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Solving the Contact Center Knowledge Crisis from the Great Retignation

What is the Great Retignation?

The Great Resignation is one thing. There is at least some hope that the workers who resigned might come back later.

But the Great Retignation (resignation that is also a retirement) is a different beast altogether, one that is arguably even bigger.

Older workers have been retiring in droves amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Per Monster, 75 million baby boomers are going to retire sooner rather than later. Per Pew Research, the number of retirees in the 55-and-older age group grew by about 1 million per year from 2008 to 2019. However, in the past two years, that number has swelled to 3.5 million a year, a stunning 250 percent increase! Unless the stock market completely tanks, shrinking their 401K accounts, these retirees are more likely to be basking at the beach than coming back to work. The question is how does it impact the contact center and the customer service organization? After all, it’s no secret that knowledge is critically important to providing great customer service.

But before we get further into the boomer exodus, let’s first look at knowledge types. If you read any glossary on knowledge management (KM), you will see terms like explicit knowledge, implicit knowledge, and tacit knowledge. Some treat implicit knowledge and tacit knowledge almost synonymously, which is what we will do in this article for simplicity. The definitions of these knowledge types might vary, but as the names indicate, explicit knowledge can be considered obvious and fairly easy to capture, record, and deliver, and tacit knowledge is the opposite. Examples of explicit knowledge are data from transactional systems, how-to guides, and manuals. Examples of tacit knowledge are reasoning, expertise, and empathy.

It’s Not Your Grandfather’s Customer Queries Any More

Self-service adoption continues to rise among consumers. In fact, Gartner had predicted that 85% of customers will begin customer service interactions with self-service first by 2022. As handling routine customer queries—the informational type—gets automated with self-service, contact center agents are getting more complex customer issues—the procedural, resolution, and advice kinds to solve—which requires far more tacit knowledge than in the past, as explained below:

Customer Query  Required Knowledge Type for Handling
Informational Explicit
Procedural Mixed (mostly explicit)
Resolution/Advice Mixed (mostly tacit)
Coaching Mixed (mostly tacit)

If you can find a way to capture tacit knowledge and deliver it at the point of customer interaction to all your contact center agents, the opportunity for differentiation through CX (customer experience), employee retention through better AX (agent experience), and enhanced business performance are huge! After all, handling informational queries is table stakes, though many businesses still struggle with handling even these basic queries. While perfecting the handling of informational queries will be a good start, handling the more advanced query types that create significant effort for customers—procedural, problem resolution, advice, and coaching—presents a much bigger opportunity for CX differentiation and AX enhancement.

Though there might be exceptions, boomers tend to possess more tacit knowledge than younger generations, gained from their years in the trenches. They might be familiar with successful resolutions and sales successes as well as corner cases from the past. They would have acquired soft skills through practice over the years. This is not very different from how experienced doctors or surgeons might operate versus novices who just started their residencies. When experienced veterans quit for good, their knowledge, mostly tacit, will be lost forever, dooming your CX and even AX and diminishing your business performance. The question then is how to retain and deliver their tacit knowledge to employees with less experience.

From Exodus To Excellence

Establishing a knowledge culture and addressing the processes and technology needed to operationalize and leverage knowledge, including the more tacit type, is key to going from knowledge exodus to excellence. Here are some tips:

  1. Evangelize

    • Organizational leaders, from the CXOs down to managers, should educate employees about the importance of knowledge for improved business performance, better employee and customer experiences, and competitive advantage.
  2. Incentivize

    • Employees should be incentivized to share knowledge through a combination of monetary incentives, performance KPIs, and innovative approaches such as gamification. The organization could display a knowledge-sharing leaderboard, showing knowledge-sharing scores for employees, tapping into their competitive spirits.
  3. Operationalize

    • Establish a process to systematically capture tacit knowledge for situational problem-solving and advice from your best and most experienced agents or experts, starting with boomers who are on their way out. Modern KM technologies like eGain’s AI reasoning are essential to capturing and delivering such know-how at the point of work.
  4. Modernize

    • Technology does matter. Make sure to refresh it with a modern knowledge hub that includes and orchestrates all the essential technology building blocks needed to capture and deliver knowledge, including the tacit type. The hub should include capabilities such as 360-degree customer context, omnichannel content, profiled access, personalization, search methods, process guidance, and analytic insights. However, beware that the knowledge exodus is already on, and you can ill-afford to wait. Look for a solution that offers rich functionality out of the box for quick value creation.
  5. Facilitate

    • Make it easy for employees to share knowledge. Modern KM solutions have a single-click suggest feature that allows contact center agents to propose the addition of new content or process know-how to the knowledge base, which triggers a workflow to review and deliver that knowledge.

Whether we like it or not, the Great Retignation and the resulting knowledge exodus is upon us. Savvy companies are modernizing KM across technology, process, and people using a modern hub approach to bottle that knowledge and serve it up to all employees, making all agents as good as the best. What are you waiting for?

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This article was originally published on smartcustomerservice.com in March 2022

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