Focus on these best practices.
Posted Jul 1, 2007
Most customers expect businesses to have a Web self-service offering. According to a 2006 Forrester Research report, customer behavior changes are driving companies to invest more in self-service. Additionally, businesses are realizing the benefits of not paying $5 per interaction to provide Web call-back or chat--they can pay 25 cents or less to resolve the issue and provide 24/7 customer service via Web self-service. Leveraging knowledge management (KM) best practices is essential for all companies, but it's even more critical for those replacing ineffective solutions or implementing a knowledge base for the first time.
A recent Jupiter Research/Ipsos executive survey indicates that most companies are not monitoring self-service resolution failure. Only 21 percent of executives at companies with more than $50 million in annual revenue and with self-service deployed monitor their offerings for failure. In these cases some of the major benefits (i.e., cost savings and improvements in overall agent efficiency) associated with deploying a knowledge base won't matter if customers are left frustrated after an issue is unresolved. You may think the easy answer is for businesses to monitor the effectiveness of their Web self-service, but that is only part of the solution. To mitigate this problem businesses need to ensure their KM initiative is established through best practices.
How to change course?
Let's start with the difference between KM and a knowledge base. KM is a philosophy, a set of practices. A knowledge base is the technology or repository for knowledge. Before deploying a knowledge base, a company must have a solid KM vision. Executive sponsorship is essential to KM implementation. It begins with a clear statement of the value that KM has in the business, and then puts expectations, resources, and communications in place that constantly reinforce the value statement. Vision comes first, tech second. The IT department's role is critical in acquiring and maintaining technology. Partner with IT early to ensure the technology is stable and will grow with the business. Temper the IT relationship, however, with the understanding that business users will drive the feature set.
Consistency, predictability, and repeatability (CPR) are the tenets of effective KM. Ensure that KM practices drive these tenets throughout the process, from capture through delivery and the feedback/improvement loop. From the customer perspective CPR exhibits a strong ability to provide an exceptional customer experience. From an agent's point of view, her job is easier because she is sharing the same message as all other customer touch points.
How can a knowledge base be used with other customer service communication channels?
All customer interactions are knowledge dependent, and today we trust that through training and mentoring agents have the knowledge to effectively satisfy customer needs. By centrally capturing, storing, managing, and delivering knowledge, you create a hub that supports all interactions and channels. This hub enables companies to establish and execute a plan for capturing the wisdom of the few and delivering it to the many. The hub allows agents to pull information into any communication. This seamless integration improves the customer experience and drives consistent, accurate messaging.
How do you attract customers to your Web self-service?
1. Don't complicate something that should be simple. Customers using Web self-service feel inconvenienced already; don't add to their frustration by burying content in complex or confusing navigation schemes.
2. The site's visual enticement must always come second to ease of use. Cool is pointless if customers can't figure it out.
3. Understand what the customer wants early on in the development process.
4. Provide multiple methods for finding answers. Search, point and click, FAQs, solution finders, and glossaries are powerful tools that have the same high-level objective, but approach knowledge from slightly different points of view and (sometimes) different process orientations.
About the Author
Bob Peery is the director of KB product management at Talisma Corp. Please visit www.talisma.com.
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