The Road to Award-Winning KCS: A Case Study from Ellie Mae
Ellie Mae is a FinTech company that innovates technology to power the American dream of home ownership. Ellie Mae is headquartered in Pleasanton, CA, and employs more than 1,200 people with offices across the United States.
Ellie Mae Technical Support is comprised of 147 employees, primarily located in Pleasanton, CA, and Omaha, NE, with several remote home workers. The department consists of ten unique teams, with a discipline focus on technical, industry, and enterprise support, with more than 30 possible solutions to support that span the mortgage lending process, from origination to closing to customer relationship management. Technical Support logs greater than 170,000 cases per year, and maintains a 4.9 CSAT out of 5.
What was the situation before the launch of the knowledge management initiative?
The Technical Support team had been inconsistent with knowledge management practices for years, without leveraging best practices or even guidance beyond the system to log knowledge. The lack of methodology and supporting best practice technology led to hundreds of outdated articles and thousands more that never got created. Before the launch of KCS, the norm was to rely on tribal knowledge stored in OneNote or handwritten in notebooks or on sticky notes and more tenured analysts and engineers for assistance. With inconsistent and lack of knowledge, our handle times were significantly increased as was our waiting backlog. Oftentimes misinformation was given resulting in repeat customer calls and rework of cases. There was no defined process or owner for knowledge management nor was the practice aligned with ITSM guidance, let alone KCS. This created an environment where knowledge was treated like gold and horded among analysts and engineers with the unspoken goal of having more knowledge than the next person.
What was the knowledge management strategy?
Our plan was to adopt KCS as close to the prescribed process as possible. The scope for this strategy included KCS adoption across 10 unique teams with varying cultures and leadership styles. The approach we took was to establish a repeatable process for adoption that was consistent across all teams. The belief was that, by maintaining consistency and driving a similar adoption experience across all teams, we would be driving the culture change we wanted to achieve.
At the advice of the KCS instructors we started by focusing on one team and only cascaded to additional teams once it was clear that the team we were currently focusing on was progressing on track.
Our strategy also included our desire to scale the KCS methodology beyond Technical Support, as needed. As advocates of KCS, we started our journey knowing we would eventually scale beyond the Technical Support department into knowledge collaboration partnerships with other teams. Once executive sponsorship was obtained and the KCS launch team identified, we began with Phase I Planning and Design efforts, including creation of the program plan to develop the following key materials and needs:
- Deployment plan
- Communication plan
- Training development and delivery
- Role definition and coach plan
- Content planning
- Article content standard
- Rewards and recognition plan
- Metrics and reporting
- Process documentation review
- Tool integration with case management system
How did your organization define and measure success for this initiative?
Success of the initiative wasn't really defined by improved metrics, but rather the adoption of the methodology and the realization that knowledge is a commodity. Getting our analysts to stop focusing on how much work there was to do and instead focus on improving the knowledge sharing aspect of their role would ultimately make their peers and customers more effective. This would lead to a decline in overall workload on each individual analyst. Our goal was simple but clear: improve the quality of support provided to our customers while improving the quality of life for our employees.
The implementation of KCS really helped establish our current state of maturity with our self-service knowledge base. We are now creating and sharing articles for newly found defects before we even have a fix or even understand root cause. This has allowed for a couple benefits. First, our contact volume dropped by more than 300 cases on average for every new software release. Second, we gave our clients the ability to create a "track it" case based on knowledge articles for newly found defects. This enforces the decline in call volume and gives us another metric for what knowledge is being searched and valid. Today the site contains more than 6,000 articles generating 30,000 views monthly.
Article linking was another method we used to measure success and determine the validity of articles within the KADB. At this point all Technical Support employees are contributors, our Tier 2 group validates, and our Team Lead group serves as coaches. Having the knowledge base and case management tool on the same platform have afforded us the ability to quickly search during incident management and, equally important, has provided our analysts the ability to create knowledge with the click of a button within the case. This ease of use not only drives article creation, but also helps drive down the notion that "there just isn't enough time." Three additional Professional Services teams have been trained on KCS practices and are in the middle of their adoption journey.
How did the success of this project or initiative affect business objectives?
If we look at our company goals, the KCS initiative aligns to most of them and helps us realize numerous benefits:
- Profitability. The KCS initiative has reduced our resolution times and driven a significant amount of self-service, which ultimately drives down employee costs and helps us achieve our profitability goal.
- Sales and Retention. The adoption of KCS has created a situation where we are far more effective and efficient in supporting our customers. By nature of this, we aren't losing customers to our competitors and are helping to drive retention.
- Overall Customer Satisfaction. Every aspect of this journey has contributed to customer satisfaction, but the area that has produced the most value for our customers is the self-service aspect. The adoption of KCS has generated a far greater level of accuracy and timeliness with articles, which has resulted in a very significant increase in self-service searching and has contributed to a decline in contact volume.