In the 1980s, when Customer Relationship Management (CRM) was first introduced, it was merely an idea of what it would be like to speak individually to countless sales leads and customers. Since then, it has become an integral part of any organization seeking to actively improve sales and customer service interactions. Now a 35-year-old industry, CRM is no doubt here to stay, drastically affecting the way organizations correspond with their key constituents.
Companies rely on CRM platforms to manage all business relationships and the data and information associated with them. These platforms store account details, leads and sales information, and customer contact information in a central location. Now, this information is most often stored in the cloud, making it accessible anywhere. While CRM platforms are useful across many departments and have helped companies improve many types of relationships during the past three decades, there is still more that companies can do to leverage CRM for customer support.
Knowledge automation — enterprise software that enables companies to leverage all their content, often scattered across multiple repositories and in diverse formats — will be instrumental in helping customer service reps use CRM to its fullest capacity in 2015. Knowledge automation will improve customer support in three main areas: call length and volume of calls, training processes, and uniform support.
Decreasing call length and volume of calls
When customers pick up the phone to call customer service, the last thing they want is to spend an hour on the phone with a support representative who fails to answer their questions, only to hang up disappointed and have to call back again at a later day or time. According to the 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer, more than one in four customers have experienced being transferred from agent to agent without any resolution of their problem.
Customers reach out to customer support expecting to talk to agents who can quickly and efficiently answer their questions the first time they call. But customer service can easily become a game of tag when support agents can’t find the information they’re looking for and have to pass the query to someone else.
Tools and databases used in the call centers provide good answers if the answer is available in the knowledge base that companies use. However, it is typical in enterprises that a silo of a knowledge base has only a portion of the total useful knowledge available in the company, and that portion is usually old and outdated. Better and more complete knowledge exists, but it is outside the knowledge silos of call centers. Given the time and effort required to bring the right knowledge into call center tools, searching for what they need not only wastes the representatives’ time and involves more than one employee, but it also lengthens the call, upsetting customers and limiting the overall amount of customers agents are able to help.
Knowledge automation can predict what information support representatives will need based on a customer’s history or on documents that other agents are using. Predicting what support they will need while they are on the phone with customers will reduce average call time and lead to improved first-call resolution, which ultimately leads to happier customers.
Accelerating and simplifying training processes
Customer service personnel turn over quickly and come from a variety of backgrounds with a wide range of skills. Training new employees can be a challenge when they are unfamiliar with the company’s culture, best practices and existing training collateral. When new hires ramp up to familiarize themselves with all the information in an organization, it can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. But if support representatives don’t get the training they need, the results could be detrimental to customer experience.
It’s nearly impossible to share all the information employees will need to do their jobs from the outset. Brief training sessions can’t cover all the materials, leaving new employees to have to jump right in.
CRM tools are no longer limited to use in the customer service department. More and more organizations are recognizing the benefit of CRM tools across various departments. With the breadth of these tools, resources that individuals need to do their jobs and give exceptional support are often hidden in a number of silos, making it difficult for new employees to find the documents they need to offer help to customers.
However, knowledge automation can make it easier for new employees to do their jobs. The technology can predict what a new employee will need. From training sheets and company FAQs to social media guidelines and marketing how-tos, knowledge automation can send new employees the documents they should read in a dashboard that’s uniquely customized to them. According to BizLibrary, companies that use enterprise technology in their training processes see an 18 percent increase in employee engagement year after year. This may seem unrelated, but having engaged, happy employees leads to reduced turnover and more satisfied customers.
With knowledge automation, supervisors will know which of their team members are taking time to read their training materials. Ultimately, the use of knowledge automation solutions in the enterprise will alleviate the pressure on customer support supervisors to be everywhere at once. Less new hires will be raising their hands for help as they use knowledge automation to help themselves find important documents.
Build uniformity across global support representatives
The evolution of CRM and customer service technologies has allowed companies to offer support from virtually anywhere. While many companies outsource their support outside of the United States, others offer on-the-go support through mobile, cloud and social media technologies. These resources allow for customer support anytime and anywhere.
But with support agents scattered across the globe, it can be difficult to synchronize communications within the enterprise. Getting agents the knowledge they need, when they need it, requires more than just a CRM platform. It requires a system that can predict relevant information and suggest that content to the user. This will not only simplify content sharing, but it will also unify support teams across the globe.
Knowledge automation allows support agents to view which materials are popular based on topic, but also by location. Users in Bangalore could view what documents are popular or well rated among their peers in the Silicon Valley or wherever their peers may be.
Connecting customer service representatives through knowledge automation will help them collaborate and offer better customer support. As companies create a unified and global approach to customer service across all their platforms, they will see results in the efficiency of support and customer satisfaction.
Companies that rely on knowledge automation in the future will reduce the number of calls they receive from customers and the average length of call times. New employees will be able to find the training materials they need as it is recommended for them on their individual dashboards, improving training processes and freeing up supervisors to help in other areas. Organizations will also be able to close the loop on support that occurs remotely — connecting all employees with information and knowledge.
Complete knowledge exists in the enterprise, but employees don’t know how to access it from information silos. As information spreads through the enterprise, organizations can be proactive about transforming that information into knowledge as it makes its way to the people who need it. As customer service agents are given the knowledge they need to successfully do their jobs, customers will ultimately be happier.
— Seenu Banda is the CEO and a founder of Kaybus Inc. (www.kaybus.com). Prior to founding Kaybus, he was an entrepreneur in residence at Artiman Ventures.
Previously, he was a VP of Enterprise solutions at Alcatel-Lucent. He was the CEO and founder of NetDevices, which was acquired by Alcatel-Lucent in 2007. Prior to NetDevices, he was Senior Director of Marketing at Cisco Systems, where he managed multiple billion-dollar product lines including the 7200 and 7500. Earlier, Banda worked for six years at Intel Corporation in strategic and product marketing roles. He holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, a Masters in Computer Science from Michigan State University, and a BS in Computer Engineering from Andhra University.