Adapting the KCS article lifecycle to Zendesk forums

Knowledge Centred Support (KCS) is gathering a bit of momentum out there in customer support land. I didn’t want to go too heavily into KCS, as I’ve only scratched the surface on it myself, but I did want to show you how to approach the KCS methodology using forum-based knowledge bases—in this case, Zendesk.

One of the KCS practices is knowledge reuse, and the mantra is to “search early, search often”. When you receive a new ticket from a customer, or you get a phone call, search your Zendesk for existing knowledge base posts or similar tickets first. The answer may already exist, which means you can respond immediately. If a solution doesn’t exist, you’ll need to start a knowledge base article where the title includes the customer’s own description of the problem.

Searching is a critical part of the KCS method. Monitoring the keywords and phrases your customers search for can also form the basis of new knowledge base articles where their searching has been unsuccessful. If you know an article on the topic does exist but it doesn’t present to your customer, then this is an opportunity to improve that article and add the search terms that customer used, so that it turns up next time. Zendesk provides excellent forum search analytics and here’s a great post explaining how to get the most from that functionality.

The other KCS technique I wanted to focus on is the article lifecycle and how we can work that into a forum structure. KCS articles start out as a Work In Progress (WIP). This is a question without an answer. When we do have a resolution, the article moves through to Draft, but is still being refined and improved. Once it’s been reviewed for accuracy and is considered good enough for reuse internally, it’s Approved. And finally, if it’s good enough for consumption by customers, it’s Published.

Each of these stages in the lifecycle can be adapted to the Zendesk forums structure. I have several categories in my Zendesk forums: News, Community Help, Knowledge Base, Internal. News is just announcements and Community Help is based around user interaction and is largely unmoderated. When I first started filling out my Zendesk knowledge base, I was disappointed there was no way to keep an article in draft. But, there are a couple of ways you can work around this. The first way is to create a forum for draft articles and make this visible to agents only. Here, I created a drafts forum under the Internal category, but you could also have draft, agent-only forums in any category.

When I’ve finished reviewing that draft article (and any others that might be in there), I can move them to the appropriate forum, whether it’s a forum for internal use (KCS Approved), or a public forum for customer self-help (KCS Published). It’s as easy as selecting the right forum from the drop-down box in the edit screen.

For articles that will only be used on an agent-only forum, you may decide to have them in the appropriate place but with *Draft* in the title.

When this draft article has been accepted as good enough, just edit the title and remove the *Draft*.

Have you adapted your forum-based knowledge base for KCS? Add your thoughts in the comments.