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 — the process of harnessing the collective knowledge of an organization and making it available to those who need it — can enhance and streamline your customer service approach. 

But according to The Technology & Services Industry Association’s (TSIA) most recent State of Knowledge Management report, adoption of core knowledge management practices has stalled or even regressed. The pandemic and its associated shutdowns, workplace disruptions, and the move to remote work are key reasons for this.

“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.”

By making knowledge easily accessible via a comprehensive knowledge management system — regardless of where your customer support agents are located — knowledge management helps reduce support costs, speeds up issue resolution times, and improves customer satisfaction. What’s more, following best practices improves overall customer knowledge management and can be a key driver for new business to your company. 

In this post, we’ll clarify how knowledge management enhances customer experience, 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)*.

A workflow shows a traditional knowledge management process.
Knowledge management may seem simple at first glance, but enabling it in your company will face unique challenges. 

Knowledge Management Is Linked to Great Customer Service

Customers expect a quick response to an issue or question. According to data from SuperOffice, fast response time is the most important aspect of good service. But with the average response time to a customer service request landing at just over 12 hours, there’s clearly room for improvement.

Knowledge management speeds up response time by creating a customer service hub, making information easily accessible to agents and customers alike. When paired with a robust AI-powered search platform, great knowledge management facilitates an environment that enables self service customer support. A comprehensive knowledge management process, combined with the right technology, can do the following:

  • 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.
  • Empower on-site, hybrid, and remote workers: Technology like knowledge platforms and intelligent search ensures that knowledge is accessible to all employees, regardless of location.
  • Streamline your customer service approach: Knowledge management focuses on providing a self-service knowledge base for customers and enables agents to quickly find answers to common questions.
  • 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 knowledge gaps that need filling.
  • Knowledge management programs provide checks and balances for customer service teams. 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.”

    With KCS, when an issue comes in from a customer, the agent must make sure a document or knowledge article supporting the answer doesn’t already exist. The methodology emphasizes avoiding duplication as much as possible, so you’re not creating the same knowledge base article repeatedly.

    “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 when you need it and keeps your knowledge repository accurate.

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    Great Knowledge Management Empowers Support Agents

    Even with a deep understanding of your product, your support agents need access to proper documentation, case notes, and other customer information so they can resolve cases quickly and avoid customer frustration.

    By unifying your organization’s collective knowledge from across your various disparate information silos, you are ensuring that all the knowledge from the team will be at their fingertips. Companies that put this concept into practice have seen great returns on their investment.

    A graphic visualizes the concept of a unified index.
    A unified index centralizes content, and can then be used to tailor experiences for different audiences through self-service portals.

    Combined with a powerful search tool, knowledge management provides your support reps with the ability to quickly search through all available knowledge, both internal and external, to find the best resolution for their customer. 

    Here are a few different use cases that demonstrate how KCS, including 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 their 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 their 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. 

    Because of this, Xero’s support 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 — can engage with customers to solve more complex issues. This approach is allowing Xero 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 in identifying holes in support content that lead to customer miscommunication. They also analyzed how agents were searching for content and examined when content, if it existed, 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, agents 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:

    • Accessibility: Make sure that the knowledge you create is accessible to both customers and customer service agents. This will likely require a content audit to identify where all your content is housed internally and externally (e.g., Google Docs, spreadsheets, CRMs, etc.).
    • Training: It’s important that all customer service agents are trained on the KCS methodology including how documentation is created, what it should look like, and the process for review.
    • Unification: Use a platform like Salesforce to store knowledge articles and documentation so that it’s all in one place and can be easily accessed by agents.
    • Discoverability: The goal is to 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. This can be accomplished by tagging content, using search filters, and creating a knowledge base that’s easily navigable.
    • Optimization: The KCS approach requires all agents to constantly review and revise the knowledge base, avoid duplication, and ensure knowledge articles and documentation are up-to-date and relevant. It also gives customer service managers and knowledge management leaders data and insights which can be used to improve the knowledge management program.

    Customer service — and customer expectations — is evolving. Customer service knowledge management is about creating efficiencies and 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

    In a SuperOffice survey of 3,200 customers, almost half said they expected a response to an inquiry in four hours or less. Twelve percent said they expected a response in 15 minutes or less.

    But it’s not just speed that customers use to measure good service. The top attributes of a good customer experience include consistency across channels, knowledgeable staff, and clear messaging-in that order.

    “[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. It’s great if the information exists, but if an agent is not sending anything, it doesn’t matter. KCS is about actually reaching the customer.”

    By being more thoughtful about where knowledge is stored and making it easily accessible to agents, 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. 

    Dig Deeper

    Digital has made accessing customer support easier — on the customer, anyway. This means more channels and more information for you and your support team to manage. Check out our five best practices for multichannel knowledge management for insights and tools to put your support teams on the front foot; prepared and proactive! 

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    *KCS® is a service mark of the Consortium for Service Innovation™