How often do your agents answer the same support question over and over? Or search for the answer to a question that a team member has already solved?
For most customer support organizations, the answer is: too often.
Customer service knowledge management means making the organization’s collective knowledge available to those who need it, whether that’s your customers or agents.
But according to The Technology & Services Industry Association’s (TSIA) most recent State of Knowledge Management report, adoption of knowledge management practices has stalled.
“If anything, COVID-19 has proven and solidified the importance of knowledge management,” said Deryn Ollivier, Coveo’s Lead Knowledge Manager. “Suddenly, we all had to work from home, but didn’t necessarily have information that was accessible remotely. It was a big catalyst for the knowledge management field in general.”
In this post, we’ll clarify how knowledge management enhances customer support, provide some use cases that demonstrate effective approaches, and cover some best practices in customer service that can help your company implement Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS)*. We’ll also discuss why good knowledge management is important in the adoption of innovative technologies like generative AI.
How Does Knowledge Management Improve Customer Service?
Today, customers interact with brands across multiple channels. And those channels are increasingly digital; according to Salesforce’s Fifth State of Service Industry Report, 57% of customers prefer to engage companies through digital channels.
And 59% prefer self-service tools for simple questions and issues — and self-service is available across many channels. To provide a harmonious, connected experience across those channels, brands need knowledge management.
By making knowledge easily accessible, you can:
- Reduce support costs
- Speeds up issue resolution times
- Improves customer satisfaction
- Become a key driver for new business to your company
A comprehensive knowledge management system, combined with the right AI-powered search platform, can do the following:
- Facilitates customer self service: Customers can independently troubleshoot and find answers or remedies, with minimal live assistance from the enterprise’s customer agent team.
- Enable collaboration across teams: Customer service reps, product managers, and other team members can create, share, and update knowledge articles and documentation from a central knowledge repository.
- Track and optimize your customer service process: Customer service metrics like average resolution time, customer satisfaction scores, and content duplication help you identify areas for improvement and content gaps that need filling.
Knowledge management programs also provide checks and balances for customer service teams, especially ones that practice KCS. Said Ollivier, “We use knowledge coaches as an aspect of [KCS]. Coaching isn’t their full-time job, but they’re responsible for coaching our agents on KCS article creation.”
In KCS methodology, an agent must thoroughly review whether a document or knowledge article supporting the answer to a customer issue doesn’t already exist. This emphasizes avoiding duplication as much as possible.
“Once you’ve determined that nothing exists to resolve a given problem, you can create the article,” said Ollivier. “The idea is that when an article is created, it shouldn’t have to be made again. Then every time you reuse an article, you review it to make sure it’s up to date, relevant, the link still works, etc.”
This ongoing quality assurance process makes it easier to find a knowledge base article that answers customer questions when you need it and keeps your knowledge repository accurate.
How Does Customer Service Knowledge Management Impact Generative AI?
Large language models (LLMs), the technology underpinning generative AI applications, can help customers and agents find the needed answers more quickly because they excel at processing, retrieving, and summarizing data. Most companies are sitting on large caches of data in many forms. Across your company, you have information stored in siloed repositories like intranets, voice and video recordings, CRMs, and email (to name a few).
This is the data that can “feed” your GenAI solution so that it generates appropriate answers. But you need to take steps to clean up the bad data (a.k.a., the “garbage”) before incorporating an LLM or a GenAI tool into your information workflow. Content governance in the form of knowledge management relies on creating good practices around your organization’s content.
It ensures that domain experts are involved in content management, all employees are empowered to create and share content, and that content is easily searchable. Learn more about strategies for feeding your LLM.
Great Knowledge Management Empowers Support Agents
Even with deep product knowledge, customer service agents need access to proper documentation, case notes, and other information so they can resolve cases quickly. Typically, this results in a lot of context-switching across different screens. This is not-so-affectionately called “swivel chair syndrome”.
By unifying access to your organization’s collective knowledge across information silos, you ensure that team knowledge is at their fingertips.
Combined with AI-powered search, knowledge management lets your support reps quickly sort through available institutional knowledge to find the best resolution to their customer’s issue.
Here are a few different use cases that demonstrate how KCS — bolstered by the combination of knowledge management and intelligent search — empowers service agents and customers to resolve issues quickly.
AI-enabled search speeds up ticket resolution
Salesforce uses Coveo’s AI-driven search across its knowledge base when helping customers. CRM-embedded Insight Panels, accessed by Salesforce’s agents for roughly 75% of support requests, eliminate the need for manual searches and is a huge time saver. Being able to resolve customer issues quickly and with empathy has helped Salesforce achieve its highest-ever CSAT scores.
Self-driven support frees agents to focus on complex tickets
Xero, a cloud accounting platform for small businesses, uses Coveo to empower high-quality customer support. About 95% of questions asked at Xero are answered by self-service help content powered by Coveo, deflecting over a million queries from Xero’s support team each month. Proactive AI-driven content recommendations help customers find what they’re looking for as they’re searching.
And just last year, Xero upped their game by implementing Coveo Relevance Generative Answering, to, in the words of Executive General Manager Nigel Piper, “deliver a beautiful, conversational answer to our customers.”
Because of this, Xero’s customer relations specialists spend significantly less time answering simple repetitive questions. Since most customer interaction is fully automated, Xero’s specialists — many of whom have accounting degrees — focus on solving complex customer issues.
This approach is transforming Xero’s customer relationship management, allowing the company to focus on scaling from 2 million customers to over 10 million in the coming years.
Knowledge-centered service empowers new and veteran employees
A KCS approach helped athenahealth, a US health company with 160,000 providers nationwide, share insights from veteran employees, efficiently train new employees, and use insights from their KCS program to make lasting change in the organization.
The first step was to identify holes in support content that led to customer miscommunication. They also analyzed how agents on the customer support team were searching for content and examined how any relevant, existing content was being missed.
Closing content gaps and implementing Coveo’s AI search technology helped athenahealth improve case deflection rates. It also improved employee engagement rates. By empowering employees — new and old — to find content quickly, each customer service agent could focus on the customer and provide a better overall experience.
Best Knowledge Management Practices for Customer Service
Knowledge-centered support requires knowledge sharing among employees to be effective. Here are some knowledge management best practices for customer service that can help you get started:
Ensure created knowledge is accessible to every customer and contact center agent. This may require an audit to identify where content is housed internally and externally (e.g., Google Docs, spreadsheets, CRMs, etc.).
Agents should understand the KCS methodology, from creating documentation to the review process.
Use a unified index (that also respects roles and permissions) to make access to content universal.
Apply a least-click mentality to content discoverability. That is, make it as easy as possible for agents and customers to find the answer they need with the least amount of clicks. To really scale, start looking into artificial intelligence.
KCS requires all agents to constantly review and revise the knowledge base, avoid duplication, and ensure knowledge articles are current and relevant. It also gives leaders data and insights to improve the knowledge management program.
Because customer expectations are constantly evolving, so too must customer service. Customer service knowledge management is about creating efficiencies. And about empowering your agents with tools and processes that let them focus on delivering the best possible customer experience.
“Knowledge management focuses on being more thoughtful about where you’re holding your organizational knowledge,” explained Ollivier. “It’s about curating that knowledge so if people are working from home, you have an intuitive structure and organizational system so they can find that document or knowledge article.”
Good Customer Service Creates Customer Loyalty
By being more thoughtful about where knowledge storage and accessibility, companies can provide faster, more consistent, and more personalized service. In turn, this creates happy customers who are more likely to become brand advocates and continue doing business with you.
“[KCS] is all about measuring the impact of the documentation and the knowledge articles and whether this information is affecting cases that are being entered,” said Ollivier.
“It’s about measuring our own knowledge base to make sure that we have relevant information that’s getting updated, attached, and sent to the client.
“KCS is about actually reaching the customer.”
Learn more about how Coveo can help enhance and amplify your customer support function.
*KCS® is a service mark of the Consortium for Service Innovation™