Knowledge Management for Customer Support

Knowledge Management (KM) comprises of a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, collate, distribute and enable adoption of insights and experiences that may be embodied in individuals or embedded in organizations as process or practices.  In recent times organizations have been adopting KM as a key driver of competitive strategy and growth by integrating it with the core processes of the organization.  With the increasing usage of collaborative tool within the enterprise, the ability to capture and streamline tacit knowledge (conversations and people-expertise) implementation of KM systems has gained added impetus.  A recent research by Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) has reported that the maximum value derived from implementing KM systems has been in Customer Support and CRM processes.

The rise in complexity and range of products being offered has increased the challenges faced by a typical Customer Support organization.   The ability to harness knowledge at critical points in the customer interaction and deliver service in an effective and timely manner has far reaching implications on the business.  The ability to access knowledge from any channel through which service is being delivered to the customer makes it even more critical.  Significantly, knowledge comes in different forms and mediums – documented knowledge as found in User Manuals and Training Manuals, FAQs and CheckLists, unstructured knowledge sources such as discussion forums and blogs, and tacit sources such as IM Chat and Experts within the organization.  The ability of a KM system to unify these different mediums of knowledge and distribute it across several channels of communication makes it a very important tool in the Customer Support Team’s repertory.

KM systems are now being deployed to achieve specific and measurable goals in one or more of the following areas:

First Call Resolution: The ability to resolve a customer support issue the first time correctly is a key metric that is a key deliverable to enhanced customer satisfaction.  This in turn has a significant impact on repeat business, customer retention, and therefore lowers costs.  The ability of the organization to ensure that the support team is able to resolve calls the first time correctly, and work towards providing the knowledge required to do that becomes an important performance improvement area.

Consistency in Service: Standardising Customer Support and thereby ensuring that a consistent level of customer support is provided by the entire organization is a key metric in enabling the organization’s overall effectiveness and in lowering the cost of service.  This is done by creating standard checklists, enhancing training effectiveness and providing mechanisms to unify research and discovery processes.  The ability of the organization to move away from a people-dependent situation in delivering good service will also allow for increasing service volumes.

Reduced Training Time: The increased complexity and range of products and services offered has increased the complexity of training.  Organizations strive to create customer support teams that can handle a portfolio of products and lower the overall cost of operations.  Paradoxically, this also requires that the customer support team is able to get trained and become productive quickly.  With a plethora of products with continuous changes in the portfolio, training is also not a one-time activity; it is a continuous learning process that therefore requires the customer support team to be continuously updated on the product changes.

Increased Capacity:  In order to scale and become even more profitable, the customer support team will have to be able to reduce the time to resolve issues, increase their capacity utilization.  This metric has a direct bearing on the profitability of the organization.

Business Insight: Organizations are beginning to realize the greatest value from implementing KM systems through the business insights that filter through.  The discovery of knowledge within the organization that they did not even know existed is becoming the biggest take-away of a KM system.  When fully implemented and integrated with the core processes of an organization, KM systems are able to eliminate the silo-based approach to knowledge and enable higher levels of collaboration across the organization.  The ability of the organization to discover and connect content to people and people to people will allow for greater collaboration and innovation.  The organization is able to seamlessly integrate a process of learning that is available on tap across the organization.  This in turn delivers a faster rate of return on investment, thus making KM one of the most important drivers of growth and sustainability in organizations.

While Customer Support and CRM will continue to be the biggest beneficiaries of implementing KM systems within organizations, the integration of this across all core processes will enhance the overall effectiveness of the business as a whole, delivering a lot more value to the entire organization.

How KM works in enhancing the value delivered by Customer Support

So, how does this work in real life for a customer?  One of the most powerful tools that customer support organizations use is the Pareto Chart – one that allows them to identify those issues that occur frequently – 80% of the time.  These are then routed to solution frameworks – An FAQ, bug fixes, Product feedback…and so on.  However, every now and then a new issue crops up, which is probably the beginning of another issue that will join the 80% list….or not.  The challenge is to build the ability to create straight-through processing capability such that every time an issue starts tending to become a frequently-occurring issue, the knowledge base takes over.