Once upon a time, we had a home and a workplace. Today the office can be anywhere. Given that, how are you enabling your team to share the stories of business? How are you enabling your business to retain and grow its “tribal knowledge” (a.k.a. corporate knowledge management) of what is happening?
Tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack are at the heart of many businesses today. These platforms have become the watercooler, the conference room, the hallway — and they can also be your storytelling platform to grow that tribal knowledge in your company. But spaces like Slack and Teams have another unexpected benefit: their ability to connect to your CRM.
Yes, that behemoth sitting in the center of your business that collects information about everything from inventory to accounting. Your CRM (or ERP as another important data store) is a major knowledge repository of your business with all the data about how your business operates, who you are doing business with, what you are doing with them, and countless other data points. Teams and Slack aren’t just places for your team members to communicate with each other, Teams and Slack are places where your humans can talk to your systems.
Chatbots: Connecting Team Members to Knowledge
For your company, tribal knowledge is traditionally built by the team members who interact with the business. But, with advances in artificial intelligence and tools like Microsoft’s Power Virtual Agent, you can add digital tribe members in the form of chatbots, who can share the knowledge found within your data with human team members.
Chatbots don’t replace human chats or watercooler connections. Instead, they amplify those conversations by providing people with the answers to their questions found in the tribal knowledge within your CRM system.
Imagine having someone who knows everything about your business available on call to answer any question you could have. Many businesses are seeing people like this leave their organization as part of the “Great Resignation.” And when they walk out the door, they take all of their accumulated institutional knowledge with them. Business will lose the people who know everything from who bought that one project ten years ago to who always pays their bills late. Your CRM knows this information and if everyone is already working in Teams or Slack, why make team members jump out of context of their conversations to go look up some piece of information.
Related Article: One Business Outcome of the Pandemic: Organizational Knowledge Loss
Knowledge Management in the Age of Ecosystems
Your CRM is a massive repository of knowledge for your company. It is likely a core source of truth for your business and contains valuable data. Leveraging chatbots to access the data using question and answer style conversations can help make that knowledge more accessible to people throughout your organization in a platform your team is already working in. Providing a chatbot that can answer questions around account status, billing information, customer service or similar helps team members access information quickly while in the context of their normal work environment.
Beyond your CRM, chatbots can tap into your business ecosystem in a way that only the most experienced tribe members could. Imagine being able to access knowledge that is in other applications, other systems within your business. Perhaps you have a home-grown help desk system. You could ask the chatbot about account status in preparation for an account wellness check. The chatbot, looking into your help desk system could tell you information that isn’t in the CRM like “watch out, they have a support ticket that’s been open for 2 months.” Ouch! Expect that to come up in the conversation.
Your CRM is a knowledge repository, but so are all the other applications that run your business. So are the applications that run your partner’s business and as COVID-19 taught us, ecosystems drive business. A break down in your ecosystem will impact you. Your chatbot can access knowledge outside of your normal tribe. It can access information within your ecosystem in real-time to inform your team, inform your CRM, of what’s happening so the business can adjust as needed.
If Your CRM Is Your Knowledge Store, Chatbots Are …
Think of your CRM as the library of your business. It has all the information about your business (or it should). If your CRM is your library, your chatbots should be your librarians. Use chatbots to help your team locate information they need and discover stories they didn’t know existed.
There are many technology tools available to connect your CRM to tools like Teams or Slack in conversational interfaces. The place to start isn’t the technology, it is the conversation. What are the questions you want to ask the chatbot? What is the personality of the chatbot? How does the chatbot connect a human to another human? An example of this could be when someone asks the chatbot about an account. At some point, the chatbot should connect the human to the account manager on record in the CRM so they can continue the conversation.
The librarian has some answers and can guide you to knowledge, but as many librarians have told me, their job is to inspire discovery. Your chatbot should do the same. Allow it to provide some answers and connect the right people in the right moment so that together, the humans can be inspired to discover knowledge and share it with the tribe.
Related Article: Chatbots Belong in the Workplace (Provided They’re Well-Designed)
Your Tribe Just Got Bigger
In modern business, no business is an island. No tribe stands alone. Your ability to collect, share and adapt tribal knowledge will be a market differentiator. Your CRM is currently collecting many stories, data and interactions about your business. Your team is working in conversational interface tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack. Leverage this new digital office environment with chatbots to turn your CRM into a library of knowledge for your team. Recruit your chatbots to be digital tribe members who are collecting knowledge, sharing it and inspiring discovery within your human tribe members.
Tim Kulp is the Chief Innovation Officer at Mind Over Machines and a member of the Forbes Tech Council. He’s trying to change the world.