What is knowledge management for customer service?
Customers look for service before, during, and after a product sale. Their queries tend to be about purchase decisions such as product and shipping information, product benefits, and product advice before and during a product purchase. After the purchase, it tends to be about product usage, troubleshooting, and post-purchase service issues such as returns and warranties. It is impossible for contact center agents and retail sales associates to know the answers to all these questions and need a knowledge management (KM) tool to help answer them. Modern KM tools not only contain answers in a content-base and but also help agents find these answers through search methods and AI-enabled conversational guidance, transforming customer and agent experiences. While customer service is a sweet spot for KM tools, KM can also be used across the enterprise to elevate employee experiences and help automate decisions and cognitive business processes.
Knowledge management for customer service: Building blocks
Over 75% of today’s contact center agents work remotely, according to the BecnhmarkPortal-eGain survey of contact center agents. With traditional training programs disrupted and no next cube to walk over to for answers, these agents are struggling with increasing customer query complexity, according to the same survey. This underscores the importance of a robust, modern KM system to help them succeed in this new environment.
The technology building blocks of a modern knowledge management system for the contact center include:
- Machine Learning and AI reasoning, infused across the IVR, routing, and the customer service process
- Omnichannel content management
- Profiled access to content
- Search methods, including federated, faceted, and guided search
- Conversation guidance (next best thing to say) and process guidance (next best thing to do)
- Knowledge analytics for continuous improvement
For example, ML is used to refine intent understanding and AI reasoning to guide self-service systems and contact center agents through customer conversations.
Beyond modern technology, KM also requires domain expertise, best practices, implementation, support, and managed services, easy integrations, rich API library, and a solution ecosystem from the KM technology partner for success at speed and scale in the enterprise.
Knowledge management for customer service: Best practices success
Superior customer service and engagement remains one of the few differentiators that businesses can sustain over time. The winners in today’s omnichannel environment are the companies that leverage knowledge to empower customers and contact center agents and provide standout customer experience that is seamless across touchpoints.
eGain has implemented knowledge solutions for blue-chip companies worldwide, helping them design and deliver great customer service and experiences. In the process, we have compiled hundreds of best practices. Here are some of the popular ones.
Keys to Success
1. Quantify value
Assessing expected and realized ROI before and after the deployment helps you justify the initial investment as well as continuous improvement of the knowledge base (KB).
Best Practice: Make sure the ROI metrics you use are aligned with business objectives. For instance, if your business goal is to increase upsell and cross-sell, reduction in average handle time will be a conflicting metric. As you assess ROI, keep in mind that knowledge management (KM) delivers positive ROI across a broad range of business problems. Some examples are:
- Deflection of requests for agent-assisted service through effective self-service.
- Increase in first-time resolution and sales conversion.
- Reduction in escalations, transfers, repeat calls, and average handle times.
- Reduction in training time, unwarranted product returns, field visits, and staff wage premiums.
2. Build the team
Successful KM implementations employ the right team for knowledge capture, creation, and continuous improvement.
Best Practice: Empower a cross-functional team that can bring a 360-degree approach to knowledge management. Best-practice teams typically include the following members:
- Strategist: Lead expert that determines the organization, topics, roles and responsibilities, and long-term plans.
- Select users: High-performance service and sales agents, who use the KB on a daily basis, can provide useful feedback from the trenches, and even contribute answers. Be sure to reward such agents to foster ongoing knowledge contribution.
- Subject matter experts: Experts that have answers, especially for questions of high complexity.
- Knowledge authors: Writers and publishers that are focused on content development, taxonomy, and publishing.
- Project managers: Tactical managers that keep the project on track and ensure forward momentum.
3. Start with depth
Unfocused knowledge deployments almost always result in a shallow KB that is full of holes like Swiss cheese. If users can’t find answers, or receive inadequate or wrong information, they will simply stop using the system.
Best practice: Focus first on depth rather than breadth. Start with common questions on common products or lines of business (the 80–20 rule) and expand out over time.
4. Bring down silos
A common complaint from customers is getting inconsistent answers from different touchpoints and contact center agents they talk to. Agents say they have the same issue as well, where they get befuddled by answers from different systems. Moreover, many KM systems do not connect the dots with existing systems of record or content management systems and are unable to leverage the full customer context. Deploying a knowledge hub that includes all the needed building blocks for modern KM that connects the dots with existing systems at the same time is the single right answer for this problem, no pun intended!
5. Maximize findability
Users prefer different ways of searching for information, just as drivers prefer different ways of reaching their destination. Some drive on freeways, others would rather take the scenic route. A GPS-style approach with multiple options to find information dramatically improves knowledge base adoption and ROI. For example, new agents may find it difficult to wade through hundreds of keyword search results but might fare better if they are guided through a step-by-step dialog, powered by technologies such as Case-Based Reasoning.
Best Practice: Multiple search options such as FAQ, keyword and natural language search, intent-driven search, topic-tree browsing, and guided help allow a broad range of users to find information quickly and easily. Make sure to use a common omnichannel knowledge platform to ensure consistency of answers and don’t forget to deliver knowledge across traditional and mobile devices for access anywhere.
6. Crowdsource, but scrub
Most businesses are not taking advantage of the enormous opportunity to tap into community and social knowledge, and when they do they often make the mistake of creating yet another inconsistent knowledge silo.
Best practice: Foster and harvest social knowledge but scrub and unify with trusted knowledge, and then proactively publish across all channels. Knowledge in online communities and social networks foster peer-to-peer service and can help augment enterprise knowledge assets.
KM for customer service: Success stories
Implementing these KM practices not only delivers ROI, but also enables transformative customer experiences. Here are some real-world examples from the deployment of the eGain Knowledge Hub.
- Premier telco: 30-point improvement in Net Promoter Score, 37% improvement in FCR (First Contact Resolution) and 50% improvement in agent speed to competency across over 10,000 contact center agents and 600 retail stores
- Premier home appliance manufacturer: $50M in savings by eliminating unwarranted truck rolls through knowledge-powered resolution processes in the contact center and website
- Semiconductor giant: 59% increase in web self-service adoption, 30% increase in First Contact Resolution
- Global knowledge and legal services solutions provider: 70% deflection of calls and emails through knowledge-powered self-service, 30% reduction in content authoring time
- Leading telco provider: 42% reduction in unwarranted handset returns through knowledge-powered resolution process in the contact center
- Global bank: 88% reduction in agent training time and 70% increase in productivity through knowledge-powered account opening process in small business sector