Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS®) is a knowledge management methodology that seeks to “integrate the creation and maintenance of knowledge into the process of interaction.” In other words, KCS advocates the documentation of knowledge at the moment of creation.

Whether it’s a customer support call or email interactions between professional services and a client, organizations generate tons of knowledge that (without KCS practices) is lost when employees move on from the company. KCS seeks to end that reality by encouraging technical, practical, and cultural shifts that enable employees to document knowledge learned for the benefit of the customer and fellow employees.

KCS addresses some of the most costly problems that businesses face these days. According to a recent Gartner report, better knowledge management can reduce customer support average handle time up to 80%.

That’s a lot of wasted time and money.

Not only can good KCS practices help resolve cases more quickly, but they also allow organizations to maximize the use of their resources and create a self-service strategy that can help ramp-up employees and customers alike. As KCS methodology spreads from support teams to other departments, the value will continue to grow. Knowledge that was once word-of-mouth will become shareable, improvable, and measurable.

Achieving KCS success often requires a cultural shift

To see long-term ROI on KCS requires buy-in at all levels of the company, from the CEO to interns. Practitioners, the ones who will be documenting their collective knowledge and experience, need to feel invested in the process and not coerced. Management needs to understand the organizational and cultural shifts that are required, and must be willing to invest in its long-term success.

Like dieting, KCS only works when the changes are part of a revised lifestyle. No yo-yo knowledge management allowed.

If you’re ready to take the plunge on KCS, it’s important to understand why you have to begin by getting buy-in at every level. Without it, KCS remains, at best, a support-centric concept that will inevitably clash with other knowledge management styles in other departments. At worst, it will lack the upper-level and inter-departmental support to ever get off the ground.

The idea of “workplace culture” conjures up images of employees casually riding skateboards through the office, or of laid back open concept floorplans. Workplace culture is something that companies trumpet as an incentive to entice new employees. But the cultural shift required by KCS runs deeper than office decor: KCS only works when there is a spirit of collective ownership.

Collective ownership sounds all good and kumbaya-ish, but in practice, it’s a difficult concept to put into practice, especially in workplaces that encourage competition or cutthroat tactics. Knowledge is one way employees set themselves apart; if I know something no one else does that is important to the company, then my job is (supposedly) more secure. This type of knowledge hoarding is detrimental to the customer and future business growth.

Collective ownership of knowledge and knowledge sharing should be extolled as a company value at every level of the organization. When collective ownership is made a central value, it discourages knowledge hoarding and promotes a team-oriented definition of success.

KCS requires upfront investment and continuous buy-in

To implement KCS, you need more than just a cultural shift. It also requires an investment in new tools, new workflows, new system integrations, etc. Such changes can be costly and painful, but the initial investment is the key to setting up the organization for future KCS success.

KCS is a long-term solution, and as such requires a long-term investment. Most companies roll out KCS in phases, and each one of these phases requires investment in order to work. Some stages include training the coaches through the KCS v6 Practices Certification and then the practitioners through KCS v6 Fundamentals. These training sessions can’t just happen once, though. As new employees get onboarded, KCS training needs to be part of the process to ensure best practices continue across the board.

Without the upfront investment in the technologies and processes that make KCS possible, the initiative will never get off the ground. Without the continual investment in the people who put KCS into practice and measure its success, it will be inconsistent and likely fizzle out.

Though it is a heavy investment, you need to make clear the value that KCS brings to the organization. With top-to-bottom investment in KCS practices, the value goes beyond cost-savings. The knowledge captured helps drive revenue by educating and engaging prospects and customers about your products and services. But without a clear vision of the benefits to drive investment in the process, these long-term benefits can go unrealized.

Inconsistent buy-in will undermine KCS success

Some of the most important facets of KCS are the rewards and recognition that encourage participation in the process. Just as it is important to understand the business ROI from implementing KCS, individual employees need to understand the personal ROI to be gained from adopting KCS principles in their daily activities.

Without top-to-bottom buy-in on these rewards and recognition, companies can end up promoting the wrong type of behaviors or measuring the wrong type of activity. For most companies, KCS is a tectonic shift in the day-to-day activities, and without the right framework to interpret these actions, the value of KCS can be lost.

Top-to-bottom buy-in on how KCS success is measured, and how that success is rewarded, will help foster an environment where KCS can fundamentally improve the employee and customer experience.