The ROI of KM: Building a Business Case for KM Investments

Some of the most frequent questions I receive from SSPA members are in regard to the ROI of knowledgebases (KBs) and knowledge management (KM) for support.  Questions like:

  1. How do you measure KM effectiveness or ROI?
  2. How do my KM results measure up to other companies?
  3. How do I estimate the ROI for a proposed KM project?

Based in part on a presentation I built for a an Inquira webcast series on this topic, I finally committed to paper an overview of the metrics impacted by support knowledgebases, along with benchmarks (from the SSPA benchmark database) for each metric (where available), with the overall industry average as well as averages for B2B and B2C support.  The metrics are divided into 4 different areas of KM impacts:  Employee Productivity, Interaction Volume and Cost, Customer Satisfaction, and (believe it or not) Revenue and Repurchase.  I also have a section on emerging metrics for customer discussion forums/communities.

For long time KM experts, this may not seem like rocket science.  But what I have found is that different companies track, and care about, different metrics.  While most of the metrics are interrelated, some companies are only concerned with particular views of the data, so I felt it was important to look beyond the usual productivity metrics and include how upticks in employee performance impact other areas.  Here are a couple of examples:

Training days per year.  TSE (technical support engineer) training has changed dramatically over the last decade.  Not only have training methods changed as younger workers tend to find eLearning (lessons delivered to the employee desktop) more effective than classroom training, but also mature knowledgebases of content mean TSEs need to be trained only on the basics, not how to handle every conceivable problem they will encounter.  Companies have seen training time reduced with the introduction of searchable knowledge repositories, with new hires “going live” faster than in the past, and experienced agents spending less time off the phone attending training.

  • Industry average days of annual technical training: 17.9 days for first year techs; 13.3 days for experienced techs
  • Consumer average days of annual technical training: 21.8 days for first year techs; 3.3 days for experienced techs
  • Enterprise average days of annual technical training: 24.9 days for first year techs; 21.5 days for experienced techs

Incidents handled per shift.  As average incident handling time decreases, and first contact resolution increases, TSEs are able to handle more incidents per shift, allowing the same volume of inbound interactions to be handled by fewer technicians.

  • Industry average of new support cases handled per shift (Tier 1): 12.1
  • Consumer average of new support cases handled per shift (Tier 1): 19.0
  • Enterprise average of new support cases handled per shift (Tier 1): 6.5

Volume by channel.  Using knowledgebase and search tools to improve the customer experience and success of Web self-service, support organizations today work to move more customer traffic to Web self-service, as well as drive more assisted interactions to non-phone channels.  Tracking interaction volume by channel over time shows customer adoption of each channel, and helps companies estimate cost savings through deflected phone incidents. 

Incident Volume by Channel

Incident Volume by Channel

Technical knowledge of TSE.  This post interaction survey question specifically deals with how satisfied the customer was with the technical knowledge of the TSE.  This metric should improve as agents are able to quickly find needed information in the knowledgebase, making them an expert on any product or service issue. The SSPA Benchmark tracks satisfaction with technical knowledge of TSE for both direct employees and outsourced workers, across phone, email and web.  The examples provided here are for direct employees and phone interactions.

  • Industry average satisfaction with technical knowledge of TSE: 81% Satisfied; 53% Very Satisfied.
  • Consumer average satisfaction with technical knowledge of TSE: 45% Satisfied; 44% Very Satisfied.
  • Enterprise average satisfaction with technical knowledge of TSE: 85% Satisfied; 57% Very Satisfied.

The report is in editing as we speak and should be live in the Research section of the SSPA website later this week.  I hope companies will use this report to see where they are out of synch with benchmark numbers, identify specific metrics to improve, then investigate which technology has the best track record to impact these metrics.

If you have any questions or comments, please add a comment or shoot me an email.  And as always, thanks for reading!

Explore posts in the same categories: Best Practices, Consumer Support, Enterprise Support, Technology

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4 Comments on “The ROI of KM: Building a Business Case for KM Investments”

  1. Hoyt Mann Says:

    First great post and very compressive. I enjoyed reading and learning about other areas that I was unfamiliar.

    The majority of our customer base are moving from a paper based KB system to something automated. For them progressing to an automated system is a good first step.

    PhaseWare leverages the KM ROI model from a Customer Self Service perspective while capturing all customer activities and assigning a value to these actions. At the end of the day a report can be executed taking in company specific parameters to help derive a real time ROI model.

  2. jragsdale Says:

    Hi Hoyt;
    For those of us in high tech support, it is hard to imagine paper based KBs, but I checked out the industries you cover and I’m sure that is still a huge business problem for your customers.

    If you have any ROI stories to share, email them to me at


  3. Jason Walker Says:

    Thank you John. Of course the level of ROI recognized must depend a great deal on how well KM is implemented. I’d love to see some work on perhaps a follow up post about best practices for the creation and maintenance of KB content including workflow, process and roles.

  4. Some very good points. However, my personal investing style has never included KM investments..

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