When your organization invests in a knowledge engagement strategy (and the software to support it), anecdotal evidence isn’t enough to prove that solution’s value. To justify the ongoing use of the knowledge engagement strategy and software, you need to show that it’s providing a clear return on investment.
But using the textbook definition of ROI (the exact dollar profit netted for every dollar spent) makes it difficult to pin down the precise benefits of an ongoing knowledge engagement strategy. This approach overlooks many of the less tangible (but still important) benefits of knowledge engagement, such as increasing support agent’s confidence in information and improving the customer experience. Instead, companies should take a more holistic look, considering both the hard and soft ROI benefits of a knowledge engagement solution.
What Is Hard ROI?
Hard ROI benefits are quantifiable and can be assigned a specific financial value. For example, let’s say you calculate the average hourly pay for your customer support agents and then determine the number of hours per month that your agents save when they use a knowledge engagement platform to find information. From there, you could come up with an estimate for the amount of money your customer support department is saving per month with your knowledge engagement platform. This is a type of hard ROI.
What Is Soft ROI?
Soft ROI is harder to quantify than hard ROI and relies on a business case, often involving a number of steps for the benefit to be realized. For example, you might discover that when your customer support department starts using a knowledge engagement platform, your agents start collaborating more openly and sharing best practices with one another more frequently. This, in turn, helps agents deliver a better experience to customers. This is clearly a benefit, but it’s hard to assign an exact monetary value to it.
While hard ROI may be the ultimate goal, adding soft ROI benefits to a business case can be key to proving the true profitability of a strategic business investment.
Quantifiable benefits that can be assigned a specific financial value
Qualitative benefits that contribute to long-term success
Examples of Hard and Soft ROI of Knowledge Engagement Software for Customer Support
Now that we have a high-level view of the hard and soft ROI of knowledge engagement, let’s take a closer look at how you can make a strong business case for implementing a knowledge sharing platform.
Onboarding new employees is one of the most critical steps in the hiring process and can have a significant impact on long-term success. As a cross-functional process, many business units are involved, including the hiring manager, IT, HR, training, facilities, and others. Without an effective strategy to manage knowledge, that can often lead to new hires receiving conflicting, unclear, or repetitive information. It’s no wonder, then, that only 12 percent of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees.
Consider your past experiences training new customer support representatives. Were they overwhelmed, even frantic, the first time they needed to recall product information at the drop of a hat to assist a customer? Knowledge engagement systems give new hires immediate access to the latest collective company knowledge—and allow them to revisit that knowledge whenever they need to. This helps new employees become capable and confident, and it enables customer support professionals to provide high-quality support that is thorough and timely enough to keep the customer satisfied.
By making it easy for new hires to access training materials and customer support resources on demand, a knowledge engagement platform can speed up your average onboarding time. Companies using Bloomfire for customer support have seen a decrease of 15 percent or more in the time it takes to onboard new support agents
You can also connect employee retention metrics to a successful onboarding program. According to research by Glassdoor, companies with a strong onboarding process improve their new hire retention by 82% and boost productivity by more than 70%.
Because an effective onboarding program helps boost new hire retention, it also reduces the cost of employee turnover. And considering that it costs an estimated 33 percent of an employee’s salary to replace them, the savings your company gets from retaining more employees can add up.
Customer support training cannot simply end once the initial onboarding period is over. Training should be considered a process, not an event. By providing ongoing support to customer-facing employees through a knowledge sharing platform, organizations can maximize their long-term impact.
Using knowledge engagement tools in ongoing training can pay immediate dividends. Employees can join an internal knowledge community where they can connect, ask questions, and get tips and hints from those already in the company.
A knowledge engagement platform allows employees to learn on the fly and find the information they need, when and how they need it. This type of platform increases employee performance by leveraging the wisdom of crowds and improves overall engagement by enabling employees to collaborate directly from any device or tool where they are already working. It also reduces the time it takes employees to find the information they need to learn. Bloomfire users, for example, save an average of 30 minutes per day looking for information, which translates to time savings of 130 hours, or more than three full work weeks per year.
When making the case for ongoing customer support training, it’s important to demonstrate how this is an investment that pays off, both in time savings and productivity. Companies that invest $1500 on training per employee per year average 24% higher profit margins than those who invest less. Additionally, companies that make this investment average 218% higher income per employee than those who don’t.
Time to Resolution
Average time to resolution—or the average time it takes a customer support agent to resolve a case after it’s been opened—is a key metric in customer service, and another area that can be improved with knowledge engagement technology. There’s a direct correlation between how long it takes your agents to resolve a customer’s issue and how satisfied that customer feels, and a high average time to resolution increases your risk of losing frustrated customers to your competition.
One of the main culprits behind a high average time to resolution is a lack of an effective knowledge engagement system. The more information you have spread out across different platforms or hidden in cryptically named folders, the longer it will take your agents to find answers for your customers. When all customer support documents and FAQs are stored in one searchable platform, your agents can find what they’re looking for quickly and reduce the time it takes to resolve your customers’ issues.
Businesses have seen tangible results when implementing a knowledge engagement platform to reduce their customer support team’s time to resolution. Professional services company AGIA Affinity saw a 50 percent reduction in calls placed on hold and a 15 percent improvement in talk time just a couple months after launching Bloomfire in their contact center. And outdoor goods retailer Orvis saw their contact center’s first call resolution rate double after implementing Bloomfire.
Just a few years ago, it was considered acceptable to respond to a customer support email within 48 hours. Today that thought is laughable. In fact, a McKinsey study found that 75% of customers expect service within 5 minutes of contacting a business online.
With customer support expectations so high, equipping support agents with quick access to up-to-date documentation and expertise is no longer optional. Many companies are extending their customer support options to include branded communities and self-service portals that dramatically improve customer engagement, decrease time to resolution, and improve customer satisfaction. And according to Forrester, customers prefer knowledge bases (i.e. online platforms where users can search for the information they need) over all other self-service channels.
The most effective knowledge bases for customer support feature robust Q&A functionality that allows users, whether customers or support staff, to ask and answer questions while leaving a historical trail that is keyword tagged, indexed, searchable, and easily updated so the next person with the same question can quickly find the answer.
One important metric to track when looking at the value of a knowledge base is incoming call volume. When more customers are able to find the information they need through a self-service knowledge base, your support agents should receive fewer calls about routine issues, giving them more time to help customers with complex problems
It should go without saying, but your customer support employees want to help your customers succeed. When they’re unable to find the information they need to satisfactorily resolve a customer’s issue, it causes stress. And that stress can have a significant impact on overall employee morale and the bottom line: US businesses lose an estimated $300 billion annually due to absenteeism, turnover, and lower productivity.
On the other hand, when employees are able to find the information to help your customers—and when they feel like they’re contributing to the company’s overall success—you’ll see improvements in employee morale, engagement, and productivity. Gallup actually found that companies with satisfied, engaged employees enjoy 21 percent greater profitability than those with less engaged employees.
When your support agents are able to quickly and confidently find the information they need to help your customers, your customers will be more satisfied—and more likely to do business with you again. 68 percent of customers report that a service rep was key to a recent positive customer experience, and 62 percent say that the rep’s knowledge and ability to connect them to the right resources was a driver of that positive experience.
With customer experience quickly becoming the determining factor for purchases, investing in a knowledge engagement platform to boost customer satisfaction can pay off in a big way. 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases from businesses that offer excellent customer service. 17% of customers even say that they’re willing to spend more money on a product from a company that delivers an exceptional customer experience.