Are You Empowering Call Center Agents With the Right Knowledge?

Let’s examine what Knowledge-Centered Service is (and is not) and why it matters to deliver a service level that can drive customer retention.

In my last article, I wrote about the importance of the service function as brands (particularly those in the subscription economy) try to combat customers who are less inclined to be loyal, given how easy it is to switch to a competitor. They’ll also go through reassessment as inflation bites.

I also alluded to a key point that brands who find themselves in this position ought to focus on; giving their support staff the information they need to protect, build and strengthen the customer relationship, which in turn can lower churn and drive retention and loyalty.

Why is this important? In a survey conducted by Dixa, 74% of the 3,000 consumers we surveyed across the US and UK indicated that agents being knowledgeable about the product or service they were reaching out about was most important to them in a customer service interaction. But there’s a disconnect: we also spoke to 1,500 service agents who find it challenging to access the information they need, with 29% Googling answers to customer problems and 27% asking their fellow agents while a customer is on the line.  

In my view, the core solution to this divide is for brands and their support teams to adopt Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS). And that’s what we’re going to focus on in this article: what KCS is (and is not) and why it matters to deliver a service level that can drive customer retention.

What Exactly Is Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS)?

In short, KCS can be defined as a methodology or a set of practices that focus on knowledge as the single most crucial element of the support organization. In other words, KCS aims to capture, structure and re-use support knowledge to improve a service operation. It’s not a tool, but a specific tool — the knowledge base — is often considered an essential ingredient (more on that below).

The Consortium for Service Innovation is one of the most prominent champions of KCS. They qualify KCS as striving to do four things:

  • Integrate the reuse, improvement and (if it doesn’t exist) creation of knowledge into the problem-solving process
  • Evolve content based on demand and usage
  • Develop a knowledge base of collective experience to date
  • Reward learning, collaboration, sharing and improving

The rationale is quite simple: knowledge should lie at the heart of every service desk. It’s how agents respond to customer queries and problems and learn about the systems they use daily. And the benefits are numerous. By using and evolving the knowledge you have at your disposal, you can reduce your support workload and increase engagement by enabling agents and customers to help themselves by providing up-to-date answers through your knowledge base.

Related Article: A 4-Step Recipe for Improving Your Contact Center Agent Experience

What KCS Isn’t

To bring this to life some more, it’s helpful to think about what KCS isn’t.

KCS isn’t traditional knowledge engineering. And what I mean by this is that when we typically think about capturing knowledge, it usually means multiple agents individually identifying a pattern of repeated incidents (e.g., customers having missing items in their delivery), then coming to a solution independently. Approaching knowledge management in this way means that, generally speaking, it will take quite a few identical incidents with one agent before a support article is written. It might take a while before that article is approved, validated and widely used by the rest of the team.

Contrastingly, KCS is the idea of managing knowledge dynamically. A support article is created as part of the problem-solving process for the first incident, so the information is immediately made available in your knowledge base for reuse by other agents. Crucially, as further similar incidents arise, this only validates the knowledge based on demand. Your agents will always use your knowledge base and fix the support article if they find it lacking.

Implementing KCS: How Can Brands Use This?

Now we’ve established what KCS is and what it isn’t, the question becomes: how can brands practically implement it?

A key step is establishing a comprehensive knowledge base, which captures and stores important information in one central location. Not only does this mean that agents can find answers to almost any question if used in tandem with KCS, but it also means that you can deliver fast and reliable answers to your customers, reduce the training burden on your existing team and avoid losing access to important information when a team member leaves.

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