The Problem with Proactive Documentation: Flipping the Script With KCS and Guru

Last verified Sep 23, 2021

Maybe you’ve been in this scenario before

After a year of working hard as a customer support representative, you get a huge promotion. Since you’ve become the de facto subject matter expert, you’re going to be in charge of writing FAQs, process walkthroughs, and troubleshooting tips for the whole team. "Finally!" you think, "Our documentation has never solved our customer’s issues. I’ll turn things around!"

You step away from solving tickets, and spend three months re-tooling and re-crafting every knowledge article. You excitedly present the articles for the entire team to use. Almost immediately, however, you start getting feedback from your team:

“This didn’t help me at all.” “I can’t find the answers to my customers’ issues in these articles.” “I don’t see any improvement.”

Where did you go wrong?

It's not you; it's the system

Your company rewarded you for your hard work by pulling you out of solving tickets and putting you into creating documentation. That might seem like a great career ladder, but it only perpetuates the problem that frustrated you in the first place.

The Consortium for Service Innovation argues for another approach: Knowledge-Centered Service (or KCS®). The KCS methodology flips the idea of knowledge management on its head, taking knowledge ownership out of the hands of a small group of technical writers and empowering everyone to share collective responsibility for maintaining your knowledge base.

I got my KCS v6 Practices certification earlier this year, and as a Customer Success Manager at Guru, I have the pleasure of helping customers rethink their approach to knowledge management. Today, I want to share some of what I’ve learned with you.

A puzzling challenge

Before I get too much deeper into what KCS is and how your team could use Guru for its KCS processes, I want to provide one more example to really illustrate the problem. I recently facilitated a knowledge management workshop at the ElevateCX conference in Santa Rosa, CA, and I’ll give you the short version of it here.

If you had to explain to somebody how to solve a Sudoku puzzle, what would you say? I’ve provided a Sudoku puzzle below so that you can try this yourself. Solve the puzzle, then write down step-by-step how you would tell someone else to solve it.


Now, using that documentation you created (and only that documentation), solve this puzzle:


Impossible, right?

Obviously, a KenKen is not a Sudoku, but they’re similar. You’ve been provided documentation for one puzzle and asked to solve a similar one. This is exactly the same thing as creating proactive documentation for your customer support team. You can’t foresee every problem your team is going to encounter, so at best your documentation will only describe a similar problem. Your team will inevitably grow frustrated, and lose trust in your knowledge base.

So how is KCS different?

KCS empowers everyone who solves problems (ideally, everyone on your revenue team) to work on documenting how they solve problems in the moment that they solve them.

A phrase you’ll often hear associated with KCS is “Double Loop.” In the Solve Loop, reps solve issues for customers, and as they do, they search for articles to help. If they can’t find a relevant article, they create one. Over time, these articles are refined as reps find new contexts and caveats for them. How these articles are created, shared, and edited informs the Evolve Loop, where organization leaders make big picture decisions based on customer requests.

As you can imagine, since we’re talking about a new organization-wide methodology that changes people’s mindsets around how they share knowledge, implementing KCS at your company can be a very large task. The Consortium recommends implementing KCS in waves so that you can refine the process to fit your organization’s needs before rolling it out to more users. A very early stage KCS implementation might be described as “Wave 1, Solve Loop”.

Because implementing KCS is such a large task, you’re going to see big picture business outcomes like CSAT and self-service improve over time, but don’t expect to see improvements in leading metrics like call handle time right away. In fact, your case resolution time will likely increase in your first wave because your agents will be taking the time to document what they’re doing in addition to solving problems.

Therefore, to make a KCS implementation successful, you need complete buy-in from every level of your organization, from your C-Suite to your Tier 1 support agents. Keeping that buy-in consistent through each wave of your KCS program will require a level of interconnectivity across every team. You’ll set your KCS program up for failure if your knowledge is siloed by department.

And that’s where Guru comes in!

Guru helps you organize and share knowledge with your entire organization wherever they work. Guru supports all types of internal knowledge sharing methodologies, but it works especially well with KCS. Here are three pointers to get you started using the two together:

1. Empower your agents to search and create content without opening a new tab using the Guru extension

A phrase you’ll often hear associated with KCS is “Search early; search often.” With Guru’s browser extension, you can search your entire knowledge base without leaving your workflow. If the answer you’re looking for doesn’t seem to be in Guru, you can easily create a new Guru Card from the same extension view, allowing you to add to your knowledge base without the context-switching hassle of navigating between tabs.

2. Use the Web App to create Boards that define your content standard and templates

Keeping all of your knowledge consistent is key to a successful KCS program. Guru’s web app allows you to organize your Guru Cards visually into Boards, so a good place to start is by making a Board with Cards that outline your Content Standard, Article Quality Index, and a card for each Template.

Pro tip: Head on over to the Getting Started Collection, where you'll find your very own Templates starter kit.

Pro tip: Tag all your template cards with '#template' so that your team can easily filter their searches for just card templates, and then can use Guru’s Copy Card


3. Observe trends in how your team uses your knowledge using Analytics

Guru's Analytics dashboard gives you full insight into how your team is searching for and sharing information. The 'Searches Producing Results' and 'Searches Producing No Results' tables show great detail into what your team is searching for on any given day. If multiple people have searched for a particular piece of knowledge and found no results, that should tell you that your knowledge base is missing something, which can help inform your Evolve Loop strategy. 


“We use Guru to help bring our internal developers into our KCS environment. The developers create internal content for themselves and Tier 3 so that when a new issue comes up they can define it, describe how to fix it, or work around it." - Sean Rivers, Director, Operations Technology at RepublicWireless 

Of course, these are just a few suggestions on how Guru can help your KCS program. It’s possible to host your full KCS program, from searching to public-facing publishing, all in Guru. But, for most customers, Guru exists as part of a larger KCS tools ecosystem.

If you’re interested in talking more about how KCS works with Guru, or just about knowledge management in general, feel free to reach out to me directly on Twitter @YaelMcCue.

KCS® is a service mark of the Consortium for Service Innovation™.