How Knowledge Engagement Helps Future-Proof Customer Service

The average employee turnover rate is currently high across all industries, but customer service has been particularly hard hit by the Great Resignation. A 2021 survey of contact center professionals reported an average agent turnover rate of 58 percent, with increased workload cited as one of the main causes of attrition. And as customer service leaders are increasingly being asked to do more with smaller teams, there's an ongoing risk that heavy workloads and burnout will continue to drive attrition.

Employee experience has become a priority for many customer service leaders looking to stem the flow of departing agents. Yet all too often, leaders overlook a key practice that could improve both operational efficiency and the employee experience: knowledge engagement.

Knowledge engagement is the practice of proactively harnessing and building on a core set of knowledge. It empowers teams to tap into the knowledge of their company and colleagues so they can work more efficiently, stay aligned around consistent information, and make informed decisions. It allows organizations to capture and preserve the expertise of their people so that when employees depart, their tribal knowledge stays (and benefits their peers). It also centralizes company knowledge and makes it easy to access so new hires can get up to speed faster, meaning fewer disruptions to the customer service department and, by extension, the customer experience.

Equipping Agents With the Right Knowledge at the Right Time

Implementing a knowledge engagement strategy requires customer service leaders to think about both input and output. On the input side, they need the right processes and technology to capture and centralize the knowledge that exists across their organizations. On the output side, they must ensure that frontline employees who need that knowledge to assist customers can easily access and use it. Agents should have a single source of truth where they can quickly navigate to relevant information to answer customers' questions or resolve issues.

A good knowledge engagement strategy helps future-proof customer service operations by reducing friction in the customer experience, even during volatile times. Whether employees are leaving due to voluntary attrition, retirement, layoffs, or reorgs, with knowledge engagement in place their organizations have a system to preserve their knowledge in all its formats—process documents they've developed, approved answers to customer questions, best practices based on their contact center experience, and so on. As a result, customer service agents don't have to worry about knowledge gaps left by departing team members or subject matter experts; they can be confident that the information they need is available to them no matter what.

Not only does this reliable access to trusted knowledge improve customer service operations, but it also improves the employee experience. According to Forrester Research's Employee Experience Maturity Assessment, "What matters most for employee engagement is being able to make daily progress in the work that they perceive matters most." Agents experience greater job satisfaction when they can resolve customer issues more efficiently, which helps reduce the risk of burnout and turnover.

Improving the Knowledge Retention and Engagement of Customer Service Teams

As customer service leaders consider how they can improve knowledge retention and engagement on their teams, one of the first questions they should ask is, whether they have the right technology to support their initiative.

Knowledge engagement technology should facilitate both the input and output of information. Subject matter experts and content creators should be able to easily contribute to and update the centralized knowledge platform without having to rely on the IT team. Customer service agents should be able to access their organizations' knowledge in the flow of work and quickly surface the most relevant content.

While technology helps enable knowledge capture and discovery, it must be paired with a culture of knowledge engagement to be truly successful. This requires buy-in at every level of the organization and might involve introducing new processes or expectations to drive the desired behavior. In a TSIA webinar, Bloomfire's director of customer success, Emma Galdo, recommended building knowledge sharing into employees' job requirements. When employees understand that contributing to or interacting with their companies' knowledge platform is part of the job, it will become baked into their work routines.

Customer service leaders should also drive knowledge engagement from the top down. When leaders contribute to or interact with the company knowledge platform themselves, they show that they are invested in the success of this system. Leaders can also encourage their team members to stay engaged by recognizing and rewarding top contributors or content consumers, or by asking team members to provide feedback on the company knowledge platform or submit requests for new content.

We can't predict the future, but a knowledge engagement strategy can help us reduce the risk of the unknown. When customer service agents, whether they are brand new to the team or more experienced, can reliably access the information they need, they can reduce friction for customers and resolve issues faster. And during periods of volatility (whether due to a pandemic, supply chain issues, or any other factors), delivering a frictionless customer experience is a true competitive advantage.

Sam Schneider is chief operating officer of Bloomfire, a knowledge engagement software company.