Interview: What is Knowledge-Centered Support, and Why Is It the Future?

While Avaya is well known as the #1 contact center vendor for 15 years, what is less known is the best-in-class contact center that Avaya runs in its own support organization. Today, I’ve invited Russ Brookes, Director of Knowledge Management at Avaya, to talk about a key aspect of how Avaya delivers support to our customers, our knowledge base.

Carl: Welcome to the Avaya blog, Russ. Can you please do a level set for our readers on knowledge management and KCS?
Russ: Knowledge Management, as the name implies, is about managing knowledge. It’s about efficient ways to create and manage that knowledge. It’s about reusing that knowledge for maximum effectiveness. I like to think of it as a way to coordinate the creativity, imagination, and diversity of a large group of people to work essentially as one mind. It shifts the paradigm from “collectively being as strong as your weakest link,” to “collectively being as strong as your strongest link.” KCS, or Knowledge-Centered Support, is a specific set of practices regarding implementing knowledge management in a support or service environment.

Carl: Before we get into how you and the Avaya team have implemented a best-in-class KCS solution, can you elaborate on how this solution benefits our customers, partners, and our own support organization?
Russ: At Avaya, our interest is in making our customers, and our customers’ customers successful by providing them with communication and collaboration technologies and supporting them in deriving maximum value from those products and services. With our KCS system, customers and partners are able to get answers to their questions and resolutions to their problems at any time (and anyplace) via access to our knowledge via desktop or mobile access to our information.

Carl: I know you and your team have worked very hard to make this knowledge database so valuable; what would you say is the biggest change you made that led to its success?
Russ: We made many changes… I would say our move to “direct publishing” was the biggest. In this mode of operation, our support staff members are able to easily publish answers and solutions to problems in near real-time. As they encounter the need to provide an answer, they generate the answer, and publish it for other customers to see and use. By the time a service request is closed, the article has been published–available to customers as soon as the search engines have finished their indexing. This gets information out in the world in minutes or hours, not days and weeks.

Carl: Isn’t that risky? Don’t you need other experts to look things over and make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed before you make it public? Aren’t you in danger of publishing poor quality information?
Russ: That is many people’s first reaction. Here’s our take on it: Everyday, all day long, our support agents provide customers with answers and solutions. These are trained, knowledgeable people–we didn’t need someone reviewing everything they say before they say it to a customer, and then relaying it on only if it was “OK.” We trust them to do this directly every day, so why not trust them to do the same with their written articles?

There is much more to say on this topic. KCS helps address the shelf life of knowledge and the importance of making it available quickly, confirming accuracy by virtue of the fact that the information just solved a problem, closed-loop quality systems that allow for constant improving of information, the fact that information is never perfect (we used to think the world was flat), the number of people the information is going to, the speed with which feedback and correction happens in a networked world with many consumers of the information, and lots of other things that we don’t have time to delve into here. Net result is that we found direct publishing by our trained support agents didn’t degrade quality, it improved it–and also improved its timeliness.

Carl: How does your team benchmark Avaya’s implementation against other companies and industry best practices?
Russ: We are members of the Consortium for Service Innovation. This organization developed the knowledge-centered support practices used by many companies around the world. The practices are developed through sharing best practices, pitfalls and ideas. The Consortium, with members’ permission, publishes case studies of KCS implementations, which include things like business impact, metrics such as customer satisfaction, speed of resolution, productivity, best practices, and challenges.

As Greg Oxton, Executive Director of the Consortium says, ‘Avaya is the best KCS study we have showing the benefits that can be realized through implementing KCS.’ That’s high praise, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the KCS practices the Consortium published that we then used as the basis for our KCS system design. As members of the Consortium, we, along with other members, participate in continuing to develop these knowledge-centered support practices, collectively adding what works.

Carl: What other best practices has Avaya implemented based on guidance from the Consortium?
Russ: Well let me be clear: Some of the things we implemented were not considered best practices at the time. That’s the way the Consortium member companies work–we each try things that we thing will work for us, and test those practices in the real world. Once somebody has success with something, the Consortium then looks to others who have had success with it, and once enough members have found it works for them too, then the members decide to incorporate it as a best practice. Direct publishing was one such innovation: At the time we decided to try it, there were quite a few raised eyebrows, and, “Really? Are you sure you really want to do that?” Now, with the success we’ve had, other member companies have starting to do the same. Although that seemed a radical change, it was built on the other best practices of the consortium–the double KCS loop of “Solve and Evolve,” don’t overly rely on measuring “activities,” as that can cause a system to fail, coaching systems, and many others.

Carl: From my own experience, years ago, of writing KB articles, can you explain how important your team takes the feedback we get on the articles and how we handle it?
Russ: Organizationally we take it very seriously–it is a core component of our closed-loop quality system. We have invested in a number of systems to ensure the feedback gets to the right person quickly, and that they act upon it to close the loop with the rater. We don’t want people to think their feedback on an article went into a black hole–we want them to experience ‘Hey, somebody heard me and my feedback resulted in a change.’ I also know that it gets mindshare among the people who create content.

The other day I was in a meeting, not about Knowledge Management, and somebody spontaneously blurted out ‘Hey, I just got 5 stars!’ On the flip side, I’ve had people reach out to me because they haven’t been happy about some poor feedback they have received–it bothers them–they don’t like it when what they have written isn’t perceived as great. But the feedback is what it is. “The customer is always right.”

Carl: What is your next big opportunity to tackle to further improve our users’ support experience?
Russ: People become known through the content they create; that’s why they’re bothered by getting a low star rating, because they know that doesn’t reflect well on them. As they start to gain a good reputation in a particular subject area, more people seek them out, they get challenged more, and they get even better.

I find this isn’t limited to just our employees and the knowledge they create. Look at online support communities– is a good example of this–people become known through their work. It improves their marketability and their opportunities. Our next big opportunity is to give the experts out there in the world, those who know a lot about Avaya products, or similar technologies, a place to shine. And to that end, we have invested in the Avaya Support Forums a place where all these people, not just Avayans, can ask questions and provide answers to questions. A place where they can build their reputation. A place where they can shine in their industry. At, people can participate in the conversation and develop their reputation, both through the questions they ask, and the answers they provide.

Carl: If readers would like to learn more about Avaya’s implementation of knowledge management and/or KCS in general, where can they go for more information?
Russ: There are a number of case studies and presentations published. I’d recommend the following:

Also if people are interested in more, or have questions, feel free to email me at

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Every Week is Customer Service Week for this Credit Union

It’s not easy for credit unions to compete these days. Many need to win against neighboring big banks, with nearby branches, billions in operating expenses, and national marketing campaigns. To compete against their larger banking competitors, the IT staff of one top 20 U.S. credit union with 500,000 members and fewer than 50 locations focuses on three strategies while being very mindful of the budget.

Three Strategies Ensure Credit Union’s Commitment to Superior Customer Service

“We’re very conscious of fees,” says the senior telecom and contact center engineer at the top-20 credit union. “When it comes to our credit union members, our motto is: ‘We never forget it’s your money!’”

Having a customer-centric culture during Customer Service Week (October 3-7) and beyond requires a persistent focus on providing a consistently strong contact center. To accomplish this day in and day out, choosing a partner with the same focus on proactive customer service goes a long way.

Not long ago, the credit union launched a new internet banking service, which resulted in a significant uptick in call volumes to the call center. Some members calling in were not hearing the correct recorded announcements.

To fix the problems like this, and minimize the impact to the customer, the credit union IT staff selected a managed services provider that offers 24/7 support for its service center, corporate headquarters, and disaster recovery location. Three strategies help the credit union maintain their customer centric culture:

  1. Resolve problems quickly:

    The managed service provider used its extensive toolbox of innovative diagnostics and expertise to trace the problem to a Local Access Carrier issue and an internal server not rebooted in 900 days. The remote technical support specialist found the root cause and quickly fixed the issue. “Usually when you open a ticket, you feel like the first tier person is going to be just a ticket-taker. I was expecting to wait,” added the engineer. “But the gentleman I spoke to was able to stay on the phone, get another engineer on the line, and stay on the whole time. Both engineers on this case were solid,” she adds, “but I was most impressed that the first support engineer who took the initial call didn’t just hand us off, he stayed engaged throughout the resolution process.”

  2. Don’t repeat the same mistakes:

    The software specialist flagged the server reboot issue and recommended rebooting at regular intervals along with a recent software patch to further promote stability in the credit union’s environment. Receiving proactive guidance on how to avoid the same problem in the future helped the credit union once again to deliver consistent strong customer service. “The fact that our partner is so open and willing to integrate with other vendors is huge for us,” said the engineer. “The platforms that were offered—and the support I get—are top notch.”

  3. Use automated diagnostics:

    The IT staff is small but very efficient. During the day, they focus on projects that will drive customer satisfaction and at night—they sleep! “We’ll get alarms on our system on occasion. When I get in in the morning, I can see that our managed services partner’s automated diagnostic systems have been in at night, testing things and resolving those alarms,” says the IT manager. “It’s nice that you don’t have to be woken up in the middle of the night for those little things. We focus on being very efficient, so that we can turn around and give our members better dividends and rates.”

How is your contact center running these days? What helps you keep the focus on your customer service? What emerging trends are you watching in 2017?

E911’s Fatal Flaw is Lack of Location Data—How Avaya Breeze Can Solve

The night of her husband’s death, Alison Vroome did everything she knew to be right. She grabbed her phone, called 911 and told the operator her address. Then she repeated her address a second, third and fourth time.

The call went to a different North Carolina county; the operator couldn’t understand her address. It was more than 10 minutes into the 911 call before paramedics arrived. Like anyone calling 911 in an emergency, Vroome expected her call to go quickly and smoothly, but it didn’t. Vroome’s call was one of 5.7 million 911 calls that come from wireless phones in NC—about 74% of all 911 calls in the state according to data from 2015. Yet 911 call centers rely on the cellular carrier to provide a cell phone’s location data. The legacy 911 network is voice only and cannot pass any data from the device. Instead, they can only receive the location data from the tower pinged by the call, something not nearly as accurate.

No one can say for certain if Vroome’s husband would be alive today had paramedics arrived sooner, but there isn’t any doubt that the current technology used in E911 emergency situations fails citizens. And this isn’t an issue isolated to the U.S. With the rise of mobile devices, countries and communities around the globe face the same technological flaw—the lack of location information.

As Avaya’s Jean Turgeon addressed in his recent blog on the current state of public safety and E911, accurate location information is one of, if not the most important piece of information that an emergency responder needs; and resolving this fatal flaw requires proactive urgency.

How Today’s #Tech Can Address E911’s Fatal Flaw

My Avaya colleague Mark Fletcher, ENP, recently wrote that when it comes to significantly improving public safety and E911 response times, tech is king. He’s right.

Case in point: In Europe, the introduction of EU eCall to become an integral element of the European emergency number 112 is solving the GPS precision challenge for new passenger vehicles sold in the EU after 2018. In an emergency, an eCall will relay a vehicle’s exact location, time of the incident, and direction of travel to emergency personnel, as sourced from the device, and very accurate. This is done automatically by the vehicle or can be triggered manually by the driver by pushing a button inside the car. That’s technology in action! While we have about two years to go before it becomes available large scale, we’re heading in the right direction.

In addition to eCall, there’s another remarkable solution called Advanced Mobile Location (AML). When a person in distress calls emergency services with a smartphone where AML is enabled, the phone automatically activates its location service to establish its position and then sends this info to emergency services via an SMS. The current downside to this is that AML is only compatible with Android mobile devices (R3.4 or greater). But still … it’s a huge step forward, and sets an excellent example for others.

The concept of AML was developed in the UK by BT’s John Medland in partnership with mobile service provider EE and handset manufacturer HTC initially. First tests were so promising that the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) began to promote AML, which sparked the interest of Google, ultimately getting AML introduced into Android natively. Talk about a ripple effect!

As the world’s leading software and services company, Avaya understands there are better ways to deliver public safety and emergency services, and we’ve been innovating these same capabilities in many commercial arenas for years. Our efforts there have set off their own ripple effect across the public safety industry, urging government agencies around the globe to harness the power of technology to enhance public safety services for citizens. What’s more, our teams are leveraging the Avaya Breeze™ Platform to intelligently link the location data to the incoming eCall or AML call and make it available to the E911 responder. Recently, in partnership with Engelbart Software and Oecon, we’ve developed a flexible and scalable solution for this type of enhanced emergency calling scenario and the results have been positive.

In fact, eCall is looking more and more like a potential game changer, and here’s why.

Let’s look at the technology side of the overall process:

  • A car is involved in an accident.
  • Sensors in the car trigger a sequence of events performed by the In-Vehicle System (IVS).
  • The SIM card registers to the strongest mobile network to raise the emergency call to the EU E112.
  • A modem kicks in, coding the GPS data and other car-related information as audio tones into the voice channel.
  • Immediately following the data transmission, the IVS switches to the hands-free communications system allowing the people in the car to communicate with the E112 responder.

What does this mean for the emergency responder?

  • The E112 responder picks up a call from a mobile device, immediately receiving precise location information. That’s new!
  • The E112 responder can be sure that it’s a serious situation because the airbags have been deployed, which triggers the emergency call sequence to start. So no one is left to wonder the seriousness of the call.
  • Most likely there’s no one for the E112 responder to speak with in the car. Why? Because this is an automatic call, not a call voluntarily initiated by a real person. And while the modem is beeping its data to the Public Safety Answering Point, the passengers might already have stepped out of the car and can’t hear the E112 responder’s “Are you OK?” Or they simply can’t respond because they’re unable due to the severity of the accident.

So are we still talking about a normal emergency call? From my point of view, this is the Internet of Things (IoT) plunging right into public safety and emergency services: sensors, data, processes and integrations. IoT under the disguise of a voice call … this IS a game changer!

At Avaya, we leverage our Breeze workflow engine to tie together voice calls and the IoT. Even though eCall is an initiative in the European Union, we see the concept of telematic calls being discussed around the globe, in public safety as well as in private businesses like the automotive industry. And, yes, we strongly believe that this approach of integration building on Avaya Breeze can also work to help overcome E911’s same fatal flaw, location.

I’ve delivered a series of Avaya Breeze webinars with my colleague, Andrew Maher, featuring Engelbart Software developers. Together, we demonstrate how to deal with eCall and AML. Have a look to learn more about the capabilities of Breeze and its impact on public safety. The demo starts at 00:19:30.


How Workforce Optimization Tools Positively Impact Your Business, Clients, and Bottom Line

Founded in 1962, Common has been delivering best-in-class accounts receivable management programs throughout Canada for decades. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, Common’s leadership team is always looking for new ways to deliver exceptional service to our clients.

In pursuit of this goal, Common has been a long-time user of Avaya IP Office™ with Avaya Contact Center Select. Common recently became a beta user of Avaya Workforce Optimization Select, an easy-to-implement, easy-to-use, security-oriented solution that gives contact center managers and representatives access to scalable and flexible tools. Tools include recording, quality management, call monitoring, coaching, e-learning, and full reporting services. Workforce Optimization Select has upped the ante when it comes to workforce optimization tools.

Common is currently using Workforce Optimization Select to record incoming and outgoing calls and capture desktop screens for 80 agents, and has a total of five agents dedicated to the Quality Management program. This has eliminated our previous manual quality assurance paper audit process, which was often cumbersome, unreliable and difficult to manage.

If you’re a medium-sized business and you want a workforce optimization solution that delivers enterprise-like workforce optimization capabilities at a price point that will not break your budget, then you should choose Avaya Workforce Optimization Select.

From Common’s standpoint, the minimal deployment costs and fast rollout—resulting in a quick return on investment—have made it easy to welcome Avaya Workforce Optimization Select into its business. Other benefits that Common is enjoying thanks to Workforce Optimization Select include:

  • 100% call recording reliability, real-time availability and uptime—empowering Common to quickly and easily review calls for dispute resolution, fraud prevention and more.
  • Adherence to PCI security and compliance standards, ensuring Common maintains call quality compliance with the five major financial regulations in Canada and two in the U.S.–supporting our long-term focus on regulatory compliance and business security.
  • The best in privacy and data security—no paper trails—via encryption, Secure HTTP, digital signatures, screen masking, system-level audit trails and protected access with user-level feature permission options.
  • The option for QA analysts and supervisors to view entire customer interactions from start to finish—with screen recordings—to gain a complete view and deep understanding of interactions when evaluating agent performance.
  • A significant time and cost savings by eliminating the management of QA via pen and paper—no administrative time is wasted scanning, copying or filing.

Workforce Optimization Select thinks about your bottom line too, delivering capabilities that allows businesses to develop the operational intelligence needed to improve agent performance and customer interactions. With low hardware and storage costs, flexible seat-based pricing, and minimal installation and training requirements, Workforce Optimization Select deploys quickly and easily, and lets customers preserve their investment over time.

With Workforce Optimization Select, we are now able to record 100% of our voice and agent desktop screen interactions and then use these recordings to isolate and improve agent performance as part of a quality management and coaching program. And, Common’s call center managers are excited about the audio quality and security of call recordings, and the agents are enjoying the intuitive interface.

Scott Wyatt, CISA, Common’s Programming and Support consultant who oversaw the Workforce Optimization Select beta deployment, says, “Common has been using Avaya solutions for a long time and hasn’t been disappointed yet. The Workforce Optimization Select call recordings are crisp and reliable, and by adding in QA, we have the perfect combination of solutions.

“Beyond that, the agent deployment was effortless and working with the team at Avaya has been an exceptional experience. From the IT to support to development, everyone provided excellent service without fail.”

Moving forward, Common plans to phase in additional aspects of Workforce Optimization Select—ensuring our staff and clients benefit from all the solution has to offer.