Managing knowledge is key to creating happy customers
We all grew up learning knowledge is power. That’s true. Knowledge is at the very center of everything we do for our clients and is the engine driving all of our business processes, allowing us to maximize our value to our clients.
By “knowledge,” we’re not describing our business acumen or clever strategies behind our approach. At the center of our business processes is a literal storehouse of knowledge that’s constantly being updated and refined. It contains details of how our clients and their products and services function and what needs to happen when they don’t.
We don’t consider ourselves to be what many call “knowledge workers” because we don’t actually create knowledge. Instead, we document the knowledge other people and organizations have developed, and deliver that knowledge as their customers need it. By amassing and sharing knowledge, we help our clients and their highly skilled teams focus on what creates the greatest value for their time, by handling issues that would otherwise compete for their attention.
Take a technology startup that manufactures a device. In the company’s early stages, support calls for the device tend to be referred to the engineering team. Those calls interrupt the work performed by members of the team, who find themselves addressing the same issues again and again. Not only does that frustrate the engineers and reduce their productivity, but few engineers have been trained to be effective at delivering support.
When that startup outsources support to us, our team first works with the engineers to build a base of knowledge. For example, we learn how a particular device works and what steps to take when it doesn’t. We compile that knowledge into a series of articles our support agents reference when they receive a call or text for support. That allows them to resolve the vast majority of support requests. The few calls involving issues beyond the knowledge we’ve developed are turned over to the startup’s team for resolution. That way, instead of being bombarded by an endless stream of the same simple problems, the startup’s engineers can focus on their regular work and step in only for extraordinary circumstances.
Just as important, the expertise of our customer service agents ensures a positive impression for the caller. They don’t realize their calls have been outsourced. They simply assume the company that made their device solved their problem quickly and in a friendly manner.
Our knowledge base contains thousands upon thousands of articles, each written to identify issues using the words and phrases callers are likely to mention. Articles are linked and cross-referenced so our agents can quickly access the right information. We began building that base decades ago and it grows every year.
The accuracy of the knowledge base is crucial. That’s particularly true for some of our government agency clients, whose actions are dictated by legislation. Often, the laws prescribing their role are complex and difficult for non-lawyers to grasp. In some cases, both federal and state laws influence how they handle situations. Our team works closely with them to ensure our responses to callers address their issues and stay within legal bounds. As new issues crop up, we work with the agency staff to bolster our knowledge base so we can answer the question the next time it’s asked.
Additionally, our agents use what they learn from handling calls to refine the knowledge base. A caller may describe a familiar problem in a whole new way, and that description will likely be added to the knowledge base so other agents are prepared if future callers use the same phrase. We see exceptions to normal calls as an opportunity to expand our knowledge base.
It’s important to clarify that our team doesn’t make business decisions for our clients. The dictionary defines decisions as conclusions or resolutions reached after consideration, requiring multiple points of input and subjectivity on the part of the decision-maker. Instead, our agents process a series of answers to binary questions that involve zero consideration or subjectivity. Our clients define the logical and correct responses to specific situations, and by capturing and sharing that knowledge, our team successfully addresses the vast majority of customer needs.
Knowledge is indeed powerful, but only if that knowledge finds its way to those who need it at a particular moment. By assembling an easily accessible knowledge base and working constantly to refine it, our team takes what our clients know and uses it to enhance their reputations by providing exactly what their customers need to know at that moment.
Jeff Medley is the CEO and founder of Netfor, https://www.netfor.com/