Some may consider it a provocative statement, yet this view is perhaps becoming more commonplace by the day, especially in the field of Technical Documentation. It also neatly prefaces the meat of the talk, which largely concerns an Outcome Oriented approach to Tech Comm, through Knowledge Centered Service.
“The users don’t really need our content, what they need is the outcomes and value our content enables for them.”-Sara Feldman
What is this talk about?
Sara Feldman discusses the application of Knowledge Centered Service within the context of Technical Communication and how knowledge can be created, used, and integrated for the achievement of corporate or organizational objectives. She also talks about a Gartner paper that discusses revenue, customer retention and how customer experience, and how the application of KCS fares in that standard.
She also discusses the use of KCS’s native Solve and Evolve loops and the value of Blended knowledge delivery, Combined Metrics, Shared Content Standards/Style Guides in Documentation and their synergy with Documentation Procedures . She also discusses the importance and the differences between Inside-Out vs. Outside-In thinking and their impact on objective in the short-term to long-term.
This article will only tackle her talk in a very cursory manner and serves only to preface the talk itself.
Begin with the organizational outcomes you want to achieve. Then identify the insights you need to collect to achieve them. Then start delivering successively improving experiences based on those insights.
What is Knowledge Centered Service?
Knowledge Centered Service or KCS is a knowledge management methodology focused mainly on the capture and integration of knowledge to an organization’s or company’s strategies, processes, and products.
KCS is a 25-year-old system, owned and developed by the Consortium for Service Innovation and is adopted by its many member organizations and companies.
What Benefits does KCS Bring?
According to the Sara, organizations that adopt the KCS Methodology report seeing benefits in three key areas.
First is in Operational Efficiency, in the increased productive capacity of workers and the shortening of learning curves. The Employment of KCS, allows for faster on-boarding and training of employees and higher productivity in members and among teams.
Secondly, in Self-Service Success-hitherto, the most preferred method of learning for customers-there are remarkable increases in audience reach and decreases in customer effort. Both of which are determinants of customer success, retention and in turn revenue.
The methodology and the practice of self-service has come a long way and has become the most preferred form of, while providing the company with valuable insights while minimizing costs, which leads us to the Third Area of Benefit.
And Thirdly Organizational Learning, according to the Speaker, could be the area that derives most benefits from the adoption of KCS. According to Sara the acquisition of information and insights both generated by users, or their interactions with the self-service system, customer reviews and even search activity, could be sources of learning for the creation of better help. It also contains the possibility of unlocks in tools, processes and even products.
Organizational learning likely also allows companies to optimize for Operational Efficiency and Self-Service Success, in turn leading to better business outcomes and also more Organizational Learning.
KCS Applied to Tech Comm
What follows is only a discussion of some snippets of Sara’s talk, which according to her, only scratching the surface, as such KCS is likely much deeper and still more involved than can be discussed in this article.
“The users don’t really need our content, what they need is the outcomes and value our content enables for them.”
“For customers that (good looking and complete documentation) might not be their first priority. They could care more about whether it is published in a timely manner, through Google, their smart speaker, in your product.”-Sara Feldman
Technical Documentation for a less than ideal world
Most Technical Communicators would agree with that, in an ideal world companies would gladly cut out spending for Technical Communications, customers would not shoulder the attentional burden of reading documentation, because they would just intuit everything , and there would likely be more fiction writers, poets and journalists.
Yet, we live in a slightly less than ideal world and it continues to become more and more complicated and technical. As a result, much of the world’s productivity has been and still is dependent on Technical Communications.
This is most apparent in many parts of IT, where Documentation often acts is a large aspect of the UI, if it is not the UI itself. As such Technical Communications is and will likely remain a part of the solution for a less than ideal world.
However, it is still a good thing to aspire to and follow for Companies and Technical Communicators. This something that is emphasized in KCS and its application is documentation.
This would entail a greater focus on more intuitive products and simplified, and on-demand documentation, with user priority analysis guiding the process and informing the objectives of the documentation, in order to produce more simplified products and documentation.
It really is no secret at this point that many of us, especially in software are writing, not for a reading audience, but for one that skims.
Counting What Counts
Companies, are understandably interested in metrics and their relationship with corporate objectives. Something which Technical Communicators would sometimes have to justify. However, KCS reveals ambiguity is an aspect many of these relationships between metrics and corporate objectives, according to Sara.
She talks about the possibility that relationships may not be straightforward and may even be inversely correlated in the case of “vanity metrics”. Everyone knows that some metrics could be like golf and others like basketball, scored in inverse manners. However, Sara points out the possibility that optimizing for certain metrics alone can incur opportunity costs in the form of losses in other areas
These metrics according to Sara could include time on page and number of clicks, which could imply a lack of clarity or friction, but even ticket deflection could mean a limitation to positive interactions with customers and constructive customer input.
Question: How do you differentiate between vanity metrics and meaningful metrics?
Sara : It has to do with correlating a number with something meaningful, if you cannot draw a direct line between a metric and a business objective, then that is a vanity metric.
Vanity metrics, may then be construed as a measure of the tax in attention, effort and time, that is paid by customers to access information that they need.
The application of the KCS methodology often brings about a reevaluation of relationships, between metrics and objectives, design, features of documentation and even products, that are supposedly based on said relationships.
It would also likely eliminate outdated thinking and result in the unlocking of possibilities. At the very least, it would start a conversation about what kind of counting actually counts.
In Summary, all of the above mentioned points in Sara’s talks, all bend towards planning and analysis to reduce effort and increase simplicity for customers.
Simplicity, what is it good for?
“Simplicity is a function of your scarcest resource at a moment that the behavior is prompted.”
-B. J. Fogg, Head of the Behavior Design Laboratory, Stanford University
While it is not tackled in the talk, the contents of the talk, are echo a prominent and somewhat controversial body of knowledge that is currently at the heart of the most widely used technologies Worldwide.
Modern Behaviorist Theories like that of Dr. Fogg are also quite invested in the study of the achievement of Corporate and Organizational Objectives, especially involving technology and persuasion.
The KCS methodology as it is described in the talk maps very well with Dr. Fogg’s model for behavior, which has been used for the development and continued deployment of Applications such as Instagram, Facebook, Uber and Snapchat. Applied to the UI space, his theories had drawn flak from various corners of the Psychology Community, for allegedly irresponsibly causing behavioral addictions amongst customers.
Easy does it.
The aspect of Dr. Fogg’s work that concerns Technical Communicators is his Model for Behavior, which can be summarized in an equation, Behavior=Motivation*Ability*Prompt or (B=MAP).
According to Prof. Fogg, increasing the ease of the behavior in question, is going to be the most effective way of increasing successful use, while maximizing positive emotions elicited by a successful interaction and increasing the likelihood of it being repeated in the future.
According to Dr. Fogg, the graph could be used to both select for behaviors and the conditions that support them. As such, one can design a behavior, by designing the environment, changing antecedent conditions and factors, namely, the Motivation, Ability and Prompts involved in the production of the behavior.
According to Dr. Fogg, the most reliable and consistent way to influence a behavior is the reduction the difficulty of a task. Easier tasks are performed more often with little need for motivation. According to him, Motivation can fluctuate and Prompts could also fail, if associated with a difficult task.
For seemingly unrelated reasons and under very different circumstances, The Consortium for Service Innovation, Stanford’s Behavior Design Laboratory and Gartner’s paper all seem to have come to the same conclusions that reducing the difficulty, time and attentional costs and increasing the availability and utility of knowledge for customers, will yield the greatest gains.
“The rapid creation and retrieval of relevant content and knowledge are critical to reduce customer effort and improve the overall customer experience.”
At the end of the day, Knowledge Centered Service, Gartner, and Behavioral Design offer and almost deceptively common-sensical hypothesis, that success for workers and customers alike, is a matter of designing for economy, in time, effort, money and expertise. And that those that provide the best value solutions will likely have the most effective workforce and the happiest customers.
The Application of Knowledge Centered Service could be the beginning of that.
Sara’s talk covered more than what this article could, Watch it here:
For more of Professor Fogg:
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