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Knowledge Management for "Stand-Out" Customer Service
Six Best Practices from the Global 2000

Customer service has emerged as one of the few remaining differentiators that businesses can sustain over time. Companies that are winning in this environment provide "stand-out" customer service by using knowledge to empower contact center agents and drive self-service interactions.

In delivering KM solutions to world-class contact centers and self-service operations for more than 15 years, we have compiled hundreds of best practices that improve the odds of success in KM implementations, while maximizing ROI. Listed below are some of the popular ones.

1. Quantify value.
Assessing expected and realized ROI before and after the deployment helps you justify the initial investment as well as ongoing maintenance of the knowledgebase (KB) while elevating your visibility as a value creator for your business.

Best practice: Make sure the metrics you use are aligned with business objectives. For instance, if your main business goal is to increase upsell and cross-sell through knowledge-enabled contextual offers, reduction in call handle times will be a conflicting metric. As you assess ROI, keep in mind that KM delivers positive ROI in areas such as:

  • Increase in first-time fixes and revenue through upsell and cross-sell; and
  • Reduction in escalations, transfers, repeat calls, call handle times, training time, unwarranted product returns, field visits and staff wage premiums.

2. Build the right team.
Successful KM implementations start with the right team for knowledge capture and creation.

Best practice: Build a cross-functional team that can bring a 360-degree approach to knowledge creation. Best-practice teams typically include:

  • Lead expert: individual who decides how the KB will be organized, which topics will be covered, what the roles of various people in the team are and plans for maintenance;
  • Users: high-performance contact center agents who provide suggestions;
  • Knowledge authors: individuals who are trained to use authoring tools; and
  • Project manager: individual who keeps the project on track.

3. Avoid the "swiss cheese" syndrome.
Ambitious deployments almost always result in a KB that is solid in places, but full of holes, like a slice of Swiss cheese. This is a recipe for failure, because if users can't find the answers, or get inadequate or wrong answers, they will quickly stop using the system.

Best practice: Focus on depth and quality rather than breadth. For instance, if an enterprise sells printers, scanners and copiers, the best approach would be to cover one product line thoroughly first.

4. Maintain velocity.
A classic mistake in KM implementations is not making midcourse adjustments to keep the project on track.

Best practice: If the deployment appears to be falling behind schedule, narrow the scope of the KB and finish on schedule. In fact, it is better to widen the scope later to expand the benefits of the deployment. As a rough guide, a typical enterprise deployment should not take more than three months after the initial planning, with three or four full-time people engaged. Deployment includes software installation, knowledge gathering and testing both the quality of the KB and system performance.

5. Balance "ivory tower knowledge" with "street smarts."
Enterprises often make the mistake of relying solely on internally focused domain experts who rarely speak to customers. It is sometimes difficult for experts to get down to the level of ordinary customers who may not know technical terms such as whether their mutual fund is "no load," "front-loaded" or "back-loaded." Using jargon in questions posed by agents or self-service systems is a guaranteed way to increase escalations and customer defections.

Best practice: Find KB contributors who are both technically competent and not too far removed from customer contact. Successful customer service depends as much on the questions posed to customers as the answers.

6. Provide flexible content access.
People have different ways of finding information, or the same person may use different methods to suit the situation. A flexible approach to information access dramatically improves user adoption and ROI. For instance, novice agents, whether they are in-house or outsourced, may find it difficult to wade through hundreds of search hits to find the right answer, but may fare better if they are guided through a dialogue, powered by an inference engine. On the other hand, experienced agents may prefer to quickly process search hits.

Best practice: Provide users multiple ways to access information—FAQ, browse, search and guided help. The key here is to make sure that the KB remains the same and there are no content silos. 

eGain is a leading provider of multichannel customer service and knowledge management software for in-house or cloud deployment. For over a decade, hundreds of world's largest companies have relied on eGain to transform their traditional call centers, help desks and web customer service operations into multichannel Customer Interaction Hubs (CIH). Based on the Power of One-the concept of one unified platform for customer interaction and knowledge management-eGain solutions help improve customer experience, optimize end-to-end service process, increase sales and enhance contact center performance.

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