Knowledge and Training

Peanut butter and jelly for the customer contact center toast

Training and onboarding new employees plus keeping tenured employees up-to-date with their knowledge and skills can spell the difference between boom and doom for organizations. Nowhere is the knowledge challenge more acute than in the customer contact center.

Customers say that the lack of agent knowledgeability and inconsistency of answers to their queries across touchpoints is the #1 impediment to getting good customer service (source: Forrester Consulting survey of 10,000 consumers). On the flip side, contact center agents are pointing to the same knowledge and know-how challenges with their tools as the biggest barrier to delivering good service (source: eGain survey of over 600 agents).

No wonder a Gartner survey found that 84% of contact center agents hate their desktop tools! Training and L&D can help but it is not cheap, with U.S. companies alone spending as much as $92.3 billion in 2021, according to Training Magazine’s spending report (source: Statista.) Moreover, with chronic staff shortage and escalating demand for service, contact centers can ill afford to keep agents in a perpetual training mode. Here is the kicker—the agent knowledge problem is going to get worse for the following reasons.


Traditional training programs have been disrupted by the pandemic and hybrid work models, with 75% of agents still working remote full-time or at least some of the time. These agents undergo baptism by fire with no next cube to walk over to for answers if they are stuck with a complex customer query.


Self-service adoption continues to increase, with younger consumers accelerating the trend. Routine customer queries are now deflected to and automated with self-service, leaving mostly complex queries for agents.


 Humans retain only 25% of new information they learn just after two days, according to the forgetting curve theory of German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. In fact, research by the University of Waterloo found that it is a mere 2-3% after 30 days! What use is training if employees are not able to retain the knowledge?


Today’s contact center agents are Millennials and, increasingly, Gen Z. If you think Millennials have a short attention span (12 seconds), Gen Z has a gnat attention span of 8 seconds (source: Sparks and Honey). While millennial agents may tolerate some formal training, 65% of Gen Z agents would rather just learn on the job.


Exacerbated by the Great Resignation, contact center agent attrition continues to be high, with many organizations reporting as much as 50%, and others reporting close to 100% after just 2-3 years. This compounds the training challenge since L&D organizations have to start from ground zero with a constantly recurring stream of new agents.


It is hard to teach situational know-how or expertise, i.e., how to understand and solve a customer problem, provide advice, or help them achieve a goal, based on a specific situation. Situational expertise enablement requires a way to guide agents step by step on what to say and do in the course of such customer interactions. Living “guided lives,” where they use GPS devices for driving and robot advisors for financial management, today’s agents are looking for that kind of guidance in everything they do, including their day-to-day work.

Enter the modern knowledge hub

The solution to address this formidable new training challenge is a modern knowledge management system deployed as a hub. The knowledge hub eliminates silos, while serving as a centralized, trusted source of correct answers and process expertise, which are also compliant with best practices and industry regulations. It consists of the following building blocks:

  • Content management, including profiled access to content
  • Multiple knowledge types: data, information, know-how, and insights
  • Multi-layered personalization, based on context, user, interaction channel, and other factors
  • Intent inference, powered by machine learning
  • Search methods: Federated, keyword, faceted, and guided search
  • AI reasoning for step-by-step conversational and process guidance
  • Knowledge analytics for ongoing optimization

The hub unifies and orchestrates these building blocks. Leading organizations are already leveraging this approach to complement training and L&D (Learning & Development), transforming the experiences of all stakeholders— customers, employees, knowledge authors, and business managers.

The knowledge hub at work

Blue-chip leaders have been investing in knowledge hubs with stunning results in reducing training time and accelerating speed to competency for agents:

  • Leading telco improved First-Contact Resolution (FCR) by 37%, while reducing training time by 50% across 10,000+ agents and 600 retail associates and improving Net Promoter Score (NPS) by 30 points.
  • Health insurance company reduced agent training time by 33% and sustained agent performance even when their 2000+ agents had to go remote overnight when COVID hit.
  • Global bank improved FCR from 70% to 95%, while reducing agent training time from 10 weeks to 4 weeks while being compliant with regulations.

Final word

Modern knowledge management and training are perfect complements to each other—the peanut butter and jelly for your breakfast toast. With such a combination, you may very well choose to skip other meals and eat breakfast all day long while trouncing your competitors with a knowledge-powered workforce!

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