What do you want to achieve?
Great knowledge management? No!
Great customer service? Yes!
While you are reading this article you might already be aware that great knowledge management is the foundation for great customer service. If not, let me take you on this journey.
A great customer service experience for me is when I feel understood in my needs and when I get a definite and direct solution for my problem. Even if I had a complaint my anger will cool down immediately and in the end I’m just thankful and happy to move on. Problem solved – happy customer! This becomes possible when the customer service agent on the other end of the line has the right solution at the right time and most importantly is able to comprehend the situation I am in. So the solution is really for me. This amazing agent is either very experienced and empathetic (and very expensive) or he has access to a great knowledgebase.
From my work as a knowledge consultant I experienced there are several evolutionary steps that companies go through when establishing knowledge management.
It has not yet occurred to the management that its organisational knowledge can be managed like any other strategic resource. Customer service treats each service request individually and each service agent generates his own solutions. Sometimes they are shared sporadically with colleagues – based on sympathy – but mostly it in each one’s head.
The company experienced that customers got very upset about the volatile service quality or they suffer from brain-drain when experienced people leave the organisation. So they introduce tools where solutions can be collected by the employees and made available for re-use. This is usually done with Wikis or file shares.
After a while the wikis or file shares get very messy. They started off clean with a logic structure but over time when nothing is thrown away and more and more people just add their stuff when they think it’s relevant your search functionality delivers a lot of crap and outdated documents but never the one solution you need right now with the customer on the phone waiting for an answer. At this point companies introduce professional knowledge management solutions. They combine a powerful search engine an intuitive navigation structure and an easy-to-use editing functionality with an efficient roles and rights management. People in your service organisation become editors and administrators of the knowledgebase and are responsible for maintaining structure, accuracy and validity of the content.
Companies with a well-maintained knowledgebase are usually delivering rock-solid and constantly high service quality. But there is already the question: How can I stay ahead of my competitors who are closing in? Turn your knowledge upside-down! Many companies use a top-down approach when they start designing their knowledge structure. They collect the organisational knowledge and break it down in a logical structure – logical from their point of view! But usually not for the customer. Customers use their own wordings and have their own logic. For a great service experience learn how to think like your customer. This is the bottom-up approach: As a start you collect a representative amount of original customer questions directly from your service line. Just have your agents note them down. Extract the words customers use from these questions and cluster them into a theme structure. This is a great team experience by the way. Now come back to your existing knowledgebase and attach the relevant solutions to this new structure. Focus on answering the customers questions. If something remains – throw it away! Obviously nobody’s ever going to ask for it. When you’ve succeeded you will not only deliver satisfying solutions but overall customer satisfaction. Important is that you never stop listening to your customer’s feedback and constantly use it to improve the knowledgebase. Great knowledge management solutions will support you in doing this.
It’s always possible to go over the top. An excellent knowledge management has established a knowledgebase as “single source of truth” across the company. Other systems integrate with it by using standardised and easy to implement APIs. Your colleagues are getting pushed the right information directly into their workflow. And you can even open parts of your knwoledge base to the public and feed it directly into your web self-service section on the website. Sounds like Sci-Fi? Well, large enterprises have already started to digitalize their whole customer service experience and in a few years this has become standard. Nowadays kids never think about picking up the phone to contact a company or a brand for any issue. They are using facebook and twitter in the first place and expect the same service quality. It’s just simple math to figure out when it hits the mainstream.
On whichever evolutionary step you found yourself never stop being curious. Challenge the way you work from time to time and try out something new. Knowledge management is fun and always a possibility to stand-out from the grey masses – no matter how big, how small or advanced your service organisation is.
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