…but customer service economics suggest that it might not be the most important one.

In my last blog post on this topic, I went back to some fundamentals that drive a positive customer service experience: customers and agents are seeking efficient real-time insight into the right knowledge to understand and resolve every customer issue, every time. I made a distinction between knowledge management (the programmatic response from the company’s viewpoint, often narrowed down to a knowledge base), and knowledge insight (the ultimate need from the customer’s view point).

But what is the role of the curated content – within the knowledge base – within the customer service knowledge ecosystem?

For most organizations, a good customer service strategy can handle the 80% of issues which are known, in a cost effective way. Repetitive, relevant knowledge can be curated within a knowledge base which helps capture what customers are frequently asking for and the best course of action. For example, I need to reset my password, how do I activate this option?, my product won’t do xyz basic function, etc. Curating that content can be an effective portion of the overall knowledge management strategy. While many companies tend to centralize that responsibility within a KM group, in the best contact centers Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) principles mobilize the entire service staff to help maintain that content dynamically. This is a better approach in my view.

So let’s start out by saying yes, there is a place for curated knowledge within customer service, to help resolve simple repetitive things. So why not just rely on that knowledge base as the focal point for agents?

First, what many fail to see is that this kind of content is also a prime candidate for self-service. If an entry-level agent can gain insight and resolve a customer issue by searching and reading from a knowledge base, then so can many smart customers from a well-designed, relevant, and interactive customer self-service website. The cheapest call is the one you deflect, and the good news is that customers actually prefer that self-service experience too, if it is well designed.

Companies providing their customers with relevant self-service insight into issues, products, relevant documents and solutions, ultimately win by deflecting calls. Hence that self-service insight should be the most important goal of a knowledge base, from an economics perspective, as it can deflect calls significantly while augmenting customer satisfaction. Not always the case. Often times KBs are rather inward focused and looked upon as the panacea for agents. That is one piece of the equation.

Secondly, not every business can predict every customer issue and curate the necessary knowledge into a standard knowledge base. Then what about the remaining 20% of the more complex tickets which require more insight beyond the curated knowledge base content and which are often escalated to more senior level 2 or even level 3 agents? Because those represent a minority of the overall tickets in volume, many companies have not intuitively focused their infrastructure design attention around those types of issues—even though they are the most costly. Alternatively, they rely on key experts within the customer service department and hope these experts stick around.

Knowledge insight means big money in customer service. Financial models show that any ticket that’s not resolved quickly – due to a lack of insight – will see its cost roughly triple. I’ll explore the economics of knowledge insight and how to make sense of the growing customer service knowledge ecosystem in my next blog post.