With remote and work from home arrangements becoming more and more popular, there is an increased likelihood that there has been a disruption to your customer support and sales team workflows. Some places where you might have seen changes are:
- More virtual meetings or reliance on internal messaging tools
- New technology and productivity tools
- Changing policies to be more relevant to remote work environments
Hopefully, with these changes you have directed your client facing teams to rely more on internal support documentation rather than disrupt other team members and reduce their productivity.
We conducted an informal study on queries that occur for newly remote teams and we compiled a list of the top three themes from the most commonly repeated questions at work. Here they are:
- VPN connection problems
- Tax forms (K-1, W-2 and W-3 IRS tax forms)
- Zoom/Teleconferencing problems (installing, connecting, requesting licenses)
While the list isn’t very exciting, what is interesting is that all of top queries were involving newly surfaced issues that didn’t exist before work-from-home was a common construct. This means that you likely have brand new gaps in your knowledge base content that are limiting productivity and output. The good news is, this is a solvable problem if you have the right tools.
As you can see, the disruption in work patterns created a shift in the knowledge required for everyday work or productivity – and these are just the top three most common knowledge gaps. Now, what did you do (or what would you have done) had you unearthed these trends? Did you build our your knowledge base to meet the demand for this new content? Or, did you rely on your subject matter experts to pick up the slack?
How do you identify knowledge gaps?
There are a handful of common ways to figure out if you have a knowledge gap problem: 1) anecdotally (through conversation with people that have been asked questions), 2) by compiling a list from the mediums in which questions are asked (like email or a messaging platform) or, alternatively, 3) using a knowledge management tool with an analytics module.
Collecting anecdotal evidence of a knowledge gap can be time consuming and might not comprehensively reveal the problem. You’ll have to rely on the collective memory of your team of knowledge seekers and subject matter experts, which can prove to be “spotty”. Anecdotal evidence also lacks objectivity, and requires much more time to collect the data. As in the case of our informal study mentioned above, you might be able to identify the 2 or 3 top queries, but beyond that, its difficult to quickly and objectively confirm if you have a frequently asked question problem for less common issues.
Manual Collation (Counting)
Combing through the mediums in which real questions are captured, such as in email or in internal messaging platforms (eg. Slack) is the most labor intensive and cumbersome way to identify knowledge gaps. Of the two manual methods, this is the most accurate way, but certainly takes the most time and effort.
Using KB Software with Analytics
Using a knowledge management tool is preferable to the manual methods (anecdotal and combing through emails) because it addresses the shortcomings of a non-automated data collection method. Moreover, because knowledge gaps are non-static, so you’ll need to conduct these reviews periodically. This means that if you’re using a manual method without automation, you’ll need to invest the same amount of time each month or quarter (or however frequently you conduct a review). A proper knowledge management tool with a comprehensive analytics suite will reveal knowledge gaps with objectivity and as frequently as you’d like to complete a review without the hardship of manual collection. It’s a much more efficient way to collect the data. The queries are consolidated in the analytics module and you will likely only have to search in one place to access the data.
If you currently use a collaborative tool like Google Docs to author and store you knowledge (in Google Drive), without any other extensions or analytics tools, you may be out of luck. Drive’s search functionality does not natively record queries and compile them for the purposes of conducting analysis. For that matter, neither does Dropbox or Box. If this is your existing knowledge management silo, you’re going to have to rely on anecdotal evidence of knowledge gaps.
If you do use an enterprise wiki or knowledge base that has an analytics module that records and tabulates queries, you’re in a much more advantageous position.
Knowledge base analytics modules can have varying degrees of functionality, but most commonly you’ll see:
- Common search queries
- Documents or pages visited
- User statistics (eg. time on page and frequency of access)
- Knowledge requests (for self-identified knowledge gaps)
It also helps if they’re your knowledge base employs Natural Language Processing (NLP). NLP helps to identify trends in search queries to collate results into categories. NLP uses pattern recognition to consolidate phrases that are similar into thematic buckets.
Rinse and repeat
Once you’ve identified and codified your knowledge gaps into documentation, the job is done… for now. You’ll need to periodically conduct the same exercise to ensure that new gaps are closed as they arise. As you can see, having a robust knowledge management software with an analytics module can automate and accelerate much of the work required.