Have you ever considered that the customer service world might just be plagued with a touch of narcissism? As we pore over our contact center data each month do we assume customers actually WANT to contact us? According to an article in Harvard Business Review titled, Kick-Ass Customer Service, 81% of customers attempt to solve their issues before contacting customer service. The majority of customers do NOT WANT to contact support.

In all honesty, declaring that we need to empower customers to self-solve their issues is review (or should be) for most contact center professionals. But saying we need to improve our knowledge management efforts and actually improving it are two different things — and the latter proves to be much more the challenge. The great news is that there are some practical things we can do right now to improve self-service.

1. Centralize your knowledge content

A simple truth about most contact center agents is that If they can find a faster way to do their job, they will. This means that if a company lacks a mature knowledge base and a centralized place to store macros or canned responses, agents will create their own individual documents with common responses so they don’t have to type them from scratch a hundred times a day.

Kudos to them for the efforts at efficiency, right? The only problem with this approach is that customers don’t receive a consistent message from support. Whether it’s in one consolidated, shared document or a knowledge base, it’s important to centralize this content and do away with these disparate sources.

2. Get a knowledge base

Has anyone worked in an environment where a programmer or web designer owned every square inch of the website — including the list of top 10 FAQs? The great news about cloud technology is that CRM and ticketing systems typically include knowledge management, and knowledge content can be published on a dedicated support page, pulled into the main website, and readily shared with customers during support interactions. And no offense to the web designer because support must work closely with them to ensure that this content is on-brand before going live.

3. Involve the entire team

If you’re not already familiar with Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS), get familiar. KCS is a process where the entire support team is responsible for constantly evaluating, proposing, updating, and publishing knowledge content. And it happens on every customer interaction. One great thing about KCS is that, as we aim to publish articles that are consistent and on-brand, it creates new opportunities for star performers in the contact center to move into roles where they update and publish knowledge content, giving them the opportunity to positively impact more customers.

4. Eat your own dog food (AKA Use the knowledge base internally)

Similar to my first point, a customer-facing knowledge base falls short if the entire support team isn’t referring to it to solve problems. Any time they interact with customers they should be evaluating whether knowledge exists and if it’s correct. The key here is keeping information up to date and ensuring that everyone is working off the same playbook, giving customers a consistent experience.

5. Capture what agents are asking

A significant amount of supervisor time in contact centers is spent answering agent questions. These questions may be asked in person, or for distributed or remote teams, via instant messenger, Slack, or other collaboration tools.

Answering these questions once is a huge waste of time. The answers should be stored in a knowledge base that has the ability to make some information customer-facing and some internal-facing only. Agents should then be trained to query that knowledge base before reaching out to a supervisor for help. And for those of us doing live quality monitoring or who have screen recording available, be sure to check that agents are searching the knowledge base as part of their troubleshooting process.

6. Capture what customers are asking

A robust knowledge management tool allows customers to ask questions and tracks the most frequent questions so we can you go provide answers for future customers. Perhaps a customer is asking a question that a knowledge article only partially answers. Knowing what’s most important to customers makes it easy to get ahead of these issues in the future.

7. Use AI

More and more knowledge tools use some combination of Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand what customers are asking, and Machine Learning to predict the appropriate response. In this context, a customer asks a question in a webform or email, the knowledge base presents a solution, and the customer can indicate whether or not the article resolved their issue. If it does solve their issue, the machine learning model becomes more confident in the information it’s providing.

8. Track metrics to gauge success

While there are likely a variety of metrics to track when it comes to knowledge management, there are a couple I’d focus on. First, look at those articles that are either searched for or accessed most often. This will be interesting to compare with your top contact drivers. On the flip side, you may find that certain articles are never used that can be removed.

A second metric to look at is the success rate where customers indicate that an article solved their problem — or didn’t solve their problem. This metric shows how many contacts are prevented because of the knowledge base. Multiply this number by cost per contact to quantify the amount of money saved by having an up to date knowledge base. This is useful in ROI (return on investment) discussions when justifying the cost of the time spent on knowledge management or perhaps budgeting for a better tool for knowledge management.

If you take a moment to view your knowledge base as a support channel, any time a customer can’t find an answer and has to contact support equals two interactions with customer service. For those of us focused on resolving the customer’s issue on the first contact (FCR) and who don’t have some sort of narcissistic NEED to be contacted by customers, it only makes sense to continuously improve our knowledge so customers don’t have to contact us unless absolutely necessary.

A portion of this article was shared in this article by CallCentreHelper on September 16, 2019.