How to Capture (and Share) the Tacit Knowledge of Your Customer Service Employees

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    Any task can look easy on paper. Take driving a car for example. You put the car in gear, press the gas pedal, and steer. Pretty simple, right?

    Your 16-year-old self would beg to differ. Understanding the basic instructions for driving a car is a lot different than actually getting behind the wheel. Only someone with hands-on driving experience truly understands the nuances of navigating from point A to point B, from easing onto the gas pedal to finessing the steering wheel.

    The same concept applies to customer service. You may have well-documented policies and procedures, but those can only take your employees so far. It’s only over months and years of talking to customers that your employees learn the subtleties of handling customer issues. This is called tacit knowledge — knowledge gained from personal experience that’s often difficult to express.

    Documenting tacit knowledge is, by definition, difficult, but a knowledge sharing platform can make it easier. Here are a few ways to capture tacit knowledge, so you can share it with your entire customer service team and dramatically elevate your level of service. 

    1. Record Customer Service Calls

    You’ve probably called a company and heard an automated voice announce, “Your call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.” Your organization may even use the same disclaimer — but do you actually use those recordings?

    Recording customer service calls and uploading them to your knowledge sharing platform can help expose your less experienced employees to a range of customer service scenarios and introduce them to various strategies to address those issues.

    They’ll get to hear, firsthand, how experienced customer service reps work through complex issues or address stressed out customers. They’ll hear examples of employees thinking on their feet and adjusting their strategy when a call goes in an unexpected direction. And they’ll hear tone and inflection — things that are nearly impossible to document in a traditional training manual.

    If you want to make it as easy as possible for your customer service reps to find relevant recordings, opt for a knowledge sharing platform that automatically transcribes audio and video content. That way, they’ll be able to search for a specific keyword, quickly find the recordings that contain that word, and jump straight to the points of the recordings where it’s spoken.

    2. Keep a Running Q&A Section

    Employees share knowledge in casual conversations throughout the day. If a less experienced employee runs into a problem, he or she likely seeks out advice from someone more senior. Those brief exchanges can be an invaluable source of tacit knowledge, so why not share that benefit with other employees?

    By asking your tenured employees to answer questions from less experienced employees in your knowledge sharing platform, you can permanently capture tacit knowledge and make it available to everyone on your team. Plus, this Q&A section can be a living document — you can add to it as more questions arise or when an employee develops a new or better method for handling an issue.

    Start encouraging all employees to post questions in your knowledge sharing platform rather than firing off an email or tapping a co-worker on the shoulder. It may take awhile to adjust, but once employees get in the habit of asking and answering questions in your knowledge sharing platform, the platform will become their first stop.

    3. Save Helpful Chat Conversations

    Nearly every company has some sort of internal instant messaging system. That system can be critical during customer service calls. While a customer service representative is on the phone, he or she can easily message a more experienced employee to get advice on how to handle the situation.

    Because those messages happen on the fly, they often catch valuable tacit information — how, for example, that senior employee has addressed similar issues in the past. It’s a great learning tool, but because the conversations are contained within a one-to-one chat, no other employees are privy to that shared knowledge.

    Rather than keeping those messages private, ask your employees to upload helpful portions of chat conversations to your knowledge sharing platform, highlighting the most important information and sharing any pertinent details about the customer scenario. Better yet, if you use a knowledge sharing platform that integrates with your chat system, your customer support agents can simultaneously post questions and answers in their chat conversation and in the knowledge sharing platform.

    4. Record Videos of Tips and Tricks

    According to one study on storytelling as a method of tacit knowledge transfer, participants benefited more from video recordings than written stories because they could view facial expressions, gestures, and other visual cues. Videos can also improve retention. Some studies show that while people remember only 20 percent of what they read, they remember 80 percent of what they see and do.

    So to capture the tacit knowledge of your experienced employees, record videos of them sharing best practices or tips for specific customer issues, and upload the video to your knowledge sharing platform. Other employees will be able to watch the videos at any time — and will likely retain more information from them than if they were to read a training manual on the same subject.

    5. Share Stories of Customer Wins and Losses

    Marketing professionals know that there is power in case studies (according to Content Marketing Institute, 71 percent of marketers use them), because potential customers want to see how a company’s product or service worked for someone else before they try it themselves.

    The same idea — executed a little differently, of course — can work in customer service. Encourage experienced employees to document stories of customer wins and losses. Ask them to detail the strategies they used, how customers reacted, and what did or did not work. By making these stories available on your knowledge sharing platform, other team members can learn new tactics to use (or avoid).

    Over years of working at your company, employees cultivate a wealth of knowledge — knowledge that can’t always be documented in traditional training materials. By capturing this information in a knowledge sharing platform, you can ensure all your employees have the opportunity to benefit from that experience and insight — and use it to better serve your customers.

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