This post was originally published on obie.ai.
Depending on the organizational adoption rate of your knowledge base software, support queries might be asked in a few different channels. If you have built a documentation-first culture, support seekers might always “ask” their knowledge base for the appropriate documentation before seeking support elsewhere. If adoption rates are less than perfect, your support teams will have to be prepared to field questions in the other channels where they are asked. These channels can be widespread or concentrated, but optimally all roads lead to the single source of truth in your organization. Let’s explore the “wrong” places where support questions are asked.
The knowledge base
Ok, let’s take a step back first before we examine where misplaced questions are asked in the workplace. While it is arguably the right place to seek support, the knowledge base’s success for self-serve support depends greatly on:
- The organizational culture surrounding documentation, and…
- The ease at which the KB can be accessed from the flow of work
Knowledge bases are often siloed from workflows, but modern knowledge management solutions and enterprise-grade wikis are making great strides in changing that. You can now connect your knowledge base to Slack or to access knowledge in your browser via extension, which is where so much work is done.
Frequently asked questions in Slack
Slack has become the Tier-1 support mailbox for the modern organization. This collaborative communication platform made receiving (and providing) support a whole lot easier. The biggest challenge with using a dedicated Slack channel for support seekers is that it doesn’t scale well. Requests get forgotten or placed in the wrong channels, which do nothing but ensure conversational noise and increase the likelihood that the support seeker’s requests will be left unresolved and eventually reduce productivity.
The dreaded shoulder-tap
When we talk about shoulder-taps, we mean when questions are asked within the team. For example, a junior customer success team member might seek guidance from a senior team member or a manager. Shoulder taps have shifted somewhat to virtual channels such as Slack or MS Teams, especially in a remote or WFH setting, but they still occur frequently and have a multiplier effect when invoked. Shoulder taps occur when a support seeker’s productivity is blocked and the person that they ask (the subject matter expert) is blocked as well until the problem is deflected or resolved.
To other internal departments via email, phone, or even Post-it note
The other side of the shoulder-tapping coin is outreach to an unrelated internal team with specialized knowledge or services (such as an IT helpdesk, or for example, when a customer support team member reaches out to the product team for specific knowledge). The main challenge with this type of support-seeking communication is that it is the most time-consuming (which drains productivity) and it is difficult to keep track for the purposes of ensuring completeness of the knowledge base. To avoid knowledge gaps, the subject matter experts must be trained to contribute to the knowledge base to prevent further interruptions.
The ultimate solution for resolving questions being asked in the “wrong” channels is to promote a culture that prioritizes a reliance on documentation as being part of daily work. This means that employees both reference and contribute to a body of centralized knowledge as a part of their daily work. The team member’s reaction should always be to check the knowledge base first and if knowledge gaps exist, to request that they be filled with relevant knowledge. This will accelerate work in both centralized and remote work settings.
Creating documentation-reliant culture doesn’t just end at setting up a knowledge silo – you need to make it accessible. As indicated earlier, you need to inject knowledge into the workflows of your team. These workflows often occur in Slack or in the browser, so choose solutions that merge knowledge and work, and the result will be higher productivity.