Do You Feel Your Customers' Pain (Points)?

Recently, Forrester Research asked 5,000 consumers, "What created the biggest pain when you contacted a business for customer service?" The lack and consistency of agent knowledge turned out to be the biggest culprit, according to the findings, followed by the difficulty of finding relevant answers on company websites.

The Path to Pain Relief

A quick path to customer pain relief is to implement a knowledge management (KM) system. Here are some compelling reasons to take the plunge:

The survey is ammunition enough for you to make a business case for a knowledge-first approach, as you attempt to prioritize competing initiatives. Beyond making customer service journeys as onerous as the burden of “Sisyphus,” the mythological Greek character who had to move a massive rock up a mountain only to see it roll back down repeatedly, a knowledge deficit can be the root cause of poor operational metrics like repeat calls or increased AHT (average time to handle), and have a negative effect on strategic metrics like customer loyalty.  

Today's customers use self-service for routine queries much more so than in the past, leaving mainly complex ones to agents. As contact center agents with 30-pound brains don't exist, the only viable option is to deploy highly intelligent KM systems to assist them.

Contact center agents tend to be younger—increasingly Millennials. While older workers internalize knowledge and often keep it in their heads, this generation, called the "lookup" generation, is comfortable with going to the Web to quickly find information. Having KM in place, a.k.a. a place to look up information or get guides to answers or next best steps in the service process, can be a must for today's agents.

Automating everything else without knowledge guidance can detract rather than help customer experience. It's like turbocharging an automobile engine to increase the speed when the driver doesn't know where to go and what to do next. With no guidance, the driver (and the passenger, who is the end customer in the case of agent-assisted customer service) is not going to get to the right destination (i.e., a problem resolution for the customer).


Knowledge, the Ultimate Painkiller

If there is a killer use for KM in the enterprise, it is in the contact center. Global 1000 firms we've worked with have been able to take customer experience and contact center performance to whole new levels using KM solutions:

  • A leading global bank reduced call handle time by 67 percent and agent training time by 50 percent, while its subsidiary vaulted to the No. 1 position in customer experience in its market. 
  • A leading North American telco reduced average handle time by 17 percent and incoming calls by 19 percent with knowledge-guided customer self-service.
  • A leading European telco reduced unwarranted handset returns and exchanges by 38 percent through better problem resolution in the contact center, while enhancing agent experience by 90 percent.

Prescriptions that Work

A knowledge-first approach, combined with smart KM technology and best practices, is the fastest path to customer pain relief. Here are some best practices to fund and generate transformational value from KM initiatives:

  • Implementing an omnichannel knowledge management platform rather than relying on channel-specific knowledge silos can help increase the consistency of answers. It will also make it easier to maintain the knowledge.
  • True knowledge is more than content—it can understand customer intent (including natural language processing), take users to answers and decisions, and walk them through customer interactions and processes, all based on expert understanding of what has worked in the past and therefore might work at the point of interaction. Guided knowledge can, in fact, enable all agents to take all calls—it can make all agents as good as the best and make the best agents even better.
  • Just like agents, Web self-service can be more effective when it has guided knowledge behind it. But it is important that self-service knowledge be consistent with agent knowledge. Again, an omnichannel platform approach will ensure consistency, while allowing seamless, context-aware transition from self-service to agent-assisted service.
  • It is also important that your solution include comprehensive knowledge analytics to identify knowledge gaps and address them on an ongoing basis.
  • KM is more than technology. Select a solution provider with a proven track record in the domain, one that can bring you the best in technology and domain expertise.
  • When you make the business case for KM, take a holistic approach. For example, knowledge adds value beyond core contact center metrics—it can even help reduce unwarranted product returns, product exchanges, and field service, while enhancing regulatory compliance.

Anand Subramaniam is the vice president of worldwide marketing at eGain Corporation. Meenakshi Sharma is the director of marketing at eGain Corporation.

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