The Tribal Knowledge Base – Sharing the Wisdom in Customer Service


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Contact center attrition rates are notoriously high. According to research conducted by The Quality Assurance & Training Connection (QATC), the average annual turnover rate for agents in US contact centers ranges between 30 and 45 percent, which is more than double the average for all occupations. This results not only in high costs for recruiting and training new agents – $7,500 per employee – but also the loss of knowledge when experienced staff leave. And with research indicating that contact center employees between the ages of 20 and 24 stay for only around a year and those aged 25 – 34 remain for less than three years, contact centers are finding themselves with relatively few highly experienced agents who can act as the go-to people for complex inquiries. This gap in experience and knowledge is exacerbated by rapidly rising levels of issue complexity in the Smart Home era.

The contact center is not the only work group suffering from a decline in experience and knowledge. Field service organizations in particular face the challenge of an aging workforce with 70% of those surveyed stating that they will experience knowledge loss caused by a retiring workforce over the next five to ten years. Even if management scrambles to hire new, younger workers to replace the outgoing personnel, courses can last 2–4 years and the cost of training new technicians can be up to 50% of a worker’s annual salary. The pressure is on: many of these seasoned workers built up their experience and skills before the digital age, so unless their knowledge is recorded and preserved, it could be lost forever.

The operational impact

It’s not hard to understand why a high rate of turnover can have a negative impact on contact center KPIs. The drop in productivity due to the loss of an employee and the steep learning curve of the new hire, coupled with the loss of knowledge and expertise of experienced staff, is a recipe for disaster. When it takes longer to find the right resolutions, a higher Average Handling Time (AHT) will follow. When agents have knowledge gaps, the contact center will experience a lower First Contact Resolution (FCR) rate, and a higher technician dispatch rate. When technicians do not have sufficient skills or expertise, repeat visits will be necessary. All this adds up to higher costs for the organization and a major blow to customer satisfaction.

Tapping tribal knowledge

Faced with the challenge of a “brain drain,” companies must take steps to capture and preserve the knowledge of their “tribe” before it is lost due to attrition and retirement. According to a Deloitte survey, over 80% of respondents believe that sharing knowledge is delivers a major competitive advantage and added a real client value. Traditional methods of capturing employee knowledge include:

Identifying the keepers of knowledge: determine which employees hold the tribal knowledge that must be preserved. These may be workers who have been with the organization the longest, those who are considered gurus in specific areas, or solo specialists who accomplish certain tasks. Figuring out how to get a “brain dump” from these employees and document it, before they walk out the door with this critical knowledge, is vital.

Determining key knowledge areas: important knowledge can range from minor to major information. Minor knowledge worth keeping is how to de-scale the office coffee machine or where best to source toner for the printer. Major knowledge can include diagnostic procedures, especially concerning older devices or machinery.

Building relationships: partnering experienced workers with novice staff – apprenticeships, essentially – is another way to accomplish knowledge transfer. However, keep in mind that sitting down with older employees and attempting to record their accumulated wisdom is inevitably a laborious process. Their knowledge is, by definition, unstructured and can be imprecise.

Creating a written knowledge base: setting up a repository of documents, such as formal intellectual property, informal best practices, and employee-contributed “tribal knowledge” is a good way to ensure new hires have access to important information and training materials. It’s always worth encouraging employees to contribute even if the documentation isn’t perfect – it can be improved over time.

Visualizing tribal knowledge

While traditional knowledge capture efforts are helping companies make headway in keeping their data in-house, it will take a long time and significant effort to transfer all the skills and tribal knowledge accumulated by experienced agents or field service workers. One innovative method that can hasten the process with excellent results is Visual Assistance.

It allows a customer service agent to view a customer’s issue through their smartphone camera or by sharing their screen. This enables the agent to quickly understand and diagnose the problem and visually guide the customer to a solution, without the need to escalate the issue. Likewise, field service technicians can use their smartphone cameras to easily transmit images and videos of issues to remote supervisors for immediate assistance, eliminating the need for follow-up visits.

Visual Assistance also aids collaboration, allowing an agent to prepare the technician ahead of the dispatch, providing images of the issue, making sure the technician brings the right equipment and parts, and alerting them to any access problems or potential dangers.

The key to harnessing this knowledge for future use is to build a visual tribal knowledge base containing all these images and videos.

Creating a visual tribal knowledge base

Most knowledge bases are hindered by poor usability. More than 70 percent of employees said they have difficulty finding and accessing the information they need to do their jobs effectively. Converting written information into visuals eases the data transfer and streamlines future training processes. A visual knowledge base represents a massive conceptual change, combining human input and AI-driven analysis. First, a Visual Assistance provider converts a company’s existing contact center knowledge base into a visual knowledge base. The provider takes each article and extract the visual symptoms of every device and issue described, both from customers and from field technicians. Then the Computer Vision AI model is trained, using several different approaches: synthetic visual data (gathered in the lab), existing visual resources and images supplied by customers.

Creating an effective visual tribal knowledge base is a dynamic process involving ongoing optimization. The AI-powered systems can analyze, time and measure the success of each step of every resolution, shortening and optimizing them over time.

The Benefits

When agents can access the right resolutions quickly and efficiently, the organization will benefit from a lower AHT, a higher FCR rate, and a lower technician dispatch rate. When field techs are empowered with remote Visual Assistance, repeat technician visits are avoided, lowering costs and enhancing customer satisfaction. When deployed properly, a cross-organizational visual platform drives knowledge sharing across enterprise service channels, including contact centers, field services and self-service digital channels, leading to a holistic approach to knowledge that guarantees success.


The most experienced personnel in any company possess vast amounts of critical knowledge, but in many cases, this information isn’t recorded, making it difficult to train new workers and define best practices. Visual Assistance – and the associated visual tribal knowledge base – provide an effective solution, enabling analysis of workflows, seamless communication and the identification – and optimization – of best practices in both contact centers and field services.

This article was first published on the TechSee blog.

Andrew Mort
With extensive experience of writing compelling B2B and B2C copy, including press releases, thought leadership articles and marketing content, as well as a track record of originating, selling and producing factual TV series for all the major UK broadcasters, I'm a proven creative with top-level writing, editing and proofreading skills.


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