As a rule of thumb in customer service, financial models show that any ticket not resolved quickly – due to lack of insight – will see its cost roughly triple. When you factor in research time to gain insight, contact and context re-establishment time, having to bring other people into the mix to resolve a problem, escalation time, time wasted  when an agent is interrupted by another agent looking for advice on yet another ticket, and more, you’ve got quite an inefficient, costly problem on your hands.

Worse – from the customer experience perspective – because of queues introduced in the process, case resolution time can easily increase 10x. For those of you who are familiar with manufacturing and Kanban principles, this is a very similar topology of problem. Every time a ticket is unresolved it introduces WIP and delays, driving the whole cycle-time up significantly.

So when we do the math at a high level, this 20% of more complex calls often consumes more than 60% of the total customer service budget, because these tickets take much longer, require much greater knowledge aggregation and correlation, and can involve more people. Moreover these 20% more complex tickets are the ones driving the average case resolution time metrics up by a factor.

Even worse is these tickets are the source of 80% of customer dissatisfaction and ultimately client defection. Customers don’t leave after a password reset call; but they are more likely to leave after a sequence of calls during which the agent is grasping at straws to solve the issue at hand. Trust is further negatively impacted if the client has more information than the agent, gleaned from social media and communities.

So at a time when companies are faced with reduced budgets and shortages of staff to maintain a reasonable margin, while at the same time challenged to improve the customer experience, targeting where 60% of the budget is spent, combined with where most customer dissatisfaction arises, seems to me like the critical place to focus. Thus injecting greater insight into the process of solving these complex issues faster allows for increased capacity which results in higher margins—and also drives higher customer satisfaction. Because this can mean big money, it should be viewed as the single most important initiative within a customer service environment.

Knowledge is everywhere… and yes it means also beyond the knowledge base.

While knowledge management in its traditional form – often KBs along with the required access – is clearly a means of delivering the insight required to resolve the most common customer issues, companies focused on the greater strategy of delivering real-time Knowledge Insight into the much broader knowledge ecosystem will win by enabling a more comprehensive strategy. The focus is on optimizing the customer experience vs. on knowledge standardization.

This much more strategic focus for customer service organizations encompasses knowledge management, but also looks beyond that and into the broader knowledge ecosystem, including people’s cumulative know-how, and even reaches out to knowledge within customer communities and other social content sources. For customer service executives, this goal is also much simpler to understand for everybody in the organisation: enabling the service infrastructure to efficiently deliver the right knowledge to help customers and agents understand and resolve each and every issue, every time, quickly and accurately.

We like to distinguish between what we call “process-centric tickets” vs. “knowledge-centric tickets” in customer service.

In the first case, insight is gained from a curated knowledge base by an agent or ideally self-service by the customer. In the latter knowledge-centric ticket case, the best practice is to gather insight by distilling relevant information from various silos, by identifying and consulting key experts, and by correlating and analyzing information efficiently and in real-time.

So where is the knowledge needed to gain that kind of insight? Within the KB for sure. But also everywhere else: within documents, engineering records, CRM and help desk systems, telephony, emails and client communications, ticket histories, and even in cloud-based customer communities, blogs and other social content sources. Then what about information known from other agents’ experiences and how do you go about identifying the experts?

Bottom line: the knowledge required to gain insight is everywhere. It is a knowledge ecosystem which needs to be enabled and tapped into, not just another data silo curated by a pocket of people. Tapping into this disparate, siloed ecosystem with the right tools can save millions while enhancing customer service.

What are your strategies for helping agents and customers gain insight?