Knowledge Management: the Importance of Closed Loop Feedback

In business, data is always an asset. Information is an essential. Knowledge and wisdom are the key outputs of both. As a business grows, it should harvest good quality data and information that form shared knowledge and wisdom across all departments and teams.

The concept of knowledge can be illustrated nicely by the DIKW Pyramid, a simple model that has endured for more than three decades. Without knowledge management, information is not retained and wisdom can never be developed.

DIKW diagram
Image: Wikipedia

With knowledge management, certain best practices ensure efficient retention. Closed loop feedback is key.

But what do we mean by closed loop feedback? And how does it benefit our knowledge management systems?

Open v Closed Loop

First, let’s define an open loop as opposed to a closed loop.

When a customer makes a complaint, they’re normally motivated by:

  • The desire to correct an injustice
  • The desire to get something off their chest
  • The desire to influence change so that they don’t have the same experience again (or to save others experiencing the problem)

The third reason is the one the business should be interested in. Customer satisfaction is a driving force behind ROI, and a happy customer is more likely to repurchase (or spread positive vibes) than a customer who is not.

Closed Loop in Context

kb open v closed
Open Loop Versus Closed Loop (simplified)

Using closed loops is effective when dealing with technical problems.

For example, when using a help system, the customer is motivated by a problem with a system or service. If they don’t find the solution in the help system, they may go elsewhere, become frustrated, write a bad review or make a complaint to the head of department.

Repeated complaints mean more admin, fewer happy customers and, ultimately, a help system that is less effective.

By closing the loop, the business can use feedback effectively. It can filter out actions from complaints and turn them into positives that inflict real change. The knowledge manager then has useful feedback that they can use to review the quality of the help article and improve it.

Why is this a better outcome?

  • The loop has been closed with a meaningful resolution.
  • The customer feels that their feedback was taken on board.
  • Other customers benefit from improved knowledge.
  • The business benefits from improved knowledge retention.
  • The Knowledge Manager benefits from improved insight.
  • The Knowledge Manager has fewer complaints.

To facilitate this, the knowledge tool needs the necessary functionality to collect useful feedback. Ideally, it must have:

  • A rating system that allows fast feedback. Three or five star ratings are adequate; any more could be confusing.
  • A form that invites freeform text comments. Ideally, the comment form should encourage submissions by being quick and easy to use, avoiding excessive form fields or questions.
  • Active review and prioritisation of comments submitted, as part of the ordinary Service Desk process, and feedback to the customer when articles are updated.

Measuring and capturing value from your knowledge

The value to your organisation and customers from good quality knowledge is hard to overstate:

  • Customer-facing knowledge can empower service users to resolve their own issues without contacting the service desk; this also cuts costs for the service desk and frees them up to focus on other customers.
  • Knowledge created and delivered to the service desk can improve first-call-closure rates (satisfaction/cost) and direct call logging agents to ask the right questions for specific incident types. This allows second and third line teams to get the right information up front (speeding up resolution times, and thus customer satisfaction).
  • More abstract knowledge (overviews of technologies, system architectures) can empower junior IT staff to learn more about the services on offer, and may provide opportunities for them to add context to patterns of incidents and thus contribute more effectively to problem management.

Measuring this value is also possible. As well as basic knowledge metrics and KPIs:

  • increase in KB article rating over time
  • decrease in KB articles flagged for review
  • # links of KB articles to incident records
  • # views of each article
  • etc…

Stakeholders can also compare these to incident metrics and KPIs, which will give them a reasonable indication of correlation (if not ultimate proof of causation) of the positive link between knowledge and stability of service (and customer perception thereof).

Being able to tell (and evidence to) the Head of Service that your knowledgebase has converted 50 days effort of an expensive 3rd line resource into 25 days of a junior service desk analyst whilst simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction from reduced resolution times is a powerful step in demonstrating value capture.