Are you giving call center agents the right knowledge?
Let’s explore what knowledge-centric service is (and isn’t) and why it’s important to provide a level of service that can drive customer loyalty.
In my last post, I wrote about the importance of the service function as brands (particularly those in the subscription economy) attempt to grapple with customers who are less likely to be loyal, given the ease with which it is possible to switch to a competitor. They will also go through revaluation as inflation bites.
I also alluded to a key point that brands in this position should focus on; give their support staff the information they need to protect, build and strengthen the customer relationship, which in turn can reduce churn and drive retention and loyalty.
Why is this important? In a survey conducted by Dixa, 74% of the 3,000 consumers we surveyed in the US and UK said agents who knew the product or service they were contacting were the most important to them in a customer service interaction. But there’s a disconnect: We also spoke to 1,500 service agents who struggle to access the information they need, 29% searching Google for answers to customer issues and 27% asking fellow agents during that a customer is online.
In my opinion, the primary solution to this divide is for brands and their support teams to embrace Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS). And that’s what we’re going to focus on in this article: what KCS is (and isn’t) and why it’s important to provide a level of service that can drive customer loyalty.
What is a knowledge-centric service (KCS)?
In short, KCS can be defined as a methodology or set of practices that focus on knowledge as the most crucial element of the supporting organization. In other words, KCS aims to capture, structure and reuse supporting knowledge to improve a service operation. It’s not a tool, but a specific tool – the knowledge base – is often seen as an essential ingredient (more on that below).
The Service Innovation Consortium is one of the most prominent champions in KCS. They describe KCS as striving to do four things:
- Integrate reuse, improvement and (if it does not exist) knowledge creation into the problem solving process
- Scale content based on demand and usage
- Develop a knowledge base of collective experience to date
- Reward learning, collaboration, sharing and improvement
The logic is quite simple: knowledge must be at the heart of every service desk. This is how agents answer customer questions and issues and learn about the systems they use every day. And the benefits are many. By using and evolving the knowledge you have, you can reduce your support workload and increase engagement by empowering agents and customers to help themselves by providing up-to-date answers through your database. knowledge.
Related Article: A 4-Step Recipe to Improve Your Contact Center Agent Experience
What KCS is not
To bring this to life, it helps to think about what KCS is not.
KCS is not traditional knowledge engineering. And what I mean by that is that when we generally think of knowledge capture, it usually means multiple agents individually identifying a pattern of repeat incidents (e.g. customers having items missing from their delivery ), then arrive at a solution independently. Approaching knowledge management in this way means that typically it will take several identical incidents with an agent before a support article is written. It may take some time before this article is approved, validated and widely used by the rest of the team.
In contrast, KCS is the idea of managing knowledge dynamically. A support article is created as part of the problem resolution process for the first incident, so the information is immediately available in your knowledge base for reuse by other agents. Importantly, as more similar incidents occur, it only validates knowledge based on demand. Your agents will always use your knowledge base and fix the support article if they find it missing.
Implementing KCS: How can brands use it?
Now that we’ve established what KCS is and isn’t, the question becomes: how can brands practically implement it?
A key step is to establish a comprehensive knowledge base, which captures and stores important information in a central location. Not only does this mean agents can find answers to almost any question when used in tandem with KCS, but it also means you can provide fast and reliable answers to your customers, reduce the training burden on your existing team and avoid losing access to important information when a team member leaves.
Once you have a centralized knowledge repository in place, you need to make sure your team is using it correctly if you really want to embrace the KCS philosophy. First, it means agents must use it. For every customer question and query, agents must search the knowledge base. This is the only way for them to provide consistent service to customers.
Second, they should point things out if they are incorrect. This means raising things immediately if they notice the knowledge is wrong. They must then fix it if they can.
For a knowledge base to be successful, you need to appoint at least one person to continuously add and update content. However, ideally you would provide each agent with editing rights.
Finally, when an agent receives a question from a customer for which no support article exists, they should make sure to add the knowledge. The agent’s responsibility is to create a support article that answers a particular query or question. Agents will quickly see what they get out of it, as they will have reliable information that will allow them to resolve customer issues faster, which, in turn, will promote internal adoption of the KCS practice.
Related Article: CMSWire’s Top 10 Call Center Articles in 2021
Effective KCS = Good AX
It takes a lot of discipline for agents to follow this methodology. Getting to the point where every agent searches the knowledge base every time they receive a question isn’t as simple as it sounds. Establishing a culture of shared ownership is a central way to overcome this problem and make it as intuitive as possible to perform updates and improve knowledge.
But it’s a vital step for brands to take. Ensuring customers always get the most up-to-date information is key to delivering a consistently great customer experience. It is what every consumer now expects and an essential pillar of customer loyalty.
You can do this by giving your agents the know-how they need, when they need it, rather than leaving them to Google for answers. KCS and a centralized knowledge base are the basis to make this possible.