Keep up with all of the essential KM news with a FREE subscription to KMWorld magazine. Find out more and subscribe today!

Biggest Pain Point in Customer Service and How to Fix It

The consumer verdict is in

The best way to get started with fixing customer pain is to hear about their issues from them. That’s exactly what we did. With our sponsorship, Forrester Research asked 5000 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 survey covered customer service effort across a broad set of industries: retail, communication service providers, banking and financial services, property and casualty insurance, health insurance, healthcare providers, utilities, and government.

Why knowledge first?

Here are some reasons to consider:

  • This survey is ammunition enough for you to make a business case for a knowledge-first approach. But there’s more. Beyond making customer service journeys as bad 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, the knowledge deficit can be the root cause of repeat calls, increased AHT (average time to handle), and other bread-and-butter contact center metrics, while also taking a toll on more strategic metrics such as customer loyalty.  
  • Today’s customers use self-service for more routine queries much more so than in the past, leaving more complex ones to agents. As contact center agents with 30 pound brains don’t exist, the only viable and scalable option is to deploy highly intelligent knowledge management (KM) systems.
  • Customers are often in a negative emotional state when they get to the agent since they are likely to have had a negative experience with self-service. After all, ineffective self-service was the other major pain point that consumers complained about. Wouldn’t it be great if you could make all agents and your self-service as good as your best agents!
  • Contact center agents tend to be “blue collar” knowledge workers and do not command the high salaries associated with typical “white collar” knowledge jobs. They tend to be younger, typically millennials or late Gen X. While older workers internalize knowledge and often keep it in their heads, this generation, called the “look up” generation, go to the Web to run their lives. Having a KM system in place, aka a place to look up information or get guided to answers or next best steps in the service process is, therefore a must for today’s agents.
  • Automating everything else without knowledge guidance can detract rather than help customer experience. It’s like turbocharging or adding a miracle lubricant to 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. Translate that into the customer not reaching his or her goal in a service journey, taking U-turns, and winding up in dead-ends! Your brand will likely get crowd-bashed the next hour and, equally bad, you might lose these customers and perhaps their social connections along with them.

Knowledge, the ultimate “pain killer”!

If there is a killer use for KM in the enterprise, it is in the contact center. For instance, our Global 1000 clients have been able to take customer experience and contact center performance to whole new levels with our KM solution. Here are some compelling ROI data points:

  • Leading global bank reduced call handle time by 67% and agent training time by 50%, while its subsidiary vaulted to the #1 position in customer experience in its market 
  • Global media and legal services company deflected up to 70% of its calls, while making go-no-go decisions on high-profile litigation services projects
  • Leading North American telco reduced average handle time by 17% and incoming calls by 19% with knowledge-guided customer self-service
  • Leading US branded manufacturer improved service quality by 33%
  • Leading European telco reduced unwarranted handset returns and exchanges by 38% through better problem resolution in the contact center, while enhancing agent experience by 90%

With these kinds of numbers, you can even become BFFs with your CFO, not just your CEO or COO!

Prescriptions to pain relief

As mentioned earlier, the lack and consistency of agent knowledge came out to be the biggest cause of customer pain, followed by the difficulty of finding relevant answers on company websites. Here are some prescriptions:

  1. Inconsistency of answers: 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.
  2. Lack of 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!
  3. Ineffective self-service: Just like agents, web self-service can only be effective when it has guided knowledge behind it. It is as important that self-service knowledge be consistent with agent knowledge. An omnichannel platform approach to customer engagement and knowledge management will ensure consistency, while allowing seamless, context-aware transition from self-service to agent-assisted service.

Other tips for pain relief

Finally, it’s equally important that your solution includes comprehensive knowledge analytics to identify knowledge gaps and address them on an ongoing basis. Select a solution provider with a proven track record in the domain who can bring you the best in technology and domain expertise. And when you make the business case for knowledge investments, take a holistic approach to ROI. 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.

KMWorld Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues