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Overcoming data silos: A range of options

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The checklist is a critical part of SugarCRM because it embeds best practices and key information. “Standard operating procedures [SOPs] can be made available through a document repository,” Wettre observed, “but people do not always read the SOPs. If the principles are embedded in the process checklist, that information is automatically included.” SugarCRM also integrates with 150 ERP systems, Microsoft Office, and Gmail, and new information is automatically incorporated into the CRM in real time.

In a broad survey of 800 customer-facing professionals, SugarCRM found that 60% were concerned that they did not have a 360-degree view of their customers. One fact that Wettre noted was that operating budgets are generally departmentally oriented, which contributes to siloed data, as each department selects the information systems it needs. “We are often surprised at the degree to which large companies are operating in a fragmented environment. It is vital to have an overarching system that overcomes these silos,” Wettre concluded.

Getting the right data to customer service agents

Contact centers face similar challenges in getting a full view of the customer, with the additional pressure of agents needing to respond in real time. “Agents often have a dozen or more screens up at the same time, as they perform call management tasks and look for answers to customers’ questions,” said John Chmaj, director of KM strategy for Verint, which provides an Open Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) platform solution.

“Sometimes companies think that the best way to provide knowledge is to index everything. That is actually a worst practice. In reality, a lot of existing content is likely not useful and creates noise in search results,” Chmaj continued. “A better approach is to build a knowledge collection by talking to the people who talk to customers, find out what they need, and then identify the migration ‘sweet spot.’ That is the place where customer demand, content availability, and agent requirements all come together.”

Since information is often departmentally organized, the various stakeholders need to come together and agree on priorities, understand how different groups use knowledge, and decide what information each group should have access to. These considerations are an important part of developing an optimal KM system. “There is a happy path that works when user questions and issues match up with existing knowledge, but there also needs to be a troubleshooting path in case there are problems, such as inaccurate content or poor tagging,” Chmaj pointed out. “Change management has to be integrated into the process of adding content. Verint has a workflow component which provides a method for reviewing and approving content and metadata.”

One method of prioritizing content to be added is to set up knowledge roundtables with small groups of passionate agents and some subject matter experts to highlight their requirements. “In a poorly functioning system, support agents often have documents that they have written for their own use. These could be valuable additions to the knowledgebase. Their work should be included and credited,” Chmaj advised. “Otherwise, individuals become silos of information themselves, and the knowledgebase suffers.”

Chmaj emphasized the importance of culture change with regard to developing a flow of valued information, maintaining, “You can’t automate culture change. Knowledge management is not a tool or a project; it is a lifestyle.” Once the user population trusts the knowledgebase as their tool, with their knowledge in it, adoption improves. Useful feedback grows, and the users maintain the content themselves to help keep it up-to-date.

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