Knowledge management is the practice of managing data, information, and knowledge so that employees can stay aligned and do their best work. It sounds simple, but all too often, companies fail to implement a knowledge management strategy for sharing information across departments and teams. This can lead to issues including knowledge silos, inefficient customer service training, and lost productivity, all of which can negatively impact your customer service operations, staff, and company as a whole.
Key Problems of Poor Knowledge Management in Customer Service
Knowledge silos occur when individuals or departments hoard information that could benefit others. This can occur because employees feel territorial about their knowledge, but more often, the root cause is that employees don’t have an efficient way to share their knowledge with others.
One of the biggest dangers of silos is that they will prevent a unified customer experience.
A customer might share information with one customer service representative but then get transferred to another team member without any context, leading to the frustrating experience of having to repeat what they’ve already shared. Or, even worse, a customer service representative might share information with a customer based on what they think is the most up-to-date documentation, only to have another rep later contradict what they’ve said based on a newer version of the same document. This can damage your customers’ trust in your brand and may even cause them to take their business elsewhere.
In addition to damaging your company’s reputation, knowledge silos can take a financial toll. In fact, Fortune 500 companies lose an estimated $31.5 billion per year by failing to share knowledge across their teams.
Poor Customer Service Training Experience
Without a clear knowledge sharing strategy, customer service managers risk reinventing the wheel with each new hire. New employees may not know where to find the information they need, causing their managers to waste time answering the same questions over and over again. And without an easy way to revisit the content presented in training sessions, new hires can forget up to 50 percent of the information they’ve learned in just one hour. This can make training inefficient and increase the average new hire ramp up time.
Without an efficient way to search for company knowledge, the average employee spends approximately a third of their day looking for internal information. If it takes your customer service employees several hours per day to find information, that significantly reduces the number of customers they’re able to assist in the course of the workday. This could also translate to delays while reps are assisting customers over the phone— and considering 60 percent of callers won’t wait for more than a minute on hold, long holds aren’t something your company can afford.
Overcoming Knowledge Management Challenges with Knowledge-Centered Service
No business can afford the long-term costs—both to their reputation and their bottom line—of poor knowledge management. Effective knowledge sharing is especially important for your customer service employees, as they are the face of your company. So how do you ensure that your customer service employees are both sharing their knowledge and accessing the company knowledge they need to assist customers?
It all starts with taking a knowledge-centered service approach—and integrating this approach into your customer service onboarding and ongoing training.
Knowledge-centered service (KCS) consists of a set of best practices aimed at creating and maintaining knowledge in work environments. It revolves around four major goals:
• Produce new content as a result of problem solving.
• Expand and review pre-existing popular content.
• Centralize up-to-date, relevant company knowledge.
• Incentivize social learning, knowledge sharing, and collaboration.
According to a survey conducted by the Consortium for Service Innovation, companies that have implemented KCS enable their support reps to find answers to customer questions faster and more frequently.6 KCS has also been shown to speed up onboarding time, increase employee retention, and improve job satisfaction among customer service employees.
Because knowledge-centered service requires a central location for company knowledge, many companies invest in a knowledge sharing platform. A knowledge sharing platform allows users to upload content in a wide range of formats (including text documents, slide decks, PDFs, and videos). All content is deep indexed so that users can perform a simple keyword search to find information the moment they need it.
Some knowledge sharing platforms, including Bloomfire, also have a question and answer component. This allows users to ask and answer questions directly in the platform so that everyone can benefit from the information in these exchanges. When a customer asks a question, service reps can start by searching their knowledge sharing platform to see if the question has already been asked and answered. If it hasn’t been asked, they can add it to the platform, growing the company’s existing knowledge base and documenting a question that other customers may have later
A knowledge sharing platform helps integrate customer service knowledge into your reps’ daily workflow. However, for it to be effective, your reps must be committed to using it. The best way to encourage this buy-in is to introduce new customer service employees to your knowledge sharing platform—and the idea of knowledge-centered service—as soon as they join your company. You should also use your knowledge sharing platform for ongoing customer service training to help keep users engaged and provide self-service opportunities for professional development.
In the next two sections, we’ll look at how KCS and a knowledge sharing platform can help you speed up your onboarding process and improve your customer service operations.
According to a survey conducted by the Consortium for Service Innovation, companies that have implemented KCS enable their support reps to find answers to customer questions faster and more frequently.