Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 22 Number 3 2005 pp. 159-190

The Role of Knowledge Repositories in Technical Support Environments: Speed Versus Learning in User Performance

Gray, Peter H and Durcikova, Alexandra

ABSTRACT: Knowledge repositories are commonly used by technical support analysts in call center environments as a way of capturing and reusing solutions to common problems, and are generally expected to improve service quality, reduce costs, and enhance analyst learning. This study investigates why technical support analysts seek out and access knowledge from these repositories, as opposed to more traditional sources of such knowledge—colleagues and manuals. Focusing on the demand for—rather than supply of—knowledge in organizations, our research elaborates the role played by analysts' learning orientation, perceived work demands, and risk aversion in predicting their knowledge sourcing behavior. Our results include several counterintuitive findings that suggest there is not very much learning going on via technical support knowledge repositories. Analysts seem to be focused on finding recipes for solving customers' problems rather than building a better understanding of the products they support. Implications for research and practice highlight the need for more effective technologies to speed searches, the utility of a formal and visible mechanism for validating knowledge, and the inherent tension between efficiency and learning in these environments.

Key words and phrases: knowledge management systems, knowledge repositories, knowledge sourcing, learning orientation, risk aversion, technical support help desks