Knowledge Management: Four Selection Criteria to Increase Customer Lifetime Value

Tim Passios, VP of Marketing, MindTouch
Tim Passios, VP of Marketing, MindTouch

Knowledge management (KM) has become an important part of a contact center’s tech stack. In fact, according to Contact Center Pipeline’s 2020 contact center trends survey, of the top 20 challenges, “lack of, or bad desktop tools” (KM being one) ranked second. In that same survey, of the top 20 priorities, “improving knowledge access” ranked fifth.

Despite this, KM continues to be a hard sell within most organizations with the lion’s share of the contact center budget going to flashier initiatives such as AI and self-service projects and anything related to improving the customer experience. When budget does get funneled into KM, the use case is typically focused on agent assistance to help improve KPIs, such as reduced call handle time and increased first-call resolution. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with this, the ROI is limited and the potential to have significantly greater impact on the customer experience is hamstrung.

The Real Value of a Modern KM Solution

Enter a new generation of knowledge management solutions. Driven by technology advancements and outside-in, customer-first design, this innovative crop of KM solutions are showing exponentially greater ROI than their predecessors.

Knowledge ManagementThese modern KM solutions are inherently built to extend outside the contact center walls to fulfill self-service needs via a variety of customer touchpoints. This ability to be wherever a customer’s journey starts or ends gives KM solutions the unique ability to fulfill the true holy grail for customer experience-savvy organizations: increasing customer lifetime value while reducing costs.

So, what do these modern KM solutions look like? Let’s explore the top four criteria for selecting a KM solution that can fulfill this holy grail, while making contact centers an indispensable innovation hub for CX improvement.

Top Four Criteria for Selecting a Modern KM Solution

1. Intelligent Search & Google Optimization

Consumers today can quickly search Google and get extremely relevant results. This means they’re typically going to Google to self-serve for answers before they hit a company website and before they reach out to the contact center—if they ever do at all. In fact, according to leading analyst firm Gartner, “By 2022, 85% of customer service interactions will start with self-service, up from 48% in 2019.”

The problem is, most contact centers are using traditional KM solutions that were never intended for external use, let alone optimized for Google search. The result? Potentially hundreds of thousands of missed opportunities to help customers successfully self-serve—missed opportunities that could’ve resulted in increased case deflections for reduced costs, improved upsell potential for more revenue, and improved customer experiences for better retention.

To remedy this, contact centers should look for KM solutions inherently designed to automatically structure content so it’s optimized for search engines, especially for Google. But beware: Just because a KM solution allows search engines to publicly index content doesn’t mean that content is well optimized. Look under the hood to ensure the hard part of structuring knowledge is already done, and done right!

BUT BEWARE: Just because a KM solution allows search engines to publicly index content doesn’t mean that content is well optimized. Look under the hood to ensure the hard part of structuring knowledge is already done, and done right!

These solutions also incorporate natural language processing techniques so they can more accurately infer meaning from ambiguous content searches, including those with misspellings and partial words. Increasingly, these solutions are leveraging NLP to analyze user sentiment, which can be used to identify where customers are struggling most to reduce effort and, ultimately, churn.

Modern KM solutions should also include guided content navigation. This enables the solution to serve up suggested, dynamic content even when the user doesn’t know exactly what they’re looking for. The result is improved “discoverability” and, ultimately, a better self-service experience.

Finally, the importance of how a solution handles site structure can’t be overstated. Understanding and enforcing proper site structure ensures optimal website navigation experiences and enables organizations to facilitate the flow of knowledge—and maintain that structure and flow automatically—as they continue to add content. Modern KM solutions incorporate a hierarchical content structure that facilitates and maintains the grouping, categorization, tagging and organization of content for a low-effort search experience.

2. Personalization & Permissions

There’s no question that contact centers are under pressure to deliver a personalized customer experience. According to Gartner, “personalization is now a strategic imperative. It has evolved from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have.’”

Modern KM solutions should offer dynamic site navigation and content that’s personalized based on rich consumer identity data to deliver the most relevant, contextual experience possible. While invaluable to self-service efforts, this same data can be delivered to agents when assisted service is needed. KM solutions should offer insights to agents, such as what content customers searched for and viewed, and even offer up suggested content, so they are armed to most quickly and effectively resolve customer issues.

The ability to apply permissions is also vital. Many traditional KM solutions were single-purpose built with little thought for diverse user needs ranging from the novice to the expert, and from internal to external users. For small, internal deployments this was sufficient. But as the real ROI for KM solutions is proving to live outside the organization, that no longer works.

Modern KM solutions were built from the ground up with incredibly granular permission capabilities. These allow organizations to set permissions and privacy levels on pages and sections to ensure users have visibility into only the content appropriate to them. This should also include the ability to classify user types based on who can access or contribute to a site. And all solutions should absolutely include proven customer identity management capabilities to safeguard data.

3. Extensibility & Integrations

Many KM solutions were designed to work with a specific CRM or contact center system. Even those that were built as standalone offerings were not typically designed to easily extend into multiple touchpoints such as Google, online communities, CRM systems, contact center systems, in-product help, IoT devices and AI-driven chatbots that rely on good content to be successful. The result? Severely limited ROI and/or undue cost and complexity related to programming efforts to extend content. Of course, customers and agents suffer too with inconsistent and sometimes non-existent content where and when they need it.

Modern KM solutions were inherently built for today’s digital world to ensure content can be automatically (easily) extended across all channels and devices, and throughout the customer journey from start to end. These solutions should include pre-integrations for CRM and contact center systems. This ensures the same content is made available to agents from within their user interface of choice for a single point of truth, both within and outside an organization’s walls. An added bonus of extensibility and integrations is faster deployment, which translates into faster ROI.

The moral of the story? New enabling technologies like AI proliferate each year. And it takes multiple systems to create a consistent, personalized and effortless customer journey. A modern KM solution should be vendor agnostic, providing open architecture so it can feed, augment and incorporate relevant elements of an organization’s tech stack however that might change. This future-proofs the KM investment, while maximizing the value of existing infrastructure.

4. Scalability & Availability

Traditional KM solutions built for internal use and typically serving single-purpose needs were not designed with scalability in mind. And those bundled with CRM and contact center systems often have limitations to the amount of content that can be stored in the database. Others charge for content storage, which can be cost-prohibitive for large organizations.

Solutions that are “retrofitted” after the fact to try to accommodate a much larger volume of content often run into slow page loads. This is bad enough for agents, negatively impacting their productivity and ability to serve customers. But when these solutions are extended outside the organization, such degraded performance leads to even bigger problems. Customers are likely to abandon self-service efforts altogether, leading to higher costs in the form of live service or, worse, churn.

Modern KM solutions were built for global enterprises, often with multi-brand, multi-region and multi-language requirements. These solutions can auto-scale to handle hundreds of thousands of articles without a degradation of performance (page loads of three seconds or less). Look for solutions using highly scalable microservices and serverless technologies with the ability to automatically scale up or down based on site traffic and resource needs for consistently high performance.

Related to scalability is availability. While availability is critical during business hours, many contact centers are not 24/7. Think about the benefits of offering customers relevant, authoritative content after hours or during outages and when disaster strikes. Modern KM solutions do just that with cloud-based architectures that leverage methodologies such as infrastructure as a code, continuous integration and delivery, automatic issue recovery, and automated testing. The outcome? Content that’s always available even when your agents aren’t.

Huge Potential to Improve CX While Reducing Costs

The reality is that virtually every contact center today is being asked to do more with less. Adding to this pressure is the increasing importance of CX. In fact, contact center leaders say their most important goal in 2020 is “improving the customer experience.”

While no single technology holds the panacea, a new generation of KM solutions is showing huge potential for improving CX while reducing costs. Now it’s up to contact centers to champion this modern application of KM based on outside-in, customer-first design. Those that do can elevate the role of the contact center to where it belongs: a hub for CX improvement and an indispensable driver for increasing customer lifetime value.

Tim Passios is VP of Marketing for MindTouch, a leading provider of knowledge management solutions.

– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline, http://www.contactcenterpipeline.com

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