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Up Your Query Handling Ante with Modern Knowledge Management to Differentiate CX

Pundits have long talked about the importance of customer experience for business performance. You may have received the edict from the CEO or advice from your consulting firm to differentiate yourself through CX. However, you may also know that businesses have been at it for years with only a handful having any semblance of success. Just look at CX benchmarks, such as the Forrester CX Index, which have plateaued or dropped with not a single organization delivering “excellent” customer service in Forrester’s evaluation. How do you separate yourself from the pack?

The answer lies in Knowledge Management (KM). According to Gartner, Inc. (paywall), organizations with a high level of CX maturity are investing disproportionately in KM.

Based on my experience working for a company that offers knowledge hub solutions, I want to help you understand what to look for in a provider. But first, let’s explore an approach to knowledge-powered CX differentiation based on the ability to solve customer queries.

Recognize not all customer queries are equal

Customer queries comes in all sizes and types

Customer queries come in different shapes and sizes. They can be broadly grouped into the following categories, organized in ascending order of customer effort involved.

1. Informational queries

Informational queries are of the “garden variety,” where customers are looking for basic information like when a store may be open, what their account balance might be, or the status of an order they placed with a retailer.

2. Procedural queries

More complex than informational queries, procedural queries are about how to do something like return a product, get a refund, or fill out a form. Another example would be helping a customer open a certain type of account by not only answering customer questions but also taking compliant conversational and action steps with the customer along the way.

3. Problem resolution

This is where the customer states the symptom of a problem and the self-service system or the contact center agent converses with the customer, diagnoses the problem, and prescribes a solution. This requires reasoning expertise, where the agent can get from symptom to problem by asking the right questions, looking at similar cases from the past and what resolution worked, and prescribing that resolution to the customer. Depending on the query and the industry that the business is in, the conversation may also need to go through some steps that are required for compliance. For example, when a customer calls the contact center regarding a mortgage loan in progress, the agent is required to identify the customer by asking a certain set of questions.

4. Advice

Examples of advice queries include suggestions on what dishwasher to buy from a big-box retail store or what type of investment to make in the case of a financial services firm. Not that different from problem resolution queries, the agent or advisor has to have a conversation, asking the right questions of the customer and prescribing the right product or plan to buy that meets the customer needs, while still making sure to comply with industry regulations.

5. Coaching

The next frontier in knowledge-powered customer engagement, coaching is not a query type, per se. In fact, it typically entails all the above query types. Customers are not only given answers and prescriptions but are taken through a coaching journey that adapts with evolving customer context and gamification motivation to help them reach a certain goal. An example is coaching a consumer to financial wellness over time so they can buy a house or car.

Understand the different query types and CX differentiation

Handling informational queries may seem like table stakes, though many businesses are not even doing a good job in handling these basic queries. While perfecting the handling of informational queries is a good start, handling the more advanced query types that create significant effort for customers—procedural, problem resolution, advice, and coaching—presents an even bigger opportunity for CX differentiation. Let’s categorize each query type by differentiation:

Value Query type
Medium Informational
Medium-High Procedural
High Problem resolution
High Advice
Super High Coaching

Handling queries well and getting to high levels of differentiation is not easy to do. The answer lies in seamlessly combining knowledge tools or technology building blocks into a unified and complete knowledge hub. In fact, per that earlier Gartner, Inc. study, a common challenge that organizations face is they need all the tools to achieve their CX goals but have just one or two of them, which hinders their effort to improve CX.

Look for certain criteria as you seek a solution partner

A knowledge hub can maximize your CX differentiation by enabling you to handle a broad range of customer queries with context, content, consistency, and compliance at scale. But not all knowledge hubs are created equal. Here’s what to look for:

  • The knowledge hub should have rich functionality immediately out of the box for quick business value. If you have to start from scratch with a toolkit or do extensive development and customization to get deep functionality, you may wind up with a multimonth or multiyear project, which you likely can’t afford at today’s speed of business. Ask unambiguous yes/no questions upfront to determine if vendors offer your required capabilities out of the box.
  • The company demonstrates domain expertise in knowledge management best practices. Have they deployed knowledge management at scale for demanding enterprise clients? What are their deployment and business value assessment methodology?
  • Do they have a track record of successful deployments at scale in your own industry? Ask for customer testimonials and references.
  • There should be a risk-free way to try out the solution. For example, do they offer a production pilot with no cost and no obligation to you? This tells you whether the vendor is willing to put real skin in the game.

Understanding what a knowledge hub can do for you and working with the right solution partner can get you to high CX differentiation, great agent experience, and market domination at warp speed!

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This articles was originally published on Forbes.com