It’s 2019, and our contact centers are changing fast. The proliferation of
new channels over recent years means that now, some
67% of customers prefer using self-service options instead of speaking with an agent.
If you started your career as an agent and remember trying hard to treat
every call like it was your first despite having already heard that query
ten times that day, this stat will likely have you breathing a sigh of
relief. Apart from the decrease in repetition being a good thing, being
there for customers on the channels that they choose is a great CX
strategy. But a downside of this is that the queries which end up in our
contact centers will normally be more complex.
How can we help agents better answer these complex queries? Enter the
humble internal knowledge base (KB). A well-designed KB can act as a tool to
help employees work better and smarter, drive continuous improvement,
improve quality, and increase collaboration. Here’s how.
The right tool for the job
Back when customer queries were solved with single-sentence answers, many
of us resorted to memorization, cheat sheets and post-it notes on our
computer monitors to remember key pieces of information to help us in our
But this type of learning doesn’t often work well when we’re aiming to
understand and resolve complex query types. The interplay of
emotionally-charged interactions and multitudes of gray-area options to
choose from can make decision-making a complex exercise, and it’s not
always clear what the “right” thing to do is.
In these instances, providing employees with resources they can use
in-the-moment to better weigh up each case and strengthen their
decision-making is a smart bet. A KB can act as this type of resource,
working to lessen the mental information load that employees need to bear
and providing this in-the-moment support even for obscure query types.
Having ready resources isn’t just good for quick customer resolutions, but
having access to
the right tools for the job
is central to employee engagement, which impacts productivity,
satisfaction, and ultimately, churn.
You might think that a KB is good for only those black-and-white Q&As
where there is a set Q and an unambiguous A, but it is possible to set up a
KB to support employees in resolving subjective cases through harnessing
technological options within KB platforms themselves.
Let tech do the heavy lifting
I didn’t have a KB platform at all when I built my very first internal KB.
I took the HTML skills I had learned from building cringe-worthy teenage poetry
websites (which, thankfully, died with Geocities), spun up a rudimentary
website, got it hosted on our Intranet, embedded a Google search, and
launched it with myself as the editor.
About ten years ago that seemed like a reasonable plan, given that our
center had repetitive query types and processes which didn’t change much
over time. Thankfully, KB platforms have developed to help us run much more
robust KBs in more complex environments.
Many KBs are now much easier to maintain, without needing to duplicate
information from other sources- for example, by hosting separate customer
and agent-facing KBs on the same platform and optionally, updating from
each other. They often come with full reporting suites for better
visibility into the effectiveness of your KB. It’s even possible to embed
AI into your KB so even if a user were to type in a search term that was
ambiguous or unclear, the AI could pick up on the intent behind it and
deliver the right article regardless.
Importantly, your KB can have multiple editors and methods for adding to
it. Your agents can not only draw upon the information in a KB but also add
to and comment upon it, whether through inbuilt functionality or
integrations with platforms such as
. That’s important for complex query resolution for one main reason:
The best customer outcomes are often a collaborative effort
There’s a reason the apprenticeship model of learning has worked
beautifully since the dawn of time – we learn well from others in an
on-the-job setting, where we can experience and discuss work in context.
But given the nature of much contact center work, it can be difficult to
implement collaborative learning processes, which by nature are social.
Strictly scheduled environments often don’t allow much employee interaction
to occur beyond formalized meetings, scheduled breaks or snatched chats at
the water cooler.
That’s a shame, because we can often make the most sense of complex
situations at work when we share them with others who have been through
similar experiences and can offer different perspectives and ideas.
Encouraging employees to discuss complex cases is an exercise ripe for
learning, as failures and successes can be shared and learned from without
each employee needing to follow the same bumpy path.
The beauty of encouraging collaboration on complex queries through a KB is
that employees can interact with it in the course of their everyday work.
This allows them to collaborate asynchronously, without a heavy load on
agent schedules. Collaboration shouldn’t be limited only to your agent team
– other teams can also be set up to view and collaborate upon
cross-functional knowledge items.
This kind of process doesn’t need to start off on a formal KB platform,
either. On the
CX Accelerator community
recently, Lauren Volpe shared
a great example of collaborative learning via a CX Tracker, where team
members share details of tricky cases so others can benefit.
Getting to this point may require some cultural changes to occur too. It’s
important to encourage your team to view continuous improvement as a team
exercise, which treasures its experts and grows its newbies, and which
recognizes that it’s through sharing information (not hoarding it) that we
can get our best work done.
Future-proof your contact centre’s knowledge
Let’s go back to those expert staff members for a moment. If your contact
center contains a few wise sages who intuitively know the right answer to
most queries, you’ll know how valuable they are, and how often they can get
called upon to share their knowledge.
But you’ll also know how dangerous this can be. Reliance on a few staff as
oracles of knowledge is a dangerous tactic, plunging your team into
difficulties if they leave. Not to mention that in a carefully scheduled
environment, allowing these seasoned staff members time to walk the floor
and be available for answering questions isn’t always ideal, let alone
Great KBs can become living resources that wean reliance off those wise
sages by letting knowledge loose outside of people’s heads. Plus, if you
can set up your KB to be added to by everyone as they learn and discuss new
queries, the information within them can become greater than anything an
individual alone could convey.
KBs are the new training
In the past, most educational models were designed around the fact that
information wasn’t easily accessible. To learn something new you needed to
go on a training course, consult an expert, or check out a book from the
Times have now changed. Mobile devices and internet access mean that we and
our employees don’t need to go through an extensive process of information
synthesis or training to learn a new thing. Most people are pretty capable
of figuring things out for themselves. We just look up information, and get
Despite this, many organizations still rely on formalized training
interventions to attempt to help employees to learn. Usually this consists
of trainers resorting to information-stuffing strategies – for example
taking employees away from their desks, attempting to fill them with as
much pure information as possible, and adding in some sort of game or test
to help make sure that information isn’t so easily forgotten. We’re now
starting to understand how
these types of methods are.
Times are changing and the way we think about contact center learning needs
to change too. We need to get better at providing employees with the
technology and resources they need to learn from each other and just do
their jobs, no information-stuffing required.
Especially given the resource-stretched, turnover-ridden nature of the
environments we operate in, many centers could achieve this by better
harnessing tools like KBs – providing the conditions to learn better,
smarter and quicker, even in increasingly complex environments.
Photo © zorandim75- stock.adobe.com
Kaye is Comm100’s Learning & Development Manager, an internationally-experienced writer and trainer, and an MA student at University College London, the world’s #1 center for Education and Social Science. Kaye has worked with Fortune 500, governmental and private firms across the world to advance customer service operations and embed leading learning and development strategy. As a specialist in Contact Centers, Kaye is passionate about using technology and training to improve experiences for customers and employees alike. Follow Kaye on Twitter.
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