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How Business Simulations Can Drive Your Knowledge Management Transformation


Service management organizations of all stripes are under increasing pressure to deliver better service experiences. As consumers, each of us has had our expectations raised by the technological advances of the last 15 years. We no longer expect to have to speak to an agent at the bank call center to cancel a credit card, allow 28 days for our order to be shipped, or visit a store to return a shirt that doesn’t quite fit. Our groceries are delivered to our door, sometimes automatically and before we even realize we’ve run out. The software you purchased doesn’t come in a box with an instructional manual – the software is in your browser, and the instructions are on YouTube. How can knowledge management help?

The challenge of meeting these expectations is most sharply felt by those on the front lines of providing service to our customers. But as employees, too, we have all come to expect better service from our company’s internal services. Why should it take so much longer for my IT department to ship me a new laptop than it would to get it from Amazon? Why can’t an AI-driven chatbot help me understand the deductions on my pay stub? For internal service providers and external customer service departments alike, expectations are mounting.

The Power of Knowledge

In this business environment, the ability to manage knowledge has taken on a new level of importance, not least in the world of service management. With growing customer demands and increasing pressure to reduce costs and drive greater efficiency, many service organizations are investing in Knowledge Management to drive much-needed organizational transformation. Despite all the technological advances of recent years, human knowledge remains the most valuable asset for most businesses. Building, sharing, and retaining that knowledge – and unleashing its value – present significant opportunities, especially in the context of service organizations. Take contact centers, for example, which often struggle with employee retention and churn. Contact centers typically make significant investments in training their agents: getting knowledge and skills into their brains through their onboarding and development programs, only for the brain to walk out the door when it decides to leave for a competitor and a slight pay increase. The problem comes into sharper focus when we draw from more specialized talent markets like HR Generalists or IT Support.

In Knowledge Management circles, we often distinguish between explicit and tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is that which is easier to articulate, extract from people’s minds, and document in procedures, how-to guides, customer response templates, or solutions to known issues. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is more difficult to articulate and share as it is based on the personal experiences, insights, and intuition of individuals. These different types of knowledge merit and require different Knowledge Management approaches.

For explicit knowledge, a common approach is to create a knowledge base or knowledge management system. Used effectively, a knowledge management system can reduce the dependency on training by providing service agents with quick and easy access to information they can use to solve customer issues without first acquiring a deep understanding of the subject matter.

Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, refers to knowledge that is more personal, experiential, and difficult to formalize and communicate. For example, an agent’s intuition, experience, and judgment in handling a complex customer issue, or their ability to build rapport with customers and manage emotions in a high-stress situation, may be challenging to put into words that others can quickly grok. This tacit knowledge often requires different “knowledge management” approaches, many of which sometimes fall within the remit of traditional HR or Human Capital Management processes. We use Learning & Development approaches like training and coaching programs to build this kind of explicit understanding. We rely on Talent and Reward Management to incentivize knowledgeable people to join (and remain with) our company, bringing their knowledge with them.

Because tacit knowledge can be extracted and shared through these existing support structures, efforts to implement and sustain Knowledge Management within specific business areas, such as customer service departments or IT service desk teams, tend to focus on the explicit knowledge that individual business units can manage internally and have complete ownership over.

KCS: Knowledge Management for Service Organizations

In a traditional service management model, knowledge is often treated as something that is stored in a knowledge base and used by service agents to solve problems when they arise. In our experience working with service management organizations of all shapes and sizes, this traditional model has often failed to deliver the intended value. Efforts to create content tend to wane after an initial burst of energy at the launch of the knowledge system, and over time the content becomes stale, and the flow of new content is turned off at the faucet as users fail to engage with the process as their focus shifts to the latest initiative.

Knowledge Centered Service | Simplayfi

Knowledge-Centered Service or KCS, is a practical methodology for integrating knowledge management into service management. At the core of KCS is the idea that knowledge does not exist separately from the work being done; rather, it is an integral part of it. KCS puts knowledge at the center of service management by making it a fundamental part of the service lifecycle, weaving its touch points throughout.

Service organizations committed to the KCS principles place knowledge – its discovery, its documentation, its accessibility, and its maintenance – at the center of every aspect of the operating model. Processes are redesigned to ensure that agents look for, use, maintain, and create knowledge as part of case or ticket-handling activities. Technology decisions focus on integrating Knowledge Management into the work management systems to ensure that agents can interact with knowledge at the point of need. Dashboards and metrics are established to ensure that the performance of the Knowledge Management process is proactively monitored and used to drive continuous improvement interventions. Knowledge Management activities are woven into job descriptions and annual reviews to ensure that individual agent performance and reward structures incentivize the right behaviors.

Indeed, successful Knowledge Management depends heavily on behaviors. The tools, the processes, the governance, the dashboards – all of these exist in service of driving the right behaviors. KCS can be a powerful tool in driving knowledge-centric cultural change. By putting knowledge at the center of service management and making Knowledge Management a part of everyone’s job, KCS can help to ensure that agent behaviors are all focused on driving successful outcomes through knowledge.

Bringing Knowledge Management to life with business simulations

Proficiency in Knowledge Management itself relies on the acquisition of both explicit and tacit knowledge. Much of the explicit knowledge can be easily acquired through traditional learning approaches. A technical understanding of a Knowledge Management system – the terminology, the processes, the toolsets – can be obtained through any number of available training courses. Similarly, the skills required to write valuable knowledge content can be taught and honed through practice and time. Conversely, the tacit understanding of Knowledge Management needed to fully adopt and commit to its practice is less readily absorbed through traditional methods. That’s where business simulations come in.

Business simulations are a form of experiential learning where participants can experience real-world business scenarios to develop an understanding of industry best practices and their application in a safe environment. These serious business games provide an ideal environment in which to gain a tacit understanding of the power of Knowledge Management, which can be difficult to acquire through more traditional learning methods.

Games like Simplayfi’s Customer Excellence Simulation and Sunburst’s (previously G2G3’s) Polestar ITSM Simulation, bring Knowledge Management to life in a unique and dynamic way. As the participants go through the simulation experience and implement knowledge solutions within the simulated businesses, they gain a tacit understanding of the benefits of Knowledge Management and the practices that enable its successful execution in the real world.

Aha Moments | SImplayfi

The aha! moments

Through our Customer Excellence and ITSM simulations, service professionals experience several lightbulb moments during the gameplay that can act as a catalyst for Knowledge-driven service transformation.

The pain of knowledge rediscovery

Documenting known solutions to alleviate the pain of knowledge rediscovery is a fundamental component of Knowledge Management. Yet many service organizations fall at this hurdle due to the often-intangible relationship between the behavior (documenting and sharing the knowledge) and the business outcomes (faster resolution, customer satisfaction, etc.)

Taking people out of their real-world jobs and into the simulated environment enables players to dissociate from the conflicting priorities of their day-to-day work and focus on the objectives of the game, where the desired behaviors are rewarded through the dynamics of the game. Players in a service role encounter repeat issues during the game and feel the familiar pain of knowledge rediscovery, both for themselves as individuals but also for the customer and the organization as a whole, played out through the various metrics captured by the game. Building out a knowledge base and contributing identified solutions becomes second nature through the simplified mechanics of the gameplay. With their buy-in secured, the first hurdle in driving these behaviors in the real world is cleared.

The value of ‘shift-left’

Knowledge silos come to exist in organizations for many reasons, some good and some bad. In some businesses, knowledge is siloed by design to aggregate expertise and create centers of excellence. In other cases, where knowledge is currency, it becomes siloed as individuals and teams seek to protect their positions in the organization. In most cases, however, knowledge is siloed due to a mere lack of strategy. Most service organizations stand to make significant gains from increased knowledge sharing, both within teams and across the support or service tiers.

Our Customer Excellence Simulation and Sunburst’s Polestar ITSM simulation provide clear demonstrations of the value of sharing knowledge leftward, from the second-level support teams to the front-line agents, to the customer itself. As players share their knowledge, they quickly reap the rewards of their efforts. The tier 1 agents find themselves contributing more as they are able to resolve more interactions at the first line. The tier 2 specialists receive fewer escalations, freeing them to focus on more valuable and rewarding activities. These simulations neatly wrap the “what’s in it for me?” take-home messages of ‘shift-left.’

Shift Left | Simplayfi

The power of process

One of the many benefits of business simulations is the safe environment it provides for learners. In the sandbox of the simulation, participants can freely ideate, experiment with and refine their own designed process, and see what works. The co-creation, along with the tangible results in the game, secures their commitment and prepares them for the real-world application of the underpinning concepts in their day-to-day work.

During our simulation games, participants create and execute processes to document, share, and manage Knowledge as a by-product of service delivery: KCS in action. The game dynamics provide the motivation, and the facilitator puts up guardrails to make sure they stay within the confines of the best practices. The power of process – and the importance of adoption – is brought to life for the participants, leaving them primed for their roles in operating an effective Knowledge Management process in their real-world jobs.

The business impact

Experimenting with and improving your Knowledge Management practices in a simulated environment provides some unique advantages over doing so in the real world. For many businesses, the return on their investments in Knowledge Management can be slow to materialize, especially if due attention is not paid to behaviors and adoption. Indeed, many organizations struggle even to measure the results of their Knowledge Management interventions, partly due to the challenges of isolating their effects amidst ever-changing business conditions. Simulations, by their nature, provide fertile grounds for this kind of discovery.

As participants implement the various Knowledge Management interventions over the course of the game, the effects are not only felt and experienced at the personal level but also captured by the game software at the organizational level and reflected in various key performance indicators. In between the levels of the game, we stop to lift our heads and take an aerial view of our progress and the improvements to our simulated business performance. In these periods of reflection, the ‘aha!’ moments crystallize: we can see on our dashboard the effects of our efforts on our handling times, our service levels, our customer satisfaction ratings, and our company performance. These experiences can be the key to the unlocking commitment from all levels of the organization to your knowledge-centered service transformation program.

About Simplayfi

At Simplayfi, we have over 15 years of experience supporting large complex organizations globally in leveraging experiential business simulations to engage their teams and drive cultural change and business transformation.

Customer Excellence Simulation

A dynamic journey to customer loyalty, growth, and advocacy.

Polestar ITSM Simulation

A high-impact way to create breakthrough understanding of ITSM.

DevOps Simulation

An interactive experience demonstrating the business value of DevOps.

Email us to book a 30-minute free consultation with one of our industry experts to discuss your specific challenges and explore potential business simulation solutions that may support your current initiatives.

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