A knowledge management system (KM) could be defined as any system that identifies, organizes, stores, and disseminates information within an organization to make it easily accessible and usable. Whether a single, purpose-designed tool or a collection of integrated systems, a knowledge management system can provide value to an organization in a wide variety of ways.
One common business use is to improve customer service. In this context, a knowledge management system makes it easy to provide relevant and personalized information to customers and the staff who support them. This article looks at specific ways a business can use knowledge management systems to improve their customer service.
Eliminate Silos by Sharing Knowledge
A knowledge management system can help a business break down information silos that prevent different parts of the organization from having access to relevant information or being able to see more holistic views of customers and their interactions.
For example, information in the customer database is not available to the analytics system, or management collects sales data that is not made available to front line workers that spend their days contacting customers.
A knowledge management system implemented in a call center or customer service setting can eliminate these information silos using the following best practices:
- Consolidate knowledge repositories. Implementing systems that make it possible to unify knowledge repositories and databases will help keep all relevant information in a single system accessible by all.
- Adopt federated search. Consolidating data and providing federated search tools make it possible for front-line staff to search all data sources based on one query.
- Design systems from the point of service backwards. A customer-first approach will help ensure all customer data is available at each stage of their interaction with the company.
The easier it is for staff to find customer information, the easier it will be for them to provide high quality call responses and overall customer service.
Provide Consistent Information Across Channels
Call centers can no longer rely on a phone line for customer service. In this multi-channel world, customers looking for support expect online knowledge bases, social media access, chat tools, and more. This can pose challenges for organizations looking to provide consistent information that is optimized for viewing across all channels.
Businesses looking to implement knowledge management across multiple channels should:
- Deliver consistent multi-channel data. Users don’t want to have to repeat themselves by reentering data or explaining their issue multiple times at each stage of their interaction with customer service.
- Optimize content so it is viewable on any channel. Information might look different on a smartphone than on a web browser, and graphics-intensive sites might provide lousy user experience for low-bandwidth customers.
- Integrate all channels. Customer service agents should be able to seamlessly move among the different channels to provide a more seamless, unified customer response.
Some people prefer to call, some want to email, others would rather chat or post on social media. A knowledge management system can make it easier to accommodate all customers, regardless of their preference.
Improve Customer Service Responses
Customer service often depends upon a rapid, user-friendly response. Knowledge management systems can facilitate this by making data available rapidly, on a single screen if possible, with drill-down features that make further information available when necessary.
Businesses looking to speed up customer response with knowledge management should:
- Design systems to answer queries fast. Impatient customers won’t be forgiving of underpowered hardware or glitchy software.
- Provide a single dashboard or screen. Identify the key information to help serve customers quickly and summarize key customer data on a single, easy-to-read dashboard for customer service representatives.
- Include comprehensive drill-down features. When a representative needs more information about a customer or transaction, they should be able to get to it from the main screen without going into another system or location.
- Prevent unnecessary delays. Any additional steps or unnecessary information can result in customer frustration, dropped calls, and customer churn.
Callers expect quick answers based on the correct data. Doing everything possible to provide them with those answers is essential.
Increase Customer Self-Service
Online knowledge bases may be giving way to artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots in some cases, but they are not going away—and many of them are poorly designed or outdated. A knowledge management system can be used to help overhaul a business’s online knowledge base with the following steps:
- Enhance online search. Making it easy for users to find information quickly, without wading through endless documentation, will improve user experience and customer satisfaction.
- Devise good systems of taxonomy. Identify the information customers want and how they search for it, and then make it easy for those keywords and search terms to provide relevant results.
Customers are comfortable and familiar with online searches, and delivering bite-sized answers in an easy format can help improve their experience.
How to Design a Knowledge Management System for Customer Service
When designing or implementing a knowledge management system for the specific use of customer service, there are a few things to consider that will help ensure a better result.
Include Customer Service Representative Training
Organizations often focus their knowledge management efforts on the customer, but it must be a resource employees can use to better serve customers. When designing the system, incorporate training modules, use the knowledge base as a training aid during calls, and make it easy for representatives to find the data they need.
Without well-trained agents, any knowledge management system will flounder. Ensure the system serves both customers and agents, especially those learning the trade. Knowledgeable agents provide the best service.
Involve Customer Service Representatives in the Design Phase
One of the flaws of software design is that programmers don’t always understand or take the time to discover the needs of system users. When designing or implementing a knowledge management system, make sure that the system meets the needs of those front-line workers who will use it. Gain their input, let them try out the system at various stages in the build, and find metrics that align with their duties.
Integrate Related Systems
Knowledge management, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), contact center and key sales or management systems should not be separate islands within the enterprise. Avoid systems that are difficult or costly to integrate in favor of platforms that can easily fit into existing infrastructure. A centralized knowledge hub should align fully and integrate well with all other key customer facing systems.
Some call centers use automated voice response systems to reduce call volume, but automation can also be used to deliver better customer service. Implementing response chat systems that provide easy call turnovers to customer representatives can prevent long wait times and boost caller satisfaction. Implement chat systems that provide useful answers rapidly, ensure the system knows when to refer the customer to an agent, and provide a call-back option within a specified time.
Add Artificial Intelligence
AI systems like ChatGPT can be introduced into customer service to forward the mission of enhancing overall customer experience. For example, Natural Language Processing (NLP) AI can help interpret user intent rather than expecting users to know the right keywords to get the answer they need. NLP even takes into account industry-specific terminology, different languages, and special content like product names. Self-learning search engines continuously learn from every interaction to deliver increasingly accurate and targeted results.
AI and Chat are big advances, but they are tools and must always be fitted to a definite business purpose if they are to improve the customer experience. Seek out AI tools geared to vertical markets that would be better-suited to the needs of the specific audience.
Bottom Line: Using Knowledge Management Systems to Improve Customer Service
The modern customer is far different from those of even a decade ago. Knowledge management systems must be adjusted to cope with current needs by providing integrated, multi-channel systems that serve data in the format needed by agents and customers. Considering both customer and customer service representative needs when designing and implementing a system can help improve customer service and customer satisfaction while making staff more efficient and more effective.