Invest in Foundational Technologies Like Knowledge Management Before Pursuing Shiny Objects

Companies are doing a good job of exploring the shiny new technology objects that have come our way in customer service in the last couple of years: chatbots, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, etc. Yet, these objects shouldn't be pursued for their own sake; they should be pursued because they provide a real business benefit, such as making your operations more efficient, making your agents more productive, freeing agents up from repetitive work that is error prone, or providing smarter engagement to your customers.

These cutting-edge technology investments must ultimately help deliver better agent and customer experiences. Forrester Research defines great experiences as ones that have the following characteristics:

  • Easy – allowing customers to connect with customer service agents over the touchpoints and channels (voice, digital, social, self-service) of their choice;
  • Effective – experiences that value customers' time, deliver a full answer to a question or a full resolution to a problem that is personalized to the customer and in context of his situation; and
  • Emotional – experiences that leave the customer feeling good about having done business with you. For example, feeling that the company is looking out for the customer's best interest by recommending a lower-cost plan or suitable add-ons.

Many of these investments should start with a solid foundation of technology and process. For many organizations, this includes a solid foundation of knowledge management. Knowledge management done right delivers great customer experiences. It powers self-service interactions that value customers' time. Knowledge management powers chatbot interactions. Knowledge management empowers agents to effectively deliver accurate, in-context answers to customer questions. And proactive knowledge builds trust and better customer relationships.

To do knowledge management right, you should do the following:

Make knowledge capture easy.

You should be able to flag information from any source (email, discussion forum thread, social media interaction, chat logs etc.) and kick it off to be included in your knowledge base.

Be democratic.

Everyone within an organization, and customers as well, should be able to recommend information to be included in the knowledge base. Anyone who comes into contact with content should be able to rate content and comment on it.

Use flexible authoring environments.

You must be able to create and publish content without arduous workflows. Not all content should be subjected to the same workflows. Some content might need to be published instantly, such as a service alert. Other content should be able to be routed through review or legal compliance flows.

Be able to surface related knowledge.

You should be able to surface knowledge residing in other repositories (such as content management systems or bug databases).

Link knowledge to process.

Knowledge must be linked to case management processes, for example, so contextual, personalized content can be pushed to the agent at the right point in the customer service interaction.

Think twice before going after those new technologies. Instead, evaluate and strengthen your foundational technologies and use this solid foundation to then pursue emerging technologies.

Kate Leggett is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

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