help walk them through a solution. When someone presents a new issue, they are connected to a person who will help them solve the problem. This is why an abundance of knowledge is important- it leads to fewer issues that need to be handled by a person.  

The second principle of KCS is being demand-driven. When content is created for people to use in order to solve a problem, there should be a reason. Creating content for the sake of creating content is a waste of time because there is a chance that the knowledge article someone writes will never be referenced. Don’t write about what you think people want to know, write about what they actually want to know. This ties into another principle, which is creating value. Articles that are used continuously obviously hold more value than an article that is never looked at. Being intentional about the content you create is how you ensure that value is a focus. 

The last principle is trust. With people relying on written information to solve their problems rather than a person, it is incredibly important that they trust what they are reading. If they don’t, they are going to disregard a knowledge base article and go straight to a person to get help. This would completely defeat the purpose of a knowledge base, so it is very important that an organization is responsible for the knowledge that it has in order to gain trust.    

KCS for Knowledge Management: The Power of Efficiency and Credibility

Knowledge-Centered Service is a game-changer in the realm of knowledge management, offering a plethora of benefits to businesses. Here’s how KCS can revolutionize your knowledge management:

Efficient Knowledge Capture: KCS methodology integrates knowledge capture into the problem-solving process, enabling real-time updates and improvements.

Enhanced Collaboration: KCS fosters a culture of collaboration, encouraging collective problem-solving and knowledge sharing.

Boosts Productivity: By reducing the time spent searching for information, KCS enhances productivity and performance.

Improved Customer Satisfaction: With quicker issue resolution and accurate information, customer satisfaction sees a significant boost.

Reduced Training Time: New employees can hit the ground running with access to the collective knowledge base, reducing training time and costs.

In essence, KCS transforms the way knowledge is managed, creating a dynamic, evolving knowledge base that fuels business growth and customer satisfaction. It’s not just about managing knowledge, but leveraging it to drive results. That’s the KCS promise.

How to Write Knowledge Base Content

When creating content, it is important to get right to the point. These articles are meant to be reference text, not a novel– writing in bullet points is acceptable. Your goal is to be “good enough” rather than completely perfect and thorough. 

In reality, 80% of the information that is documented is not used, so it would be a waste of time to create in-depth pieces of text that will never be looked at. You can also use related articles to help you write, you don’t have to make it hard on yourself. If part of the information you need to include in your new content is already out there, do a quick copy and paste of the parts that are relevant.

The goal is to make each article as relevant and useful as possible.

Here are some additional tips for creating knowledge base content using the KCS methodology:

  • Focus on creating content that is useful and relevant to your audience. Keep in mind the questions and problems that your customers or users are likely to have, and create content that provides clear and concise answers.
  • Use a standardized format for your knowledge base articles. This helps users quickly find the information they need, and also makes it easier to maintain and update your knowledge base over time. A common format for KCS articles is the “Problem-Solution” format, which includes a brief description of the problem and a step-by-step solution.
  • Encourage feedback and contributions from your users. KCS is a collaborative methodology, so it’s important to engage with your users and solicit their input. This can help to improve the quality of your content over time, as well as build trust and credibility with your user base.
  • Incorporate metrics and analytics to measure the effectiveness of your knowledge base. This can help you to identify gaps in your content and prioritize areas for improvement.
  • Develop a strategy for ongoing maintenance and updates to your knowledge base. KCS is a continuous improvement process, so it’s important to have a plan in place for updating and refining your content over time. This can help to ensure that your knowledge base remains relevant and useful to your users.

6 Steps to Getting Started

Implementing Knowledge-Centered Service can involve a lot of moving parts. The following are six steps to help you get started:  

  • Identify a core team : Having a small core team to help you through the implementation process, as well as the upkeep once KCS takes off in your organization, is essential. When creating the team, look for volunteers, people from customer service areas and those with attention to detail and a passion for change.
  • Training: The Consortium for Service Innovation offers a KCS Academy, a KCS Practices Guide, and a KCS Adoption Guide. Additionally, TeamDynamix offers process consulting that you can take advantage of as well.
  • Pilot with your core team : Once your team has been identified, you should establish a KCS style guide, solidify processes, roles and permissions, practice maintenance and coach each other. All of this will allow you to avoid confusion and inefficiencies in the future.
  • Train your customer service : If you are able, getting trained externally is ideal. Your KCS team has the opportunity to make a real impact on your organization, so it is important that they have proper training. Also, this training will give your team adequate time to grow before branching out to the rest of the organization.
  • Branch out : At this point, you can find more volunteers who are ready to implement KCS. If there are no volunteers, start with smaller areas of your business and get those teams on board. Share all the benefits that your pilot team gained from KCS with these new people. Be sure to make it worth their time and make KCS part of their core workflow.
  • Spread success : Be sure to document internal knowledge, incorporate KCS when working with outside areas, share articles internally and externally, and broadcast your metrics. Share information like article usage and increased first contact resolution- any metric that will encourage growth.

KCS Knowledge Worker Roles

A knowledge team is a team of knowledge workers who collaborate, establish and maintain content standards and knowledge/incident processes. Within this team there are various roles:  

  • Candidate- creates and edits articles but does not publish  
  • Contributor- creates, edits, and publishes internally  
  • Publisher- creates, edits, and publishes internally/externally  
  • Coaches- Assigned to knowledge workers and review performance and quality  
  • Knowledge Domain Expert (KDE)- oversees knowledge area  

The Importance of Creating a Useable Portal and Knowledge Base

One of the most efficient ways to improve  ITSM and service desk delivery  is by removing the need for starting a ticket in the first place—by empowering users to answer their own questions and solve their own problems before an issue requires human intervention.

In general, people would much rather resolve issues themselves instead of submitting a service request and waiting for a response. With the increasing desire for more self-service options, it is essential for those in IT to respond accordingly.

Having a well-organized portal with the ability to search for solutions by keywords or tags goes a long way in quickly helping users get the information they need. Self-service models that deflect calls from the helpdesk to the portal and give users access to an intuitive, timely catalog of technical knowledge not only improve customer satisfaction, they also dramatically reduce the per-incident cost incurred by IT.

Simplicity is key when designing the layout for a client portal. Users should not need to scroll or navigate extensively to find what they are looking for, nor should it take them longer than a few minutes. Outlined information written in understandable, everyday language is essential to encouraging self-service.

Of course, transitioning to a self-service portal does not happen overnight. Such a move requires proper planning, time, and in some cases, new technology. But the ROI potential is there when factoring in the benefits:

  • Reduced service ticket volumes.
  • Enhanced overall user experience.
  • Higher satisfaction throughout the organization.

Self-service has quickly become the norm, so having the right ITSM tool to support your portal and knowledge base is key.

KCS in Action – How One Organization is Using KCS to Improve Service Delivery

Since adopting KCS through TeamDynamix, the  University of South Dakota  has seen great success. Prior to using TeamDynamix, USD struggled with knowledge residing in silos across various departments as well as poor communication, leading to inefficiencies when delivering service.

Katharina Wymar, head of Project Management, said “We lacked that one platform, that one mindset that allowed us to share knowledge.” That’s when they turned to the solution of a knowledge base so that all of their information could be in a single, easily accessible location.

After building out their knowledge base and implementing KCS they quickly saw an 18% reduction in time logged to service tickets, and after six months there were 31,000 users, 262,000 page views, and 5,000 knowledge articles being included in the base.

Based on USD’s experience Wymar shared these keys to successfully implementing KCS for your  IT service management  (ITSM) platform:  

  • Look for executive sponsorship. “This project is going to take time to work through, and our CIO was our biggest supporter,” Wymar says.  
  • Find the right solution for your organization and get trained.  
  • Set your KCS processes and develop a communications plan to keep everyone engaged.  
  • Celebrate success. Reward both the quality and usage of articles. “Make sure you’re recognizing the right behaviors,” Cottrell advises. Don’t turn it into just a numbers game. Encourage people to contribute their knowledge, and reward them for their article edit requests, article usage, and the quality of their articles. Recognize team members as they move up in responsibility.  

Learn more about knowledge bases and TeamDynamix  here .

This blog was originally published in April 2022 and has been updated with new information.

KCS ®  is a service mark of the Consortium for Service Innovation™.

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Knowledge-Centered Service: An Overview with ServiceNow

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Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) is not something we do in addition to solving problems. KCS becomes the way we solve problems . In this article, discover how ServiceNow revolutionizes problem solving with Knowledge Centered Service (KCS) , and learn why this approach is not just an add-on, but a fundamental mindset shift. We’ll dive into the what and why of KCS, explore my in-person experience with it, and see how ServiceNow embraces KCS to provide unparalleled value for their users.

What is KCS?

Based on the double loop process (image below), KCS is a best practice methodology for Knowledge Management, that picks up where ITIL leaves off.

KCS Double Loop Process

Figure 1: KCS Double Loop Process

The main premise of KCS is to capture content at the time of Incident creation in the customer’s context and to “ Search early Search Often .” It is key to capture the content in the customer’s context because, if you’ve ever worked with or in IT, you know that IT jargon can be a little… much for most people. The end goal is for customers to be able to search on their own to find the correct answer in a structured, easy to read format. Not only is it useful for our customers; it also enables our analysts to provide the same answer to the same questions through reuse. Because we are searching early and searching often, we can quickly improve upon our knowledge articles as needed.

As with any process, and in addition to the day-to-day Solve Loop, it is important to evolve through continuous process improvement. This is done by ensuring that the health of the content remains intact. Retiring knowledge articles that are no longer relevant, and ensuring that articles are kept up to date and following the identified structure is extremely important. Incident Management is not the only Service Management Process where Knowledge fits in; it should integrate into Project Management, Change Management, Problem Management, Request Management, and Service Configuration Management (to name a few).

As Peter Drucker said, “ If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. ” KCS is not unlike any other process in that Performance Assessment (Practice Success Factor (PSF), Critical Success Factors (CSFs), Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and Metrics) must be performed for continuous improvement. Measuring is great, but also ensure that you are taking action and letting data drive your organization. Now, while all of this is great, to succeed you also need to ensure you have Leadership and Communication driving this initiative (note this is an initiative, not a project, projects have end dates, initiatives do not).

My Back Story

I started my IT career straight out of college, working for the Service Desk at my University. Within a very short time, I started to get assigned various “Knowledge bases”, wikis, stored drives, SharePoints, notes under keyboards and the like, with the task of ensuring that we were producing content that we could reuse and eventually provide to end users. In my mind, there had to be a better way, so I did what every good IT person does, and I Googled it. It was from here that I found Knowledge Centered Service (at that time Knowledge Centered Support (KCS)). After taking the principles course, the quote at the beginning of this article became my mantra. “Knowledge Centered Service (KCS) is not something we do in addition to solving problems. KCS becomes the way we solve problems .” I would do whatever it took to bring that information back to my university, make the practices that I learned a reality, and ease the pain of:

  • Managing multiple knowledge bases
  • Worrying about other Service Desk analysts giving different responses to customers
  • Enabling customers to help themselves.

It took roughly a year, and was comprised of – gaining executive sponsorship, putting a team together to build the process that would work for us (following each step of the KCS methodology), and starting to roll it out to the IT team. We were hated for it at first, with co-workers complaining that it was more work to do, but once we started getting a foundation of valuable, reliable knowledge articles, the process was praised, as it made answering customer questions easier in full shift-left force. Perhaps a bit more coordinated Organizational Change Management ( OCM ) may have helped to smooth the initial roll out, but the value of our KCS implementation was soon self-evident.

Knowledge Management is often put to the side as something we would like to do, but we are too busy as it is, which in it itself, feels like an oxymoron. This really is a Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later proposal. The point of enabling Knowledge Management and KCS for that matter, is to free up time by giving customers and Service Desk analysts the resources they need to resolve issues, while also freeing up valuable time for other members of the team to get the “important stuff” done. If a team of recently graduated (and some not yet graduated)  and newly employed individuals can build a successful implementation, while continuing to be successful in their day-to-day work, your organization can as well!

KCS and ServiceNow

ServiceNow has done a fantastic job of embracing KCS (for organizations that venture down the wonderful rabbit hole) and has even gone through the added process of being one of the very few KCS verified tools available. Out of the box (with the free KCS plugin installed), ServiceNow has built in workflows to enable the publishing of content quickly and efficiently, embodying KCS principles. It makes use of many extremely useful features, such as out of the box Article Quality Index (AQI), article versioning, in-context knowledge capture, and feedback management.

Each article can and should be graded by a Knowledge Administrator. ServiceNow allows us to weigh and completely customize our grading questions. The purpose is to ensure reliability, consistency, and overall health of the knowledge base. If customers (or even internal employees) have a miserable time searching for the correct and easy to read knowledge base, the odds of them trying to solve their problem again by utilizing the knowledge base is much lower. By utilizing the AQI, your knowledge administrators can ensure the quality of the knowledge articles and knowledge base now and into the future.

Article Versioning

The KCS plugin automatically enables the Article Versioning feature by default. If one of your writers updates an article mistakenly or inaccurately , ServiceNow’s KCS module can quickly and easily revert to a previous version. In addition, this will facilitate reviewing a history of timestamped, versioned changes if you ever need this record.

In-Context Knowledge Capture

As we mentioned before, we can implement KCS with many other processes. ServiceNow eases the creation of knowledge by relating Knowledge articles in these other processes, quickly enabling creation while in other modules, such as Incident, Change, or Problem.

Feedback Management

There are arguments for allowing customer feedback to help better the knowledge base, or disabling customer feedback because it may not be helpful. Whichever choice you make, ServiceNow makes it easy to solicit feedback (or not to) from either (or both) customers and internal knowledge users.

Beginning Metrics

ITIL 4’s Knowledge Management Practice Guide even offers us a couple of Practice Success Factors (PSFs) that we can use to track our KCS success. ITIL 4 defines PSFs as a complex functional component of a practice that is required for the practice to fulfill its purpose. This makes for an excellent starting place to assess the overall effectiveness and efficiency of our KCS system.

KCS has grown in popularity over the years, but many organizations still fear the time commitment when implementing this initiative. ServiceNow provides basic plug-and-play functionality to ease the burden of customization, while maintaining the ability to customize to meet your organizational needs. Stay tuned for our next blog post for a more in depth look into KCS within ServiceNow.

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Knowledge Centered Service (KCS) in the Age of AI

In this post:, retrieval augmented generation (rag) ai for enterprise knowledge.

Using Change Management to Enable KCS

“KCS is not something we do in addition to solving problems. KCS is the way we solve problems.”

Implementing KCS as the way we solve problems requires considerable change for many organizations. Treating your KCS implementation as a change management initiative will improve its acceptance and adoption.

At a recent KCS in Action we were very fortunate to have Alina Weber , a Change Architect, educate us on change management and why it is critical for successful KCS adoption. She shared many change management tools for people to leverage. One example is her guidance on how to create a framework for change management:

Building a framework for change: why are we changing, who has to change, what is the change, how will it affect our outcomes?

Kendall Brenneise, Sr. Manager of Digital Services at F5, shared some ditches they ran into when initially deploying KCS, and the positive outcomes they experienced by course correcting with change management practices.

Hindsight is always 20/20… but I do think we would have cut our rollout time for KCS in half and people getting to their successful ability had we used change management strategy in partnership with our KCS strategy. Kendall Brenneise, F5

This KCS in Action webinar was packed with a wealth of information! We encourage you to access the PDF of the slides , the chat transcript and view the recording.

Resources Shared

  • Slides presented by Alina (pdf)
  • Change Management Resources at Prosci
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  • If you are interested in presenting at a future KCS in Action or being part of a Practitioner Panel on a topic, contact Arnfinn
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Chat Highlights

Kendall Brenneise | F5: Good morning everyone! Jason O’Donnell: Great to see the KendallBot managing chat! We’re in for a great session! Christina Roosen: Greetings to the LEGENDARY KendallBot! 🤖

Kendall Brenneise | F5: Principles, coaches, business acumen, experience, outcomes….hmmm I’m noticing a lot complimentary points between KCS and Change Management!

  • Reinforcement

Jason O’Donnell: Here’s something for after Alina’s presentation. Take some time later today to check this out: One of my favorite examples of great change management, by generating /demand and desire/ for transformative change, is in this snippet from Simon Sinek’s larger presentation

John Coles – Cocoa Beach, FL: We ended up developing a “KCS for Managers” training, which helps fill the gap in creating awareness and education around KCS — at their level. (How it benefits the Managers, and what do Managers need to do to increase Adoption and optimize performance). Stanislava Spasova: Do you think that a creation of a Change Expert role for a Team, that started recently to adopt the KCS will be more helpful for the adaptation of such a project, in addition to the KCS Manager role? Kendall Brenneise | F5: Absolutely. If we could go back in time to prior to our KCS kick off, I would have invested heavily in change management [CM] in ideally two ways

  • Bring in/hire CM expertise
  • Invest in getting our KCS (or any other strategic initiates) program Managers trained on CM

Hindsight is always 20/20… but I do think we would have cut our rollout time for KCS in half and people getting to their successful ability had we used Change Management strategy in partnership with our KCS strategy

Arnfinn Austefjord, Consortium, Boulder CO: Our Managing in a Digital Economy self-paced course has helped companies with helping mangers drive change

Alex Bonilla: Punishment avoidance will only get a person to do enough not to get in trouble. Plus, I don’t know if we have the authority to remove someone from their role for not following KCS. Jason O’Donnell: Shifting the base model from “working to avoid a markdown” to “working to achieve a goal” is a critical piece to transition to a more positive mindset in the program, I agree, Alex!

Kendall Brenneise | F5: “leaders are not infallible.” Love that call out not to mention it emphasizes a willingness to make mistakes, learn, be coached, etc. Libby Healy | Waters Corp | Remote (Maine, USA): Within the Tech world right now I am hearing more KCS Managers talking about “managing my KCS program through change.” Large scale org restructuring or layoffs can scatter coaches and knowledge workers and create new business area alignments that need to be taken alllll the way back to step 1 of “what is KCS” even for mature programs. I would love to talk to anyone who has managed a program through these changes. Kendall Brenneise | F5: Happy to chat on this one Libby! Feel free to reach out on LinkedIn and we can connect.

Laina Stapleton: When we have a ton of changes happening all at once, from different sides/areas, and it seems like no one is recognizing the connections between the changes and managing them as a whole, is there anything we can do or say to help those in charge work together?

“Change managers will keep change saturation from happening.” Alina Weber, as captured by Kendall Brenneise in the chat

Jill Chan: thank you 🙂 Sue van Gelder – Consultant – Charlotte: Thank you, Alina! Jason O’Donnell: Great discussion, Alina!! Christina Roosen | Akamai | California: Great presentation and such a generous offer of time Alina! Thank you. Francine Wild: Thank you! Marjorie Etter: thanks for this great info Brian Gregory – Jack Henry – Mooresville, NC: Thank you Alina and Kendall! Regi Adams: Well done. Thank you! hannah hitchens: Thank you 🙂 Liz Tatum: Thank you! Sylvia Potocnik: Thank you! Matt Seaman: Thank You! Marianne Simpson: Thank you Alina and Kendall! Travis Myers: Thanks All! Jenna Hoffman: Thank you Alina and Kendall!! 😊 andersrs: Thank you Alina and Kendall

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  • Jan 31, 2023

How to implement Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) in Zendesk

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Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) is a popular methodology used in customer service organizations to capture and reuse agent (and organizational) knowledge, thereby improving the quality of support a team provides.

At its core, KCS is a cultural mindset.

The Consortium of Service Innovation (creators of KCS) explain it this way: “KCS is not something we do in addition to solving problems. It becomes the way we solve problems.”

Most companies start their documentation journey by making an individual or a small team responsible for managing a help center or an internal knowledge base. That’s a great first step towards enabling self-service, and it can result in high-quality, helpful content. But producing documentation doesn’t automatically translate to everyone in your team using it.

Adopting the KCS methodology shifts your knowledge base to being a collective responsibility.

Everyone in your team becomes responsible for writing, contributing to, editing, and updating that content — so everyone has to use it. It’s a far more collaborative method, and the result is that your knowledge base grows faster and stays more accurate.

If you use Zendesk Support and Zendesk Guide as your primary support tools and want to try KCS, you can! Many of the features that are already available within Zendesk (or within the Zendesk Marketplace ) work perfectly for Knowledge-Centered Service .

Applying Knowledge-Centered Service principles to Zendesk Guide

The KCS methodology is built on four fundamental principles:

Create Value

Demand driven.

Sometimes it’s easy to discount principles and jump straight into tactics, but these principles are foundational to the KCS methodology. Successfully implementing KCS relies on training your customer support agents to work in a way that aligns with them.

Say your entire support department has 100 people in it.

Implementing KCS correctly means that all 100 people should be involved in creating and maintaining knowledge. Why? Because Knowledge-Centered Service is built on the idea that the best people for writing and updating your knowledge base are the ones who have to use it every day.

It might be tempting to assume that implementing KCS in a team of 100 people will be messy and hard to manage. Often, the opposite is actually the case. The more people you involve in this process, the greater the amount of knowledge you can capture and the better quality content you’ll create — because there will be far more eyes viewing it.

To be clear, you can build checks and balances into your KCS process. For instance, you might enable anyone on the team to draft a new knowledge article, but it wouldn’t go live until a team lead reviews it.

But the principle of abundance means recognizing that every member of your team has something valuable to contribute.

Recognize and reward agents who contribute many updates. Incentivizing activities can help agents develop good habits in the early days of your KCS program.

Knowledge-Centered Service works for both internal and external knowledge bases. To apply this principle within Zendesk, you can:

Allow all agents the user permissions to edit and write articles in Guide.

If an agent encounters an issue without a related article, equip them to create an article that documents their solution immediately.

Recognize and reward agents who contribute many updates. Incentivizing activities can help agents develop good habits in the early days of your KCS program, but best practice is to include an end date to those reward programs.

Creating value is the concept that capturing knowledge as part of an interaction is valuable.

Your support team spends most of its time interacting with customers. Their primary focus is on solving each ticket. In fact, many teams try to maximize the time they spend on tickets and reduce any “distractions” outside of that.

KCS is only successful when working with knowledge is considered part of that core support process, not a separate task. The ideal process in Zendesk looks like this:

An agent opens a ticket and searches for the answer in your knowledge base.

If they find one, they use it. If they don’t find one, they write the response for the customer and create an article from it.

Providing a solution to one customer creates a little bit of value. Documenting that solution so it can be easily provided to thousands of future customers creates way more value. An agent may need to spend a little more time on that first ticket, but the downstream effects are significant.

The easiest way to enable this behavior is by using Zendesk’s native Knowledge Capture App (although many alternatives are available in the Zendesk Marketplace). The general goal is to make your knowledge base easily accessible for all agents using Zendesk Support, removing any barriers that would stop them from using it when they’re working on support tickets.

The last thing you want is someone spending time creating dozens of articles that will never get used. Fortunately, KCS isn’t about anticipating potential issues that customers or agents might need help with in the future. It’s all about the existing demand.

In the Knowledge-Centered Service framework, knowledge is a byproduct of an interaction. You create and update knowledge while responding to tickets, which means only useful articles end up in your knowledge base. Zendesk apps can help a ton with this:

Use a tool like Answer Search to help agents validate their responses and confirm an article is needed (before they create another one).

Cull articles that get written and don’t get linked, used, or edited for years. You can track this using Zendesk Explore or a third-party tool like Help Center Analytics .

The final KCS principle is trust. KCS is only successful if your team is engaged, empowered, and motivated. That means:

Trusting that every person on the team has knowledge that they can contribute.

Your team trusts that their work on the knowledge base is recognized and valued.

This doesn’t mean sacrificing quality for the sake of quantity. As mentioned above, you can adjust permissions so that agents can only create draft articles. Team leads — or a dedicated documentation specialist — can then review and publish it.

Be strategic, but remember that working with a principle of trust at the center means reducing bottlenecks wherever possible.

Using the Knowledge Capture App for the KCS Double Loop Process

The Knowledge Capture App is available to all Zendesk Guide customers. Fortunately, it includes most of the core functionality you need to implement Knowledge-Centered Service.

Your business is unique, and KCS can be implemented within Zendesk in many different ways. But let’s walk through one example showing what implementing KCS in Zendesk could look like.

Tackling the KCS Solve Loop in Zendesk

The Solve Loop is the meat of the KCS methodology. It’s all about how your agents capture, reuse, and improve knowledge as part of their day-to-day work. That might sound complex, but it’s more complicated in theory than it is in practice.

The Solve Loop has four steps: capture, structure, reuse, and improve.

Say you open a ticket and look for an article about a topic. When you’re just starting with KCS, an article will likely not exist. You can create an article easily with the Knowledge Capture App, without even opening a separate tab:

Decide what should happen when an article is created . You can either create a draft for review or have it published.

Create an article from the relevant template (more on this in the next step).

It’s easier to create and use knowledge when it follows a common structure. When your knowledge articles are structured, everyone knows what to expect — from agents to customers. To structure your Zendesk Guide knowledge base:

Set up some templates in advance for the different types of issues your team encounters.

Organize your articles in sections and categories .

Being able to search for and link content during an interaction is essential for KCS. It’s also the only way to ensure that your team isn’t constantly recreating articles that already exist.

When your team searches for an article and finds one that answers the question at hand, Zendesk enables a few core KCS tactics:

Use the Knowledge Capture App to search and link articles directly within support tickets.

Use the Knowledge Capture Dashboard within Zendesk Explore to keep track of which articles are used over time. This can help you understand what’s working and find ways to improve your knowledge base and product over time.

The final step of the KCS Solve Loop is to review and improve articles. When your agents find an article that is outdated or unhelpful, they should take one of two actions:

They can flag articles and leave a comment explaining what needs changing, which opens a ticket. You can use Zendesk triggers and views to route and manage that ticket, just like a ticket that you’d receive from a customer.

Agents can fix small issues immediately. For example, if a UI term has been changed in your product, Help Center Manager allows you to bulk update that word across all articles.

The KCS Evolve Loop in Zendesk

The Evolve Loop is the second part of the KCS Double Loop Process. Whereas the Solve Loop focused on the actual work of solving tickets and creating knowledge, the Evolve Loop focuses on continuously improving knowledge management across your company over time.

A big part of determining what knowledge management looks like across your company is dependent upon your company culture. You’ll need to work with other internal stakeholders to figure those pieces out. But there’s one other part of the Evolve Loop that’s critical for long-term Knowledge-Centered Service: developing processes that support the Solve Loop.

It’s about assessing what’s working and defining future improvements to your KCS process.

Content health & performance assessment

An outdated or low quality knowledge base doesn’t help your customers or your agents. If anything, it hurts your brand.

This means it’s imperative to review your knowledge regularly for accuracy and usability. Analytics are your best friend here. Zendesk has a few standard dashboards and recipes that can help (like the Knowledge Capture Dashboard ). Apps like Help Center Analytics take those basic reports to the next level, unlocking significantly more value from your Zendesk Guide data.

To identify articles that aren’t performing well, try using metrics like article to ticket conversion rate. This metric (available within Help Center Analytics ) helps you understand how successful an article is at deflecting tickets. Here’s how to calculate it on your own:

Article to ticket conversion = (# of tickets created after visiting an article / total article views) * 100

For example, if 100 tickets are generated after visiting an article and it has 1200 total views for the last month, then your article to ticket conversion rate equals (100/1200) * 100 or 8.33%.

Article to ticket conversion rate gives you clear insight into how well a help center article deflects tickets

Zendesk Guide also allows visitors to vote on whether specific articles were helpful or not, which gives you another useful data point for determining where you can improve your knowledge base. Apps like Help Center Analytics use this data to calculate a Helpfulness Score — the percentage of positive votes out of the total votes — which you can track over time and aggregate for each article, section, category, and more.

Lastly, remember that if you’ve involved your agents in creating knowledge base content, then part of improving your Knowledge-Centered Service might include coaching and training agents to develop better content..

Process integration

The best way to integrate KCS into your support team’s processes is to ensure knowledge is easily accessible in Zendesk Support. KCS can’t be a separate task or project — it’s part of the valuable work your support team does all day, every day.

That’s why apps like the Knowledge Capture App make a massive difference for Zendesk users. Implementing Knowledge-Centered Service requires a mindset shift. It requires developing new habits. And it’s always easiest to develop new habits when they’re convenient.

Improving your support with knowledge management

KCS is a shift that can transform your support team's work and your company culture. Change goes smoother when the tools you’re using makes it easy to adopt. The less friction there is, the faster your team will get on board and the faster you’ll begin to see results from the change.

The great news is that between its native functionality and the app marketplace, Zendesk is already equipped with all the tools you need to get started using Knowledge-Centered Service.

Related Reading

Setting up your Zendesk platform to do more with less

How to optimize your Zendesk workflows to handle high ticket volumes

How to build a business case to increase the investment in your knowledge base

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3 Ways Your Support Outcomes Benefit From KCS

3 Ways Your Support Outcomes Benefit From KCS

Unlike the traditional add-on process of knowledge engineering, KCS becomes the way people solve problems and creates knowledge as a by-product of problem-solving. – KCS Academy

Knowledge-centered service (KCS) has been around for a long time. If implemented properly, it reduces customer time-to-value and improves agent workflows by facilitating intelligent workflows, so much so that an average team observes:

  • A 30 – 50% increase in first-contact resolution
  • 70% faster time-to-proficiency for new analysts
  • 20 – 35% improvement in employee retention
  • 20 – 40% improvement in employee satisfaction
  • 10% fewer reported issues/support requests

I get what you’re thinking. You know what KCS is and what it does, but you are concerned about the time and efforts this project will take. Because, let’s face it, redesigning workflows isn’t exactly thrilling. But after reading this blog post, you’ll agree that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel for imbibing KCS values in your work culture. So, let’s dive deeper and see how KCS works in favor of your business.

1. Enables Better Self-Service

Self-service portals are of two kinds–one for the agents and the other for customers. When any user steps into your self-service portal, they’re comparing it to the likes of tech giants like Google, Amazon, or the now less loved Facebook. You’ve already lost the battle. But like they say, all is not lost, just yet .

To provide relevant and ‘in-the-moment’ guidance, you need to have a system that not only stores information but is capable enough to reuse it in different scenarios. KCS workflows capture knowledge that will be used by your support agents when they have to resolve a customer’s issue. Not just that, a repetitive issue can be published on customer communities, thus increasing your case deflection rates and improving self-service satisfaction. AI-enabled tech has made all these things very easy. Some apps automate KB article creation, and all your agent has to do is click the ‘publish’ button. Click here to know more.

2. Curbs Case Escalations

Forrester says that of all the self-service channels, customers make the most frequent use of knowledge bases.

Your knowledge base isn’t going to do much good if it’s old and outdated. Resolving undocumented cases takes time & energy. And if the new resolutions aren’t added to the knowledge base, not only is your agents’ time wasted, it has implications on support costs too. KCS promotes improving already existing knowledge articles to maintain a dynamic knowledge base that is up-to-date. This, in turn, keeps case escalations and CSAT scores in check.

Curbs Case Escalations

Source : www.dixa.com

Once new content is added to the existing knowledge base, it’s imperative to check its performance. Knowledge management solutions come with reports that reveal the usage of created articles, as in how often the new articles were shared or attached to cases. When you can monitor and improve your knowledge base, it reduces the chances of escalations. Additionally, these reports provide actionable insights about customer issues and point towards product development & improvement areas.

3. Reduces Agent Onboarding Times

Long agent onboarding times can hamper an agent’s productivity and result in demotivation and disengagement. During their onboarding process, they need to gain technical skills and the right product & services knowledge. Unlike traditional KM that promotes face-to-face knowledge transfer, KCS practices equip new agents to get up to speed via KM tools.

Curbs Case Escalations

Originally, finding answers to the questions in the flowchart required the assistance of experienced agents. Now, there are KM tools that offer intuitive, user-friendly, and in-the-moment guidance for the same. They empower your employees to stay motivated, make KCS a part of their process, and reduce onboarding times significantly. This also lowers their dependency on other agents.

Want to Imbibe KCS But Not Sure How? Hear From The Horse’s Mouth

The reason why some organizations don’t see the value of KCS is that their KM processes aren’t optimized. That’s why we are delivering a virtual webinar with KCS Academy to discuss the new age KCS best practices & tech that enables them, on January 26, 2021. Click here to register.

Not sure if you’re free that day? Register anyway and get access to the webinar on-demand for a limited time. Hurry, the clock is ticking!

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Published 2 November 2023

Boosting organizational success with kcs: a guide to effective knowledge management.

kcs become how we solve problems by

In the ever-evolving landscape of knowledge management, organizations seek innovative ways to empower their workforce, enhance customer experiences, and achieve better outcomes. Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) is a methodology that not only addresses these challenges but propels organizations towards greater success. In this blog post, we will delve into the key principles of KCS, explore its benefits, and provide insights on its practical implementation.

Understanding the Core Principles of KCS

KCS revolves around four fundamental principles that lay the foundation for a robust knowledge management strategy. Let’s explore each one in detail:

  • Trust: Trust is the cornerstone of KCS. It’s the belief that individuals, armed with the right information and a clear understanding of the organization’s purpose and brand promise, will make the right decisions. KCS empowers and motivates knowledge workers who create and maintain the knowledge base.
  • Create Value: Knowledge is the ultimate product of knowledge workers. Each task should be approached with the overarching goal of creating value collectively. In KCS, value is derived from continually improving and enhancing articles as they are reused.
  • Demand-Driven: KCS operates on a “Just-In-Time” principle, focusing on immediate action rather than preemptive preparations. The methodology acknowledges the difficulty in predicting the future value of an interaction and instead prioritizes capturing knowledge based on real-time demand.
  • Abundance: Knowledge is an abundant resource; it grows with each interaction or experience. No one leaves an interaction with less knowledge than they had before. The more we share, the more we learn, promoting a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Defining Knowledge in KCS

Knowledge in the KCS framework is not just information; it’s information upon which we can act. It is a product of interaction and experience. It’s important to recognize that our knowledge is never 100% accurate or complete. It is validated through usage, and its value is immeasurable as we rely on it daily.

KCS: Managing the Risks of Knowledge

KCS effectively manages the inherent risks associated with knowledge. It capitalizes on collective experiences and interactions while minimizing hesitation to share information. Since knowledge is constantly evolving and validated through use, KCS embraces the concept that knowledge is never static.

This methodology encourages capturing, structuring, reusing, and improving knowledge as part of the organizational culture. The more knowledge we accumulate, the higher the quality of our collective knowledge base becomes.

The Double Loop Process in KCS

The processes of KCS revolve around a double loop process. It’s called “double loop” because the “Solve” and “Evolve” processes continually reinforce each other. This approach optimizes the health of the knowledge base and enhances the organization’s capabilities.

kcs become how we solve problems by

The Consortium for Service Innovation

KCS is not just a concept; it’s supported by a consortium dedicated to promoting its principles and best practices. The Consortium for Service Innovation is a non-profit alliance of service organizations that actively develop, nurture, and evangelize KCS. This consortium conducts research and development, gathers cross-industry perspectives, and creates innovative business strategies and models.

Success Stories of KCS

KCS has proven to be a game-changer for organizations. Let’s explore a success story to illustrate its effectiveness:

Imagine a customer had a problem that was solved in minutes, not hours. The knowledge worker answered a question they didn’t know the answer to themselves, but the organization did. This was made possible by KCS, which focuses on knowledge as the key asset of the organization. The benefits of KCS extend to the organization, the customer, and the knowledge worker.

Benefits of KCS for Various Stakeholders

KCS brings significant advantages to multiple stakeholders within an organization:

  • For the organization: Improved resolution at first contact, enhanced visibility into organizational knowledge, quicker mastery of skills, and valuable feedback to improve products and documentation.
  • For the customer: Empowerment to find answers through self-service, faster time to resolution, and consistent, accurate responses from the organization.
  • For the knowledge worker: Engaging in more interesting work, providing faster resolution for known issues, accessing a broad knowledge base at any time, and gaining recognition for sharing and collaborating.

The KCS Article: A Closer Look

In KCS, knowledge is encapsulated in what is known as a “KCS article.” An article contains several key components:

  • Issue: The specific problem or question presented by the requester.
  • Environment: The context in which the issue occurs, including the product or service and the surrounding conditions.
  • Cause: The underlying reason behind the issue.
  • Resolution: The steps required to address the requester’s problem.
  • Title: A concise statement that reflects the issue and environment, facilitating easy searching.

Structuring Knowledge in KCS

Effective knowledge management involves structuring knowledge in a way that enhances its accessibility and usability. Here are some key considerations:

  • Separate the issue from the environment to improve search results based on problem symptoms.
  • Write complete thoughts, not complete sentences, to improve article readability, especially for non-native speakers.
  • Retain the words and phrases used by the requester to describe their issue, increasing findability for others.
  • Aim for an article that is “sufficient to solve” the problem; it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Components of Content Health in KCS

KCS emphasizes the continuous improvement of knowledge articles. Several components contribute to the quality of these articles:

  • Article Confidence: Articles go through various confidence levels, from work in progress to validated. Confidence increases as articles evolve and prove their quality.
  • Article Audience: Defines who can access the article – internal for employees or external for customers.
  • Article Governance: Dictates who can modify or create articles, based on whether they are experience-based or compliance-based.

Roles in the KCS Licensing Model

KCS assigns different roles to knowledge workers based on their proficiency and responsibilities:

  • KCS Candidate: Basic users who create articles in a work-in-progress or not-validated state.
  • KCS Contributor: Knowledge workers who create, modify, and validate articles, improving them when necessary.
  • KCS Publisher: Authorized to set articles to external visibility and modify externally-facing content.
  • Coaches: Experts who assist others in developing their KCS proficiency and act as part-time mentors.
  • Knowledge Domain Expert (KDE): Focused on creating Evolve Loop content based on Solve Loop articles, maintaining the knowledge base, and specializing in specific knowledge areas.

Content Standard Checklist

The Content Standard Checklist is a crucial feedback tool in KCS, used by coaches to ensure knowledge workers adhere to content and structure standards. It measures criteria like article uniqueness, completeness, clarity, and metadata.

Process Integration in KCS

KCS encourages integrating knowledge capture and reuse into daily workflows. This approach ensures that valuable context is captured, saves time, and promotes a culture of continuous learning.

Structured Problem Solving Approach: KCS advocates a structured problem-solving approach to answer questions. This approach involves searching early and often, capturing the requester’s context, and creating articles in real-time.

Performance Assessment in KCS

KCS uses a balanced scorecard approach to assess individual and team performance. The goal is to link individual goals to organizational goals and measure performance based on leading indicators and outcomes. This approach allows organizations to evaluate the value created by knowledge workers in terms of the KCS principles.

Challenges in Implementing KCS

While KCS offers numerous benefits, implementing it effectively can be challenging. Here are some common challenges organizations might face:

  • Change Management: Shifting to a KCS mindset can be a significant cultural shift for organizations and their knowledge workers.
  • Scalability: Organizations need to ensure that KCS can scale effectively as they grow.
  • Quality Control: Ensuring that KCS articles meet the required quality standards can be a continuous challenge.
  • Engagement and Motivation: Knowledge workers need to be motivated to actively participate in the KCS process.

Final Thoughts

Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) is a powerful approach to knowledge management that drives efficiency, customer satisfaction, and organizational success. By adhering to its principles and embracing continuous learning and improvement, organizations can create a culture that leverages the power of shared knowledge to achieve better results. While KCS implementation may come with its challenges, the rewards in terms of improved problem-solving, customer service, and organizational growth make it a worthwhile investment for any forward-thinking business.

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Measures for Individuals and Teams

Now that we understand what we are trying to create (content standard) and how we are going to create it (structured workflow), we are ready to develop a measurement model to assess how we are doing. We want to know how we are doing as individuals as well as teams. We have found the approach described in the book The Balanced Scorecard by Norton and Kaplan to be very helpful. It describes a number of important concepts that we have embraced in the KCS Performance Assessment model.

  • Link individual goals to departmental and organizational goals to help people see how their performance is related to the bigger picture.
  • Look at performance from multiple points of view. The typical scorecard considers the key stakeholders: customers, employees, and the business.
  • Distinguish leading indicators (activities) from lagging indicators (outcomes).

In this section, we show examples of how we apply the scorecard methodology to establish and maintain appropriate measures for both individuals and teams:

  • Leading indicators (activities) and lagging indicators (outcomes): a very important distinction
  • Triangulation—looking at things from at least three perspectives to see who is creating value
  • Radar charts—a value footprint: a presentation/visualization technique
  • Sample scorecards for knowledge workers and team leaders (managers)

Our first important concept distinguishes between activities and outcomes. If we put goals on activities (leading indicators), we will get what we ask for. Unfortunately, the activity by itself is not an indicator of value nor does it necessarily lead to the outcome we are after. For example, if we set a goal for each knowledge worker to create ten KCS articles per month, we will get ten articles a month. However, we will find that these articles are often created on the last few days of the month and they contain little or no valuable information (things like "fixed customer problem"). They were created to meet the goal, without consideration of the desired outcome. Goals on activities seldom, if ever, generate the desired outcome. In fact, in a knowledge management environment, if we put goals on activities it will corrupt the knowledge base. In the example of a goal on article creation, it's not just that the useless articles are a waste of time - their presence in the knowledge base is actually damaging to the health of the whole KCS system. This is why the distinction between activities and outcomes is so important, and why we say often: do not put goals on activities!

In our example above, the outcome we want is articles that are findable and usable by a target audience. We need to do the "create" activity in the context of the outcome. This reinforces the KCS Principle of Create Value : work tasks, think big picture. The outcome needs to be the focus, not the activity.

Goals placed on activities will corrupt the knowledge base.

Putting goals on activities will:

  • Create unwanted results
  • Destroy the value of the measure as an indicator of behavior
  • Distract people from the real objective
  • Relieve people from using judgment
  • Make leadership look dull
  • Disenfranchise people

A very helpful concept from The Balanced Scorecard distinguishes performance drivers (motivators— covered in the Leadership section) from leading indicators (activities) from lagging indicators (the results or outcomes). While each of these three elements is important, the role each plays in the measurement system is different. Making a distinction between them is crucial.

Performance Model

  • Are the activity measures heading in the right direction?
  • How rapidly are they changing?
  • Do knowledge workers have timely visibility to their performance indicators?

While the distinction between activity and outcome measures is critical, we find people struggle with identifying which indicators are activities (leading indicators) and which are outcomes (lagging). Here are some helpful ways to test an indicator:

  • Easy to measure and easy to manipulate or game — it is probably an activity (do not put a goal on it)
  • Hard to measure and hard to manipulate or game — it is probably an outcome
  • Only measurable after the fact (when the event completed)— it is probably an outcome

Whenever we are having a discussion about an indicator or measure, we must be clear as to whether it is an activity or an outcome. See the Metrics Matrix section for examples of activity and outcome metrics.

Triangulation—Who is Creating Value?

The distinction between activities and outcomes is only part of the picture. Effective performance assessment in KCS comes from the integration of multiple perspectives. Because there is no one measure that indicates value creation, we assess it by correlating at least three different perspectives. The basic model includes trends in activities (trend over time), key outcomes (measured against goals), and the KCS Content Standard Checklist (discussed in Content Health ). These three perspectives consider measures that are both objective (quantifiable) and subjective (qualitative) to assess value creation by individuals and teams.


We offer, as an example, a collection of measures to create an initial assessment model. Every organization must be thoughtful about developing its own set of metrics that align with their organization's goals (documented in the strategic framework).

The choice of measures for KCS must focus on the attributes that create value for the organization. The integration of the following dimensions creates a comprehensive view of performance, which in turn gives us confidence in assessing who is creating value and who might benefit from some help from a Coach.

Aligning to Business Objectives: Balanced Scorecard Example


Make Trends Visible to the Knowledge Workers

Consider a driving analogy: we want to go from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park. We could reasonably expect to make the 180-mile drive in three to four hours at an average speed of 55 miles per hour. Our desired outcome is to reach Yosemite in a reasonable period, but we will not know if we have been successful until we arrive. What would we need for the trip? We need a car, a driver's license, and some gas, but a successful trip requires that we also pay attention to many other factors (leading indicators) along the way. Because we would like to average 55 mph, we want to pay attention to how fast we are going. Because we have determined three to four hours is the acceptable period, we want to be aware of the passage of time at different speeds and how much gas we have in order to avoid refueling delays.

The dashboard in the car is very helpful in informing us about the enabling factors for a successful trip. In KCS, the trends in the leading indicators are the dashboard that let the knowledge worker and the organization know the status of the enabling factors. They must be visible to the people who are driving the KCS system: the knowledge workers.

We emphasize this visibility because we have seen multiple organizations implement KCS and not provide the knowledge worker with the feedback they need to adjust their behavior and create optimal outcomes.

Goals for Outcomes, Not Activities!

Because leading indicators are quantifiable activities, they are often easier to measure than outcomes. This creates a seemingly irresistible urge to put goals on the activities that are required for the outcome. As we have mentioned a few times, this is... counterproductive.

Consider the trip to Yosemite. If the stated goal were solely maintaining an average of 55 mph, it could be done. But in the absence of understanding the objective (Yosemite) the driver will choose roads that allow him to maintain the average speed regardless of destination. We might end up in Chico! Not that Chico is a bad place; it just is not where we wanted to go.

During the KCS adoption process, we have seen organizations put goals on KCS article creation (everyone should create five KCS articles a week) or KCS article reuse (knowledge workers will be measured on how often they link KCS articles). The goals for these leading indicators may have been met, but the quality of the knowledge base has been seriously compromised. Invalid and duplicate KCS articles are created, because the focus is on the activity, not the outcome. Worse, emphasis can shift to gaming the system rather than generating real value. Inevitably, quality and morale suffer, management looks less competent, and the value of the knowledge is diminished.

However, the trends in the activities (link, modify, create) give us valuable insights about knowledge worker behavior, so long as (we will say it again) there are not goals on the activities. If we put goals on these activities, the trends become meaningless as indicators of behavior and we will have lost valuable insights. The activities are also an early indicator of how effective the organization's leadership has been in describing the purpose and benefits of KCS and inspiring knowledge workers to embrace the Solve Loop practices. If people understand why they are doing it and what is in it for them (WIIFM), the likelihood that they will contribute appropriately is greatly increased. If the knowledge workers know we are trying to get to Yosemite, they will make good judgments about the activities it will take to achieve that outcome. If they don't know where we want to go, they may meet all the activity goals but who knows where we will end up. Refer to the Leadership and Communication practice for more details on communication and motivation.

Knowledge Worker Visibility to Measures

Knowledge worker visibility to measures is a delicate thing. We have conditioned them to expect goals on measures. In some cases if leadership does not put a goal on the activities, the knowledge worker will self impose one - which is as dysfunctional as leadership putting goals on activities. It is critical that knowledge workers get feedback on how they are doing and coaching on how they could improve. The conversation with both coaches and leaders needs to be focused on behaviors and outcomes. While the activity trends and a comparison of activities to peers doing similar work can provide helpful insight to the knowledge worker behavior, the conversation needs to be about their understanding of the Solve Loop and the content standard - not about the numbers.

On the other hand, numbers can have a positive impact when talking about outcomes. A key responsibility of leadership is providing knowledge workers with visibility to the impact their contribution to the knowledge base is having on the outcomes. Quantifying these benefits, using numbers and percent improvement on outcomes or progress toward a goal is very beneficial. If the knowledge workers can not see the impact of their contribution, they will stop contributing.

A Scenario—Examples of KCS Reports

The example to the right is for the first six months of an organization's adoption of KCS.

KCS Article Creation and Reuse

KCS article creation will naturally lead KCS article reuse. As an organization approaches maturity, they will have already captured a high percentage of the known KCS articles, so the creation rate should drop off, and the reuse rate will continue to climb. Because of its link to product life cycles, this pattern will repeat itself with each new product or application introduced.

KCS Article Life Cycle Trend

The KCS article life cycle gives us a sense for the speed with which articles are moving from a Not Validated state to a Validated state and/or External state. Because the value of the knowledge increases as the visibility of the article increases, we want to make sure that there is no bottleneck in the system. Articles in the Validated state are generally visible to a much larger audience than Not Validated articles, while External articles are generally available to people outside the organization.


Link Rate as an Indicator

The link rate is powerful leading or early indicator of knowledge worker behavior. Link rate is defined as the percentage of events or incidents handled that have an article linked. We divide the number of incidents that have an article linked by the total number of applicable incidents closed. We should note that every organization has some events or incidents where linking does not make sense: it adds no value. Stated another way, link rate measures the percentage of times we link when linking is appropriate.

Link rate is an important trend to watch as the organization adopts KCS. In general, a healthy link rate for an organization is in the range of 60-80%, although specific numbers vary based on which incidents are included into this calculation. Link rate is an indicator of how often the knowledge base is being used as part of the knowledge worker's process. The link rate reflects reuse of known or existing articles as well as articles created because one didn't exist. For example, if we closed ten incidents this week, and we reused six KCS articles and created two new KCS articles, our participation rate would be 80%.

Department Link Rate

Here we can see there is a wide range of link rates across the group. A conversation with Ed and Joe about their workflow and how they are using the knowledge base might be a good idea. Because link rate is the ratio of incidents closed to articles linked, it makes it hard to come up with a scenario for Joe or Ed that says they are "doing well." Link rate is a powerful indicator of anyone who is not playing. Again, we raise the caution that the conversation with the knowledge worker needs to be about their understanding of KCS, the Solve Loop, and their use of the knowledge base, not about their link rate "score."

Let us consider Kim and Hector —are they the new heroes of the organization? They seem to be doing really well. But, we don't know enough about Kim and Hector to know if they are creating value in the knowledge base or are just busy creating KCS articles that might be duplicates or incomplete. We need more information.

Profiles of the Players

It is interesting to look at a KCS indicators profile by individual. Here's an example of Hector's profile. While it contains a lot of data, the combination of factors gives us a better sense of Hector's contribution. We have averaged many of the factors over a week's time. Incidents closed, KCS articles linked, KCS articles created, KCS articles modified (improved), and citations (others use of KCS articles Hector has created) are all represented on a per week basis. Time to resolve and first contact resolution are the monthly averages.

On the link rate chart above, Hector and Kim both appear to be star performers. With the profile view, we see something different.

Kim, on the other hand...

Kim's Profile

Here is a great example of why a profile with multiple indicators is preferable over one with only a single measure. There is no single measure for value creation. If we looked only at link rate, then both Kim and Hector would appear to be doing very well. However, upon reviewing Kim's profile, we see that the article created rate represents most of her activity. She does not often modify others' articles and, in fact, does not reuse others' articles very often. The difference between KCS articles linked (used) and the articles created represents article reuse.

In Kim's case, we see KCS article creation makes up most of the KCS articles linked, which indicates relatively low reuse. Based on her citations levels, we can also see that others are not using the KCS articles that Kim creates. We might infer from all this that Kim is not searching the knowledge base before creating new articles, and that the KCS articles she creates are not very useful to others. A conversation with Kim is definitely in order. It may be that she does not understand the KCS processes. However, Kim may also be working on a new release or supporting a beta product, in which case her profile might represent a very good contribution.

Even with all this data, we still do not have enough information to determine who is creating value. We are missing a qualitative view (indicators of quality) to balance the quantitative view (activity).

If we refer back to the Content Standard Checklist we discussed earlier, we can get an additional perspective on Hector and Kim's behaviors and contribution.


Hector's Content Standard Checklist percentage is 98%; he consistently creates articles that adhere to the content standard. In contrast, Kim's percentage is 75.3%, which is below the goal (the Content Standard Checklist percentage is an outcome and should have a goal), and the frequency of duplicates is very high. This high duplicate rate reinforces the idea that Kim is not searching before resolving and creating. While her activity level is excellent, that activity is corrupting the knowledge base because of the level of duplicate KCS articles introduced.

There is one more perspective that can further increase our confidence in who is creating value and who might need some help from a coach. The Content Standard Checklist tells us who understands and adheres to the content standard. The last piece of the puzzle is provided by the PAR (Process Adherence Review - formerly Process Integration Indicators) which helps us understand who is doing the Solve Loop: who has really integrated use of the knowledge base into their workflow.

PAR sample v6.2

Looking at the contribution rate and the link accuracy, we see more evidence that Hector is creating value and Kim needs some help. Hector's link rate, link accuracy, and contribution index are all very good. Looking at Kim we see her link rate is good, but her link accuracy is well below the required 90% and her link contribution index is very poor compared to her peers.

Looking at knowledge worker value creation requires that we use a comprehensive set of measures. By looking at a combination of Content Standard Checklist and PAR we get an accurate view of who is creating value and who needs some attention from a coach.

Radar Charts - Creating a Value Footprint

The scenario with Hector and Kim requires a great deal of data and analysis with multiple charts for multiple people. A leader with a team of fifteen knowledge workers is not likely to have the time to routinely do that level of analysis. Can we make it easier to quickly identify who is creating value and who needs help? For rapid assessment, we use a tool called the Radar Chart.

Creating a Radar Chart requires some thought. First, we want to be sure we get a balanced view. Our key metrics should reflect a balance of:

  • Leading and lagging indicators (activities and outcomes)
  • Quantity and quality

The leading indicators (activities) are compared to the team average (not a goal) and lagging indicators (outcomes) are compared to the goal.

Secondly, we have to normalize the values to a common scale—for this example we will normalize to 1, so anything less than 1 is not meeting the team average or the goal, and anything greater than 1 is better than the team average or exceeds the goal. In the case of the leading indicators (activities), we will normalize it to the team average (do not put goals on activities). For the lagging indicators (outcomes), we will normalize the goal to 1.

We have to decide what measures to use in the radar chart. Organizations that use radar charts each have their own set of measures, usually defined by the KCS Council team.

For our example we will use Hector and Kim's data from the scenario and we will use the following measures:

  • Based on post incident closure surveys, the goal is normalized to 1
  • Content Standard Checklist; based on sampling of articles, the goal is normalized to 1
  • Citations, (peer's use of articles, # per month, 1 = team avg.)
  • Incidents handled; the number of incidents handled/month, the team average is normalized to 1
  • Avg TTR: Average time to relief (average minutes to provide relief/answer), the team average is normalized to 1 (note that the individual values for Avg TTR have to be inverted; a shorter TTR than the team average has to have a value greater than 1 and longer is less than 1)
  • Participation rate; the % of cases closed with a resolution linked, the team average is normalized to 1

Once we have decided on the measures we want to include in the radar chart and the calculations for normalizing them to 1 we can plot the chart. Following are Hector and Kim's value footprint. We can see that these charts are much easier to read than the array of graphs we used in the scenario.

Hector's Radar Chart

By comparing an individual's performance to the team averages for leading indicators and the goals for the lagging indicators, we can quickly see that Hector is creating value, and Kim needs some help. This is a helpful way to view measures so long as we have a balanced view of leading and lagging indicators as well as qualitative and quantitative measures. However, no measure or collection of measures can be meaningful without an understanding of the context in which the individual works and the role of the individual. Assessing the data in the context of the environment is a key responsibility of the team manager. We find that the assessment of value creation in a KCS environment is so different from the transaction and activity based measures we have conditioned first and second line managers to use that the managers need training on how to interpret and use value based measures.

Is What We Talk About Important?

Note that the eventual conversation with Kim should be about the behaviors and her process for problem solving, not about her participation numbers or the Content Standard Checklist percentage. The numbers are the indicators. If the conversation is about the numbers, then the numbers become the focus. We want Kim to adjust her behavior; her problem-solving process might not align with the KCS practices. If we coach her on the structured problem solving process and the Solve Loop practices, the indicator should reflect the change. However, if we talk with Kim about "fixing her numbers," she can do that, but now the indicator becomes useless.

The moral of the story here is three-fold.

  • We cannot depend on one measure or indicator to determine the health of the KCS system or the contribution of the players.
  • The indicators must be used along with an understanding of the nature of the environment. Assessing the creation of value requires that we have a holistic view of performance.
  • Trends in activities (leading indicators) can be very valuable, especially participation rates. But the value of the indicator will be lost if we put a goal on the activity or we focus on the number during conversations with the employees.

The conversation about performance improvement is about behavior, process, and understanding - not about the numbers.

Team Performance - Management Effectiveness

We can use radar charts for the team performance and as a way to assess the effectiveness of the leadership in creating an environment for KCS success. For the team radar chart, the same rules for balance apply but the measures we use would be different. The measures for a team will depend on the size of the team and the size of the organization. We offer the following as an example where the team is the support organization and can influence the measures listed.


  • Customer loyalty - unlike customer satisfaction, which typically measures the transaction, loyalty measures the customer experience over time and their emotional connection to the company (1 = the loyalty goal)
  • Employee loyalty - loyal employees are a prerequisite to loyal customers (1 = the employee loyalty goal)
  • Collaboration health index - the teams ability and willingness to collaborate; key indicators are trust and a sense of connectedness to the team
  • Support cost as a percent of revenue
  • Incidents closed
  • Avg TTR - Average time to relief for the team
  • Customer success on the web, (index = of % customers using web 1st x % success)

It is important to reiterate that numbers never tell the whole story. As with many things in the KCS methodology, judgment is required. This is true for the knowledge workers as well as managers.

While radar charts are good at showing a collection of data or measures at a point in time, they are not great at showing trends. Trends are especially important for the leading indicators (activities) like article creation and linking rates as well as participation rate.

An organization can have the best measurement system in the world, but it is only effective if the managers know how to interpret the measures and how to have effective conversations with employees that influence behavior. Performance assessment and the creation of value is fundamentally about behavior and decision making, not about the numbers.

Focus Shift Through Phases of Adoption

During the KCS Adoption, we want to focus on indicators for individual development, adoption of the Solve Loop practices, and adherence to the content standard:

  • KCS competency levels across the organization (% of the organization in each of the levels: KCS Candidate, KCS Contributor, KCS Publisher)
  • Time to KCS proficiency (number of days to reach each competency level)
  • KCS article creation rate (people are creating KCS articles as they solve problems)
  • KCS article modify rate (people are improving KCS articles as they use them)
  • KCS article reuse rate (people are using KCS articles they find in the knowledge base to solve problems)
  • Knowledge base participation (% of incidents handled using the knowledge base)
  • KCS article rework rate (KCS article flagged as needing attention because it could not be understood or fixed by the person who found it)
  • KCS article cycle time (rate at which KCS articles move through their life cycle)
  • KCS Content Standard Checklist (random sampling of articles)

Process and Operations

  • Incidents handled, individual (# of incidents handled/month, 1= team average)
  • Average time to relief, individual (average minutes to provide relief/answer, 1 = team average)

As the organization matures and KCS becomes second nature for knowledge workers, we shift our focus from individual measures to a balance of individual and team or collaboration measures:

  • Reputation and peer feedback
  • Invitation rate (number of times invited to collaborate)
  • Opt-in rate (number of times the invitation is accepted)
  • Knowledge contribution—reuse by others (citations)
  • KCS Content Standard Checklist for the team
  • Citations or feedback from customers
  • Customer success on the web (index = of % customers using web first x % success)

Sample KCS lagging indicators:

  • Based on surveys, team (post incident and periodic)
  • Retention rate/renewal rate

For a complete list of all the KCS measures the Consortium has considered please see the Appendix - Metrics Matrix

Summary: Performance Assessment

Performance Assessment for KCS represents a departure from traditional management practices. It focuses on collaboration, not competition, and assesses the creation of value, not activity. Job descriptions and expectations must shift to include the capture and maintenance of knowledge in the workflow (the Solve Loop). The measures must reflect the concept of collective ownership of the knowledge base.

Here are the key points to remember:

  • Use a license model (KCS Candidate, KCS Contributor, KCS Publisher) to manage and encourage proficiency
  • Align individual and department goals to the higher level company goals (strategic framework)
  • Look at trends and performance against team averages for the activities and create goals for the outcomes
  • Use both the Content Standard Checklist and PAR to create a comprehensive view
  • Objective and subjective measures
  • Individual and team measures
  • Trends in activities and attainment of goals for outcomes
  • Enable timely feedback to the people doing the work
  • Conversations with knowledge workers must focus on behavior, process, and understanding, not on the numbers 
  • Plan to evolve the measures as the organization matures

Letter: If you're passionate about combating our changing climate, become a reflection for others to see themselves in

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) LJ Jenkins (right) and RB Biel, workers with Elan Solar, install solar panels on a Santaquin home on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.

Reflecting back to 2018 when we first purchased an electric vehicle, the reactions of friends and neighbors were remarkable. Our decision prompted a flurry of inquiries and test drive requests. Even random people walking by left heart imprints in the snow on the hood of our car. Today, the ripple effect of our choice is evident as six out of nine households on our street now own electric vehicles. While our individual efforts may appear modest, they hold the power to ignite curiosity and spark meaningful conversations contributing to solving climate pollution problems.

The research of associate professor of philosophy Michael Brownstein at the City University of New York reveals the impact of others’ actions : recognizing oneself as part of a community and as an influencer of societal norms fosters a shift in perspective crucial for effecting change. And it can be as simple as recycling or installing LED light bulbs.

Solar panels also present a compelling case for social influence. A 2021 paper published in Nature , revealed a surprising insight: the primary motivation for rooftop solar installations wasn’t governmental subsidies, geographic suitability, or policy incentives. Instead, it was the presence of solar panels on a neighbor’s roof. Remarkably, a solitary solar project resulted in a 50 percent surge in installations within a half-mile radius, as corroborated by a subsequent study .

These anecdotes underscore the profound impact of social influences on shaping our behavior. Each decision big or small, each conversation, and each demonstration of sustainability reverberates through our communities, and is an important climate contribution.

Never underestimate your actions and influence within your community. We’re wired to closely observe and emulate others’ behaviors, as noted by Brownstein. If you’re passionate about combating our changing climate, become a reflection for others to see themselves in.

Karen Jackson, Salt Lake City

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