Knowledge is power but only when it is deeply integrated into the customer experience, the agent experience, and the enabling technology. Service and support organizations can benefit tremendously from knowledge. When implemented effectively, knowledge management processes and technology can deliver significant benefits:
Support operations are more efficient. Rather than handling customer requests based only on their own experience, all customer-facing staff have access to the collective experience of the whole team. Problems are solved once; agents don’t repeat work that others have done, or bother escalation teams with already known issues.
Customers help themselves. A shared knowledgebase enables call deflection. Effective self-service will remove case load that is low value to the enterprise or an irritant to the customer. This saves money and makes customers happier.
Also, customers can use self-service to receive help on topics about which they might never have called an agent. That is, self-service that is powered by a strong knowledge management initiative will satisfy customer demand for service and support that would otherwise go unmet. This is a very cost-effective way to create value for customers and nurture customer loyalty.
The organization continually learns from its customers. Tracking the ways customers and agents use knowledge provides an ongoing, measurable listening post for the Voice of the Customer. With this information, products can be improved, the customer experience can be enhanced, and service and support can be made more effective.
Every customer interaction is an opportunity to capture, improve, or reuse knowledge. With knowledge at the center of the CRM implementation, every time a support staffer helps a customer, the knowledgebase and the organization as a whole becomes that much smarter. If knowledge exists in the knowledgebase, its use is tracked to drive product improvements and customer outreach programs. If the knowledge is not completely current, certified staff can update it on the fly. If the knowledge does not exist, it can be captured in a simple, structured, reusable form.
Knowledge management deeply embedded inside the case management process helps staff continually create, reuse, and validate their knowledge. With continued improvement, the knowledgebase becomes even more valuable.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to receive these benefits unless knowledge is at the very heart of everything the organization does, starting with CRM.
Knowledge management must be the core of any successful CRM deployment, not an add-on module. When knowledge is deeply integrated with CRM, not tacked on as a side dish or an add-on module, enterprises can truly begin to nurture loyal customer relationships.
Everything customers say and do can improve their self-service experience. CRM systems typically advertise themselves as the "customer information repository of record", But customer information sitting passively in a repository serves no purpose. Self-service that is fully integrated with case tracking takes advantage of everything customers have shared to personalize the interaction and efficiently deliver what they need. Self-service can even use configuration and diagnostic information from the customer’s system to deliver precision-targeted information.
Streamlining the agent experience means providing an integrated resolution workbench with a single screen for any tools the user needs. In knowledge driven CRM, both case management and incident management are all part of a single process.
The resolution workbench should proactively deliver knowledge to agents or analysts based on information they have received from the customer to date. Of course, this is just a starting point. Agents must be able to drill in and refine searches on an ongoing basis.
Some of the information that agents, analysts, or engineers want to record is specific to that customer and case, for example, "the customer promised to send me a log file after the next error message appears". But some information, such as symptoms, the root cause, or a problem resolution, is relevant to anyone working on the same customer issue. The support staffer must be able to seamlessly capture both kinds of information on the fly, without retyping, copying, or pasting. As one team member learns something new, all can immediately share in the benefits.
Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS) is the industry standard set of best practices developed by the members of the Consortium for Service Innovation. Its central tenet is that "knowledge is not something we do in addition to solving problems. Knowledge becomes the way we solve problems". In addition to all its other benefits, an integrated resolution workbench is a tremendous accelerator for adopting KCS.
If self-service ends up not solving one particular issue, customers should have an absolutely seamless experience where the agent (via chat, phone, or any channel) can pick up right where self-service left off.
It is hard to read too much into the raw knowledge statistics: just because a knowledgebase article was viewed frequently in self-service, we can’t be sure that it resolved the customer’s real issues. Reporting by resolution categories in CRM rarely gives product developers sufficiently detailed information to take action. But combined knowledge and case reporting, for example, which knowledgebase articles closed the most cases, can provide precision guidance into the root causes of customer frustration.
Also, combined analytics enable specialized dashboards that help managers and executives assess individual and team performance. In a knowledge-creating company, it’s not enough to just measure how many cases were closed or how many articles were written; performance assessment requires a broad view of what individuals and teams are doing, including how their knowledge work improves their case work.
Finally, organizations must quantify and continually increase the business value being generated by the service and support organization. For example, how much demand for support is being satisfied automatically through the website, and how much must still be addressed by agents? These questions lie at the intersection of knowledge and case management. True knowledge-driven CRM can provide clear answers.