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Customer service agents field inquiries from customers multiple times per day. Online communities overflow with customer questions. In both situations, these are often the same, repeated issue. But that doesn’t mean new problems aren’t also cropping up a solution.

This is where a strong, consistent knowledge management practice proves its worth. As problems are solved in the customer service contact center and in online communities, new solutions are generated. These solutions are roughly documented; edited, placed into a standardized format, and validated; then published for consumption. Knowledge management takes the wisdom of the customer service team and customers in the community and makes it widely available. And that availability reduces the time a customer must endure the issue. This has value in two ways.

First, those solutions can be utilized in the contact center. Be they new hires or seasoned veterans, customer service agents don’t always have the answer. New agents struggle to quickly amass a working knowledge of solutions and the pros will occasionally forget things. And for both, there’s always the new problems that have already been diagnosed and resolved by a colleague but they are not familiar with. Knowledge management serves as a great crutch for them.

Second, knowledge management serves as a cornerstone of a company’s customer self-service strategy. Organizations often adopt knowledge management in the first place because it offers an easily searchable, any time, any device source of answers for customers.

What many fail to see is that knowledge management’s value extends beyond the internal use and self-service scenarios.

Expanding chatbot conversations

Chatbots offer another form of customer self-service, one that is more conversational in nature over simple (and sometimes frustrating) search. The use of chatbots continues to grow, and Gartner has predicted that by 2020 (yes, this year), twenty-five percent of customer service operations will be using them.

But chatbots aren’t a magic solution. They need proven solutions to successfully service customers. While they continue to improve, they are unable to truly diagnose and troubleshoot problems; they merely follow a script or path gleaned from machine learning or other training. This is where knowledge management comes in. Once the chatbot has triaged the customer’s problem, it can point them to the appropriate knowledge article.

Suggesting articles

Customers might not be aware of or are wary of searching a knowledge base or interacting with a chatbot. Their reasons might be because they don’t understand how to use either or they have had little success with them in the past. In those situations, they might opt to use other channels to find a solution–channels that not only involve live agent interaction but also might mean a slower time-to-resolution. In those situations, it’s still possible to leverage that knowledge management investment.

Insert knowledge article suggestions into your other service channels. For example, as customers use email and case submission processes, perform a knowledge base search for them anyway and offer possible solutions. One of those suggestions might solve the problem and deflect the need for a live agent to respond. (Plus the customer will be happier with a faster answer.)

Likewise, agents can benefit from embedded knowledge searches. They might fail to search the knowledge base or be using the wrong search terms. As they interact with customers and create cases, suggest potential answers to them. Again, this results in a faster resolution for the customer.

Making the most of knowledge management

Making knowledge articles broadly available is one thing, but success only comes from a strong knowledge management curation process. Regardless if knowledge management practices are mature or just getting started, consider the following best practices:

  • Create knowledge articles as problems are solved. Author, verify, and publish these solutions as quickly as possible. Look to the online community and harvest solutions from there. Make it easy for agents to submit closed and solved cases as potential articles. The sooner an article is available, the sooner customers, agents, and chatbots can start taking advantage of them.
  • Use keywords, tags, and synonyms to build robust search indexes. Knowledge articles are only useful when customers and agents can find them. For customers, the use of keywords, tags, and synonyms is especially important because they might not use the same terminology as the customer service team.
  • Devote staff to knowledge management. Dedicated and skilled resources–adept at writing, editing, and validation–ensure knowledge management success. Even if assigning full-time staff isn’t possible, consider using agents when they aren’t scheduled for “live” customer interaction time to author and verify knowledge articles.
  • Recognize the process is ongoing. Products and services come and go, policies change, and so on. Knowledge content must remain current, keeping up with need, demand, and use. Analyze customer cases, knowledge searches, chat transcripts, and any other sources deemed viable to determine where knowledge gaps exist. Agents can also provide insights. Remove articles no longer relevant. Knowledge bases must be curated to remain effective.
  • Separate external and internal articles. Complex or lengthy solutions might require agents working with the customer. Policy-related issues might be best for an internal audience only. Flag articles as internal-only or completely separate them with internal and external knowledge bases.

Tapping into a valuable asset

Companies roll out knowledge management in customer service to make fast and consistent answers available. Yet despite this investment, they often end up limiting its use to only one or two scenarios, curbing its full potential.

In 2020, don’t miss out on additional ways of making knowledge accessible and useful to customers and agents. Expand its availability to chatbots and promote answers in new ways to customers. Ensure best practices are being followed. You’ll reap even greater benefits as customer issues are resolved faster.

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