March 14, 2024

Harnessing the Potential of Product Knowledge Management

image shows two women working in product knowledge management

Now, depending on who you talk to, product knowledge can mean different things, and there are different views on its importance. For our purposes, product knowledge is all the information created to help people understand what a product or service is, how to use it, how to support it, and so on.

That all makes sense in terms of software and manufactured products (like appliances and textiles), but product knowledge extends to a variety of industries. Product knowledge can also mean all the documents used in financial institutions such as banks, mortgage lenders, and insurance companies. It can also be used for pharmaceutical information and med-tech instructions.

What is product knowledge?

Product knowledge is all of the information created to help people understand what a product or service is and how to use it.

What type of companies create product knowledge?

..and more!

In all examples, the product knowledge must be accurate and consistent across all channels where it’s accessed – the website, print, customer support applications, chatbots, and more. When it’s not, when incorrect information is shared, mistakes happen that can be costly to the business. And this is why it’s so important to create and manage this content properly.

So, let’s talk about the value that a component content management system (CCMS) brings to the teams that create and manage product knowledge.

If you’re reading this blog, we don’t have to tell you that product knowledge is important for your business. Internally, it helps employees better understand your products and services and enables faster, more efficient customer support. Product knowledge also enables employees to make informed product or process change decisions. But that’s only one part of what product knowledge enables.

There’s also the customer side to consider. Well-written, accurate product knowledge increases a customer’s understanding of how a product or service works, helps them answer questions or resolve problems faster through self-service tools, and increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.

How a CCMS Improves Product Knowledge Management

There are a few different ways businesses can choose to perform product knowledge management:

  • Write product content in Word (or Google) documents and store them on network drives.
  • Store completed documents in SharePoint or some other document management system.
  • Create and store product content in a web content management system.
  • Use a CCMS.

All these approaches are still used today, but there are numerous issues with some of them. As we look at the benefits of a CCMS, we’ll explain why it’s a better tool for managing product knowledge than the others. The best way to show this is with some examples.

Managing Product Knowledge in Manufacturing

It doesn’t matter if you manufacture industrial or consumer appliances or apparel, automotive parts, or airplanes – there is a lot of documentation to create and maintain.

For example, textile and apparel manufacturers must create production specifications, manufacturing instructions, and even care labels. Appliance manufacturers (e.g., washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners) create user manuals, instruction guides, and maintenance manuals.

image shows a laundry instruction tag
Image by Freepik

Product knowledge for these products is available in multiple languages and through multiple channels. Consumers can download instructions in PDF format from the manufacturer’s website or read them online. Customer support teams access this documentation in support systems like Zendesk, and a service specialist might use printed troubleshooting guides or access documentation via a tablet.

Managing manufacturing product knowledge in a CCMS is beneficial for many reasons:

  • It provides a single location to manage all types of product knowledge, including manuals, instructions, FAQs, troubleshooting information, and more.
  • The structured authoring and content reuse model ensures consistency of information across all types of product content.
  • It enables you to publish manufacturing product knowledge in different formats and to different channels – as well as in different languages.

There’s more, but hang tight for a few minutes.

Managing Software Product Documentation

Moving on to software, if you are in the information technology industry, you know the amount of documentation produced for software – whether it’s a SaaS (software as a service) application or software embedded in another product like industrial machinery, IoT (Internet of Things) products, or automotive systems.

SaaS applications need user guides, FAQs, tutorials, knowledgebase articles, and other documentation that help customers use the application and help customer support agents resolve problems. They also create API reference guides for developers to integrate with other applications or build additional functionality on top of the application.

Companies that produce embedded software create documentation for SDKs (software development kits), firmware release notes, and technical documentation to help development teams work with the software.

A CCMS supports software companies by:

  • Providing topic-based authoring to enable authors to create content once and reuse it across different types of documentation.
  • Helping them create and manage versions of the documentation. As they work on updates to the software, they need to update the documentation, keepingFocus On: Versioning the right information with the right version.
  • Seamlessly rolling out updated information to connected channels so customers and developers are constantly working with the most recent version of the documentation.

Again, there are many more benefits to using a CCMS, so keep reading.

Managing Product Knowledge in Financial Services

You might think fitting in financial services with manufacturing and software development is odd, but it’s not. Financial companies also create a lot of product knowledge; it’s just not for a physical product.

Financial documentation includes mortgage applications, closing documents, or regulatory disclosures. For an investment firm, it includes investment agreements, disclosure statutes, account setup, and use instructions.

image shows mortgage document
Image by Freepik

A financial services company must ensure up-to-date, accurate, consistent product knowledge across all channels. These companies face strict regulatory compliance requirements that include the product knowledge they produce. Mistakes and inaccurate or outdated information for internal and external stakeholders can result in thousands or millions of dollars in fines.

The benefits a CCMS brings to financial services companies include:

  • Authoring structured content to support its reuse across different types of documentation. For example, reusing legal disclaimers.
  • Maintaining audit trails to ensure every change is documented to support regulatory compliance and audits.
  • Providing a single location to create and manage all content.

A CCMS is the Right Solution for Product Knowledge Management

The benefits of a CCMS are clear for all companies managing all types of product knowledge. Along with the capabilities mentioned above, there are other equally important capabilities.

For instance, a CCMS enables collaboration on product content across the business and with external partners. Many people and teams are involved in creating product knowledge – developers, support, legal, policy teams, and others – and must work together to author, review, and approve content.

Content is broken down into topics, and different people are assigned to work on topics simultaneously. This approach speeds up content creation and enables faster review and approval workflows. Also, as products change, the related documentation changes. A CCMS enables the creation of versions of topics and ensures the right version is published.

If you choose to manage your content in a document management system, a network drive, or SharePoint (or some combination), you are managing completed documents. There is no content reuse. You have separate documents that may contain duplicate content. A change to the content in one document may require a change to the content in another document, which is a manual process. And if you aren’t tracking where the same content is used in different documents, you can’t be sure everything is getting updated appropriately.

Product knowledge is also multilingual. Whether it’s software, manufactured products, or financial product knowledge, if it’s available to people who use different languages or live in different locations, then it has to be translated.

A CCMS provides translation capabilities through built-in features or by integrating with a third-party translation provider. It manages translated content as topics alongside the original language, ensuring that as the primary language is updated, translations are made accordingly.

Managing product documentation as separate documents in a document management system or a network drive means also managing a translated version of those documents – and more work to ensure they are kept up to date with the original version.

Even managing product knowledge in a web content management system doesn’t provide you with all the benefits of a CCMS. Web CMS do not support structured content or content reuse, enable multiple people to collaborate on the same documentation simultaneously, and while some might support publishing content to different channels, in most cases, they support websites only.

Product Knowledge is Critical and Requires the Right Management Tool

The significance of product knowledge in business cannot be overstated, affecting both internal processes and customer experience. Accurate and consistent product knowledge is crucial for employees to understand their products and services and make informed decisions. At the same time, customers benefit from a deeper understanding of the products or services they use. The proper management of this knowledge is imperative to avoid costly mistakes.

The benefits of a CCMS extend beyond the industries discussed, encompassing collaborative content creation, efficient review workflows, version management, and multilingual support. The capability to collaborate across teams and integrate seamlessly with translation services ensures that product knowledge remains up-to-date, consistent, and accessible to a diverse audience.

As products evolve and industries progress, the adaptable features of a CCMS offer a robust framework for organizations to stay ahead, ensuring that their product knowledge remains a valuable asset in fostering customer satisfaction, internal efficiency, and regulatory compliance.

If you would like to hear from one of our customers on how they handle their product knowledge management, take a look at one of our case studies.