A new KM system rewards employees for spilling their guts.

As Breit anticipated, implementing KnowledgeBase has changed the agents' roles. Level 1 agents, for example, now do more in-depth troubleshooting because they have more information available at their fingertips. In fact, they solve twice as many calls themselves (50 per cent instead of 25 per cent) in a shorter time (10 minutes versus 30 minutes). Since Level 1 agents can handle more calls, this group has doubled in size during the past two years.

The transition wasn't quite as painless, however, for the Level 2 and Level 3 agents. Indeed, their roles changed significantly. "Rather than simply submitting HTML pages to Tactics Online, they were now asked to analyse the problems in a very procedural way and create diagnostic 'trees'," says Breit. "That's a more analytical way to think through a problem. Most of these guys had thought in terms of 'what is the fastest way to solve a problem' rather than 'what is the most efficient way to solve a problem'."

With hundreds of people submitting solutions, Marconi tended to get a lot of wheel reinvention. "There can be five or six ways to solve the [same] problem, but there's one way that's most efficient," Breit says. To unearth and disseminate the most efficient solutions, agents were required to flowchart each of their solutions for the first three months following KnowledgeBase's launch. "It's amazing how many [agents] were unconscious of their own methodologies," says Breit. "It was somewhat painful, but they eventually felt they benefited because they understood how they solve problems."

As a result, agents now create technical solutions for customers in the most efficient - and logical - way possible instead of simply offering a "quick and dirty" solution. Think of the difference between simply being told what keys to strike on your PC and being taught how your software works and the logic behind executing a certain sequence of keystrokes. Once you actually understand how the product works, you can use the software more effectively and resolve more problems yourself.

Agents also had to change the way they present the solutions to customers. "We wanted to provide a collaboration tool for employees and a library source for our customers," says Demiral. "Engineers wanted to provide a lot of detailed information yet we needed a degree of simplicity for customers. Most of the time, the immediate focus is on what a great collaboration tool this is and how it overcomes geographical distance among agents. Then I have to remind [agents] that this is a tool that we want customers to use and that they'll have to organise, write and present the content with customers in mind."

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