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Flagging Knowledge Articles – the Simple Act of Commenting

A knowledge article is never complete until it is obsolete. This statement from the KCS methodology promotes that knowledge is not perfect and can always be improved. It needs to be dynamic and not static. Yet not everyone will have the authority to modify or fix knowledge. Those rights must be earned based on the KCS competency model. When fixing is not an option, flagging is. Flagging a knowledge article allows individuals the ability to contribute fragments of knowledge to improve the knowledge article. Ultimately these fragments from flagging need to be addressed by someone who has the authority to fix the knowledge article. In many knowledge management systems, flagging is enabled by adding comments to the knowledge article.

Remember that knowledge is the only product of support and that everyone is responsible for the quality of the product they interact with and for enhancing it. In the KCS environment, everyone within the support team can see and use all the knowledge, but they must earn the rights to modify it. Flagging enables the support team to collaborate and improve of knowledge. As individuals use knowledge to resolve tickets, they are responsible for providing the customer with the best possible resolution and for improving the find-ability and usability of knowledge. Flagging allows them to quickly contribute a
knowledge fragment to the article.

Analysts helping Analysts

When analysts comment on an article, they are sharing their knowledge with their teammates. This new knowledge needs to be immediately available to other analysts. The comments may help another analyst in the diagnostic phase to find a knowledge article or the comments may help another analyst successfully implement a resolution. The culture needs to promote the knowledge base as a collaboration space when analysts are helping other analyst through the continuous improvement of knowledge.

Context to the Content

The presentation of comments when a knowledge article is viewed can impact how the reader uses and understands them. When a user is searching the knowledge base, they are trying to match their issue with the documented issues in the knowledge base. They are likely not reading the entire document as the resolution is not important in the diagnostic phase of problem solving. Their time is limited, so they read the beginning of a knowledge article to see if they have a potential match. General comments on the entire article will not be helpful. But comments that relate to helping them find a match are valuable. For this reason, it is more valuable to capture and display comments in the context of the fields within the knowledge article. The content within the comment then has context based on the field.

We want the adding of comments to be intuitive and the reading of comments to be with the proper context. Therefore, the comments need to be viewed with the related field content. If a comment is to update the symptoms or issue description, the reader needs to see those comments with that specific content when they are diagnosing the issue and searching the knowledgebase for the appropriate article. If a comment is about the resolution steps, then they need to read that comment when they read the resolution.  Comments collected together will lack context and will not be read.

Two Types of Comments

There are two different types of comments related to a knowledge article based on the audience that provided the comment. Support analysts may be commenting on knowledge to improve the article and collaborate with their peers. Customers may be commenting on knowledge to provide feedback. The types of feedback could vary from an intent to help improve the knowledge to a comment about the service. The level of trust related to each comment type will also vary by the contributor as well.

Analyst Comments

Analyst comments are captured in the assisted service processes. Because the analysts are working as a team and more likely trained in the KCS methodology, or simply the processes and policies of the support organization, commenting is more confined to the goal of improving knowledge. The trust level for the comments will be higher for analyst comments than customer comments due to the reputation of the author. The name of the author and date contributed needs to be visible along with the comment to promote a reputation as well as enable the reader to evaluate the comment. Remember that comments may be made by anyone. Support analysts usually know the other analysts on their team and their skillsets. The comment author may or may not be considered an expert on the subject matter for which they are commenting. The analyst reading the comment is likely to take their personal knowledge of the author into consideration when reading the comment. Remember that a comment is the perspective of one person. Until the comment is resolved and the knowledge article fixed, it does not carry the same trust as the content of the knowledge article.

Support analysts add comments to improve knowledge. Generally, this is a result of new knowledge learned and verified while providing assisted service. When they have confirmed that the resolution they provided to a customer satisfied the need, they are expected to enhance the knowledge article if warranted. When flagging or fixing a knowledge article, the content is based on the experience they just had with a customer. The content is therefore verified once by the analyst and the customer. The date of the comment and the reuse of the knowledge article therefore impacts the trust of the knowledge.

Customer Comments

Customer comments are captured through the self-service portal. The customer may or may not be authenticated to the system. Therefore, the comments may not be contributable to a specific person. Comments captured through self-service portals will vary widely in value and purpose. Where the content was contributed to help improve the knowledge, it is also not verified. Customers may be sharing non-relevant information that would only lower the value of the knowledgebase.

While important to evaluate and address these comments appropriately, customer comments can be a source of tremendous noise in the assisted service process. Therefore, customer comments are not displayed with analyst comments. They may still be visible to analyst through an expanded comment view or separate function. Customer feedback may also incorporate a rating system. The feedback option would allow them to rate the article) as well as provide comments about the knowledge article. Such as, Did this help solve your problem? Yes/No, or a Like/Dislike feedback option. Bad ratings could trigger the need for the article to be reviewed. Research has shown that a small percentage of customers will take time to provide feedback. While it is important to evaluate and respond to the feedback, the feedback does not usually imply the consensus the customer community. The minority who provide comments do not represent the majority who use the knowledge.

Displaying Comments

Customers should not see comments from analysts or other customers. The exception to this is when enabling social features into the knowledge base and community management is adopted. Some level of governance is usually required for self-service knowledge. Knowledge articles in a self-service portal were published by a KCS Publisher. These articles met the minimum requirements for self-service, which may have included compliance requirement. Because comments can be made by anyone using the knowledge, comments should not be visible in self-service due to the lack of governance. This is one of the reasons why comments need a workflow support so that the knowledge article is updated and the comments cleared. The approved changes to the article can then be made available through self-service.

In a community model, customer comments are visible and monitored by the community manager. These comments may result in an online discussion and even conflicts viewpoints by community members. This type of social commenting adds value to the knowledge, but requires an understanding that the purpose is different from the flagging activities of a support organization.

Support analysts should see all comments made by other analysts, this supports the collaboration model of capturing feedback dynamically. Including the authors name provides recognition to the author and impacts the author’s reputation amongst their peers. To provide context to the content and to improve readability, the comments that are specific to a field need to be displayed with the field. Comments related to the general article would be displayed at the bottom or in a side bar. Analysts may provide comments about the existing comments, either to add value to the content or to challenge the comment. This type of discussion is valuable and should be promoted.

The number of comments can significantly impact the readability. If there are 20 comments on an article, the comments could overwhelm the actual content. This is another reason why comments should be reviewed, the article modified, and then the comments resolved and removed from the knowledge article display.

Summary

Commenting on knowledge articles is a form of knowledge collaboration and a responsibility of every support professional who interacts with knowledge.  If they identify the opportunity to improve a knowledge article, they are to fix it if they have the authority, otherwise flag it.  Comments from the support team should be managed separately from comments from customers. Both require a review process and can improve your knowledge articles.  As the KCS methodology promotes, knowledge is never complete until it is obsolete.  That is knowledge articles are always subject to improvement until they are no longer available for use.  Everyone with the ability to view a knowledge article has the potential to improve it with a simple comment.

In a community model, customer comments are visible and monitored by the community manager. These comments may result in an online discussion and even conflicts viewpoints by community members. This type of social commenting adds value to the knowledge, but requires an understanding that the purpose is different from the flagging activities of a support organization.

Support analysts should see all comments made by other analysts, this supports the collaboration model of capturing feedback dynamically. Including the authors name provides recognition to the author and impacts the author’s reputation amongst their peers. To provide context to the content and to improve readability, the comments that are specific to a field need to be displayed with the field. Comments related to the general article would be displayed at the bottom or in a side bar. Analysts may provide comments about the existing comments, either to add value to the content or to challenge the comment. This type of discussion is valuable and should be promoted.

The number of comments can significantly impact the readability. If there are 20 comments on an article, the comments could overwhelm the actual content. This is another reason why comments should be reviewed, the article modified, and then the comments resolved and removed from the knowledge article display.

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