Knowledge Management Systems overview and definition

Knowledge Management Systems – Everything you need to know!

Why Knowledge Management Systems for business or contact centres is mission critical-software. 

Having worked in our industry for over 30 years, there are many things that look surprisingly similar when visiting contact centres all over the world.

Hard copy product manuals and process manuals and sticky notes all over the screen!

And you can also add to that a desktop screen full of Excel spreadsheets, Word documents and links to various intranet/internet pages.

In short, a mess with information that is not easily found and quickly outdated resulting in a poor customer experience, high risk of compliance issues and very frustrated employees.

But those days might soon be over thanks to some purpose-built software for contact centres known as Knowledge Management Systems or Knowledge Management Platforms.

Yet despite being around for over two decades, a surprising number of contact centre managers haven’t even heard of a Knowledge Management System or are a little confused about exactly what they actually do.

In fact, a recent contact centre industry survey in Australia revealed that 50% of contact centres do not have a knowledge management platform.

The good news though is you’ll be pretty excited when you learn how simple, affordable and effective they can be in driving significant change across your business.

This article provides you with an overview of Knowledge Management Systems used in call centres or a customer service environment and outlines the benefits you can obtain not just in your contact centre, but across the entire business.

A definition of a Knowledge Management System

Knowledge Management Systems or Knowledge Management Software within a customer service environment typically store product, process and policy information in one central repository to enable the organisation to be certain only the most current information is being accessed.

Think of it like a single source of truth for your whole business.

Knowledge Management Systems typically do not hold information on specific customers – this is the domain of Customer Management Systems.

One of the things I hear all the time is “But I already have a Knowledge Management System”.

And in 99% of those cases, no you don’t.

If you have an intranet, internet page, Sharepoint, or even an Excel Spreadsheet – that is NOT a Knowledge Management Platform despite what your IT department may tell you.

If a call centre agent has to hunt for information searching through large chunks of text on the screen, or isn’t prompted on what to say or do next then sorry, you are not the proud owner of a KMS.

By reading the remainder of this article you will come to appreciate exactly what a Knowledge Management System is, and how it can benefit your contact centre.

So what does Knowledge Management Software do in a call centre?

Think of KMS like GPS in your car, it provides real-time guidance to help you get to where you are driving.

You still have to drive the car, of course (well for now anyway!), the GPS simply provides you with the right advice and directions to help you get to where you are going.

The same applies to Knowledge Management Software in a call centre.

The agent is still in control of the call, but receives guidance and support to ensure the right outcome is provided to the customer.

It’s like following the bouncing ball, ensuring the call agent knows what to do for each scenario they handle.

It’s also incredibly fast – rather than have to read large chunks of text, knowledge Management Software can present just the answer that is required, saving a heap of time on the call for both the customer and your contact centre.

More than just for employees

Leading Knowledge Management Software solutions can now do more than just provide your employees with the right answers.

External customers (i.e. Website visitors) can also tap into the same knowledge enabling them to self-service quickly and accurately via a chatbot, FAQ section etc.

Most systems enable you to curate the answers so internal employees may see different information than your external customers, but importantly, it’s still all from the same single source of truth eliminating customer frustration, costly rework and compliance issues.

Not to mention, if customers are able to self-serve efficiently, it can reduce the load on your contact centre as it can eliminate the need for the customer to contact you at all delivering happier customers and a better bottom line for you.

Knowledge Management Systems self-service

3 Key drivers for needing a Knowledge Management Platform in your call centre 

1. The need for fast answers

Customer Service environments need a knowledge management system that provides the answer the customer requires as quickly and accurately as possible.

Customers do not want to read through long documents in the search for the answer or wait on the phone while the customer service representative searches for it.

A survey by PWC revealed that 80% of US Consumers rated Efficiency, Convenience and knowledge Service as the three most important attributes of a positive customer experience that customers were even willing to pay more for.

This need for fast answers provided in the most efficient manner through all communication channels is what differentiates Customer Service Knowledge Management from all other forms of Knowledge Management.

The knowledge management requirements for say, an IT Department, where the emphasis is on solving problems through collaboration or reviewing documents written by people with a similar problem in the past is vastly different.

Similarly, the knowledge management requirements for a legal department where case notes and previous cases need to be reviewed will also be very different.

As a result of these specific Knowledge Management needs for Customer Service environments, specific “built-for-purpose” systems have been developed with features specifically designed to take the person to the answer to their enquiry, no matter how complex the question.

Customer priorities for great service
With nearly 80% of US consumers rating speed, convenience and knowledge as the most important attributes, a Knowledge Management System is now critical software for any customer service team. Source: PWC Future of Customer Service

2. The need to support multiple contact channels

Customer Service has been made much more complex with the explosion of channels available for customers to connect to organisations.

Consumers expect to be able to connect with organisations through any of the communication channels available to them – over the counter, over the phone, (direct and IVR), through the company website, over chat, email, SMS and through social media.

The real challenge for Organisations is not only engaging with customers through all of these channels but making sure the information is consistent across all channels in real-time.

A poll of 7,000 people across seven countries by Zendesk revealed that 64% of customers expect to receive real-time customer support regardless of the channel.

To complicate things even more, the process needs to be seamless if they want to move from one channel to the next.

As a result of these customer demands, the Knowledge Management Systems must be able to serve the answers through all channels from one central source to ensure the answers are consistent and current.

3. The prolific use of mobile phones

Customer expectation for immediacy with customer service and the demand for instant answers is being driven by the explosion in the use of smartphones and other portable devices.

Customers can now connect with organisations in up to six different ways (channels) through one mobile device which is always with them (i.e. phone, self-service chatbots, live chat, video chat, SMS, email).

And they expect the answer at the same speed through whatever channel they use.

A quality KMS will be equipped to serve an organisation’s knowledge through all of these channels from one central database.

While mobile devices bring a lot of challenges for customer service, they also provide a lot of opportunities.

The fact mobile phones facilitate so many different channels for customers to contact us means we can reach them more quickly and more cost-effectively if organisations do it right.

Built for purpose KMSs provide analytics to proactively push information to social media and your website on trending customer issues to make it easy for the customer to answer their own enquiries.

4 Benefits of using a Knowledge Management System in Customer Service 

I hope by now I’ve illustrated the need for fast and accurate answers!

But fast answers are not the only benefit.

There are four key benefits when implementing a Knowledge Management System:

1. Increased customer satisfaction

Keeping your customers happy is linked to a range of benefits and the implementation of a Knowledge Management Platform delivers happier customers in spades!

  • Answers are delivered quickly and accurately.
  • The customer feels they are talking to a knowledgeable operator.
  • First-call resolution improved.
  • Same answer no matter where they look for the answer.
  • Customers can self-serve more extensively at the time and in the channel they choose.
  • Customers can provide feedback and even rate the helpfulness of the information they obtain.
  • Analytics can be used to proactively provide information to customers.
  • NPS improves Customer Satisfaction that in-turn, increases customer loyalty and reduces churn.

2. A better bottom line

Whether you are a large corporate, a small business, not-for-profit etc – money matters. And the commercial benefits for implementing an Knowledge Management Platform are significant through cost reductions, increased sales and more.  Benefits include:

  • Average Handling Time reduced (typically between a 5% and 25% reduction).
  • Handoffs to other departments are reduced.
  • Induction Training is reduced as staff are no longer expected to memorise products, processes or procedural information (often a 50% reduction in induction periods).
  • Increase in self-serve reduces calls to Customer Service teams.
  • Time to competency for staff is reduced.
  • Reduced need for buddies and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).
  • Callbacks are reduced when the agent can confidently answer the question.
  • Staff turnover reduces as staff are more confident they can do their job.
  • Update once in one portal will update all access points/channels.
  • Time spent on complaints is reduced.
  • Up-selling can be far more effective as the KMS prompts the agent.
  • Sales improve as staff can more confidently talk about the products.

3. Risk & compliance improvements

As we’ve seen through a range of Royal Commissions and fines by regulators, providing incorrect information to customers can be extremely costly. A KMS provides a single course of truth with built-in reporting and processes to drive compliance in your business.

  • Product policy and process information is centrally managed so only the most current and correct information can be accessed by clients and agents.
  • Version Control significantly improved.
  • No longer reliant on a small number of SMEs.
  • Product Process and Policy information can no longer leave with employees (especially high risk in smaller businesses where the information often resides with a single employee who has been with the business forever).
  • Permissions within the system ensure staff only have access to the information they need to perform their job.
  • Workflow allows control over the author, edit and release of information.
  • History allows transparency over what information was available for the Agent to view at any particular time.

4. Improvement in Staff Engagement

With employee retention and engagement being some of the hottest issues in the contact centre industry, it pays to make sure your employees are supported and that they have the information and tools they need to confidently perform their duties.

  • Staff are more confident they can answer customer enquiries
  • Quality systems allow staff to provide feedback and rate knowledge articles providing them with confidence the information is accurate, up-to-date and user-friendly.
  • Staff retention improves as staff are more confident they can do their job.

How does a Knowledge Management System compare to Sharepoint?

When it comes to managing documents, data, policies and knowledge to support your team, you need to decide between choosing between a file manager (applications like SharePoint or a purpose-built Knowledge Management System for your organisation.

It is important to weigh up what features you require and how these will benefit not only your customer support staff but also how your customers’ satisfaction will be impacted.

To help with comparing Sharepoint to Knowledge Management Software I’ve listed some useful information below.

So what is a File Manager?

To break it down, a file manager is a secure place to store, organise, share, and access documents from any device. All you need is a web browser.

There is often no single sign-on issues, and you can use it to sync work or school documents (from a shared site or OneDrive) to your computer for offline use.

If your organisation has a limited amount of information and the interaction between your employees and clients is quite limited, then a file manager may be all you need.

Although it is easy to get set up on a system like SharePoint – upload your digital files and you’re done – this complicates things on the back end for the user.

Imagine needing to answer a question like, how do I get a refund?

With a file management system, you would search for the location of the Refund Policy document, then open it, check its index, find the section or sections related to refunds, read them, and, eventually, you would find your answer.

Now, imagine being the client to have asked that question, and waiting on the phone for your contact centre rep to go through those steps to find the answer.

The easy up-front set-up will end up costing you and your team on the back-end in call handling times, customer satisfaction, efficiency, and – in the worst case – being unable to respond or to respond accurately to a question.

What is a Knowledge Management Solution?

If you have a lot of documents, policies, processes, or knowledge that is accessed regularly, then it may be time to start looking at a knowledge management system.

When you need to keep your business moving forward, you don’t want file names you want answers; that’s what a knowledge management solution (KMS) delivers.

Knowledge Management requires work on the front end to structure information as it goes into the system, thereby making it easy to use and easy to manage throughout its lifetime.

When a customer asks how to get a refund, you use the intelligent search aspect of KMS and you go straight to the answer. You are empowering your organisation to serve up the right information to employees and to customers who prefer to self-serve.

The benefits are auditable.

A good KMS system will let you track the usage of documents, the activity of users, and enlists a feedback loop so that your content is always up-to-date and relevant.

Statistics to compare the two:

The numbers below compare purpose-built Knowledge Management Software solutions to other Knowledge Management solutions*:

  • Getting answers to customer questions. Over 80% of companies using controlled knowledge systems report that they can get answers to questions, versus just 44% for the rest.
  • A single source of truth for knowledge. 72% of businesses using a controlled knowledge system see this as their single source of truth, versus 34% of those using generic KM solutions.
  • Ability to rate and give feedback on knowledge articles. 75% of businesses using controlled knowledge solutions have the capability to give feedback on knowledge articles versus only 44% of those using generic KM solutions.
  • Easy to manage. 75% of businesses using controlled knowledge solutions say that it is easy for the customer service team to update the system – versus 44% of those using generic KM solutions.
  • Onboarding and Training: Average of 30% – but up to 90%! – faster onboarding time.
  • Improved Compliance: 49% of KMS for CX users report improved compliance.

*Source: Ecosystem Global CX Study 2019

Where can you get a Knowledge Management System?

When it comes to Knowledge Management System procurement there are two key methods you can use to help you find the best knowledge management systems for your business:

  1. Search the ACXPA Supplier Directory for suppliers of Knowledge Management Systems.
  2. Use our free CX Connect Service and our contact centre technology wizard which will provide you with a shortlist of the top knowledge management systems suppliers aligned to your exact business requirements.

Also, be sure to read the FAQs below that may answer some of the questions you may already have.

Common FAQs about Knowledge Management

Typically no.

Most Knowledge Management Systems are stand-alone cloud-bassed systems meaning you can access them via a secure URL without the need for complex integrations.

That said, there can be some benefits to integrating with your existing platforms and most KMS providers will provide full integration support. In fact, many of the leading KMS platforms already have inbuilt APIs to integrate with popular platforms such as Salesforce, WordPress, NICE CX One, Microsoft Teams, Zendesk and lots more!

Cloud-based systems can be fully managed by the business without the need for IT assistance.

In organisations of less than 100 users, the day-to-day management and authoring is often carried out by existing staff within the customer service and training departments.

Typically if the operation is larger there is generally one employee allocated to the management and operations of the system on a part-time basis.

Enterprise or software on-premise applications typically require a technical owner in the IT environment

An organisation’s level of process and knowledge maturity will have a large impact on the speed at which the system is up and running.

Cloud systems can be ready to start populating within days, it then depends on if the knowledge can be imported or if it has to be rewritten.

If you’ve already got comprehensive process guides, manuals etc the process will be quicker than if you are writing everything from scratch.

Most Knowledge Management System providers can provide you with highly qualified consultants and support to help you every step of the way both during the set up phase and after implementation.

Most knowledge management system providers offer flexible monthly pricing with a per agent per month model with minimal upfront costs making it easy to scale with your business with prices varying depending on the KMS platform, provider, feature etc with most falling between $10 and $50 per month per agent.

They are incredibly cost-effective with a strong Return on Investment.

And it’s not uncommon for it to start in the contact centre and then roll out to the rest of the organisation!

As I hope I have articulated in the article above, lots!  Here are common metrics used by KMS providers:

  • 40% reduction in AHT.
  • 90% reduction in induction training length.
  • 20% increase in customer satisfaction.
  • 83% reduction in Speed to competency.

Image what those numbers could do for your business?

Reporting is key to maximising the benefits (and use) of a Knowledge Management System. Again, each solution provider will offer different reports but typical reports could include:

  • Most searched term/knowledge piece.
  • Search terms not found (suggesting employees needed help with something that wasn’t there).
  • Usage by employee (who is accessing the system, how often etc.).
  • Usage by team, department, business etc.
  • Feedback on knowledge (typically employees can rate the level of knowledge so if something needs more work it can be flagged easily).


It’s like saying I’ve got Google Maps on my phone so I don’t need a GPS.

They are two different things.

I’m yet to visit any call centre that won’t benefit from Knowledge Management Software.

Junk in, junk out.

The set-up of the call centre Knowledge Software is critical to ensure you can easily search and find information, and most importantly that the information in the KMS is correct.

Most leading KMS platforms have great authoring tools and compliance checking to ensure all stakeholders within the business have agreed to each and every process.

And don’t worry about privacy – many of the leading Knowledge Management Software providers are used in banks, health insurance etc and pass the most stringent data protection requirements.


Knowledge Management Systems are used in banks, insurance companies, telcos and even the Australian Tax Office who all have rigorous security and compliance requirements.

There are a number of different solution providers in the market so be sure to find a provider that has the right security/compliance protocols for your business.

Got more questions?

ACXPA provides a range of great tools and resources for Knowledge Management professionals:

Upcoming ACXPA CX Roundtable - Next Guest Announcement
Upcoming ACXPA Contact Centre Roundtable July 2024 - John Stavrakis

Upcoming ACXPA Member Bites Sessions

Short, sharp interviews and presentations on specific topics to fast-track your knowledge!

The ACXPA Member Bites are only available to ACXPA Members! 

ACXPA Members can watch all the ACXPA Member Bites at any time in their Video Library. Discover which membership is right for you >

Nadine Power, ACXPA National Advisory Board Member

IVR Best Practice

Over 90% of contact centres are using an IVR (Press 1 for this, press 2 for that), and we've encountered many contact centres with over four layers of options for customers to select from. In this session, Nadine will be sharing some best practice tips on IVR design for 2024.

Presented by Nadine Power, Client Success Manager, VERSA Connects (and ACXPA National Advisory Board Member)

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