When Forrester Research asked 5,000 consumers about the biggest pain points in getting help from customer service contact centers, the lack and consistency of agent knowledge turned out to be the biggest deterrent to a good customer service experience. The survey, sponsored by eGain, revealed that inconsistent answers from agents was the biggest pain point (41%), followed by agents not being knowledgeable (34%) and the difficulty of finding answers on company websites (31%). There’s a common thread to these three pain points — a smart and unified omnichannel knowledge management system can reduce or eliminate all of them.
Smarter knowledge for smarter customers
Today’s customers use self-service more so than in the past, and they also use peer-to-peer online forums to get answers as the first step before reaching out to contact center agents. This means agents get to handle only queries of medium to high complexity. At the same time, contact center agents tend to be younger, oftentimes millennials, who like to “look it up” for answers. When they cannot find them, they get frustrated, oftentimes improvising or passing on their frustration to customers.
Given these biggest pain points in service, it only makes sense to take a knowledge-first approach to customer service transformation. In fact, this approach can address the root-cause of customer service pain, which will likely make a big dent in relieving symptoms like poor first-contact resolution, long handle times, long wait times, etc., while ultimately enhancing customer loyalty and satisfaction. Yet according to a Forrester report, only 44% of contact center decision-makers report that their firms have an agent-facing knowledge management (KM) solution. No wonder consumers complain about knowledge being the biggest issue in getting service.
Best practices for best results
As you consider implementing a KM system, keep the following best practices in mind:
- Remember, true knowledge is more than content. Without easy findability in the context of customer intent, content is not very useful. KM systems go beyond content management systems in understanding customer intent (including natural language processing) and guiding users to answers quickly and accurately. Moreover, they guide users through next best steps in interactive service processes through case-based reasoning (CBR). An artificial intelligence (AI) technology, CBR relies on expert understanding of what has worked in the past and therefore might work at the moment of interaction just like a doctor or an expert salesperson would. So knowledge management not only unlocks business value from content but also guides service interactions. For example, this combination of findability and guidance has allowed two of our largest clients in financial services and telecom sectors to enable any agent to take any call, no matter how complex.
- Go with an omnichannel knowledge platform. As mentioned earlier, the biggest pain point in customer service today is different contact center agents giving different answers to the same question. The solution is to eliminate knowledge silos and go with a unified omnichannel KM platform for consistency of answers and process guidance across interaction channels (e.g. phone, chat, email, social, etc.) and service modes (e.g. self-service, agent-assisted service, proactive knowledge push, etc.)
- Identify and address gaps. “Build and forget” is not a good strategy for ongoing success of your KM initiative. Make sure your solution offers comprehensive knowledge analytics to figure out what’s working and what’s not. As an example, knowledge analytics will help understand if your answers are being helpful in service resolution and if you are covering the most common queries with your content.
- Take a holistic approach with your business case. KM is a strategic solution that not only transforms contact center metrics but also adds value in other areas. For instance, one of our leading telecom clients has been able to reduce unwarranted handset exchanges and returns by 38% through better problem resolution in the contact center, using our KM solution. A major appliances manufacturing client has been able to save millions of dollars every year by reducing unwarranted “truck rolls” or field visits, using the same approach.
To handle the breadth and complexity of today’s customer issues, contact center agents must be armed with smarter knowledge that guides them quickly and accurately to answers and through interactive service processes. A knowledge-first approach, combined with smarter knowledge and best practices, is the fastest way to improve service and move the needle on customer experience.
— Anand Subramaniam is Vice President, Marketing at eGain (www.egain.com), a leader in enhancing customer engagement in the growing omnichannel world serving retail, telecom, financial services, healthcare and many other industries. Prior to eGain, he served as Vice President, Marketing for Yubé Inc., a provider of award-winning cloud software for post-sales customer service automation. Anand holds an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley and an MSME from the University of Rhode Island.