A great customer service quote from Shep Hyken states that, “the internal customer experience determines the external customer experience.” And while there are many facets of the internal customer experience that affect the external customer experience, one of the most basic yet impactful on both sides is the availability of knowledge.
Customer Expectations for Knowledge
According to the 2014 American Express Customer Service Barometer, 99% of consumers surveyed said that getting a satisfactory answer or being connected to someone knowledgeable (98%) are the important prerequisites to great customer experiences. Once these prerequisites are met, those surveyed said that personalization (89%) and appreciation (80%) are keys to excellent customer service experiences.
All of the above require knowledge on the customer service agent’s (internal customer’s) part, whether its product or service related or contextual knowledge which gives the agent the information they need to both personalize the customer experience and thank the customer (for X years of loyalty, the recent feedback, the purchase of a new product, etc.).
Are Employees Getting the Knowledge They Need?
In her April 2015 research note, How to Get Your Customer Service Employees to Care About the Customer, Gartner Research Director Olive Huang lists five characteristics of motivated customer service employees. At the top of the five is “information aware,” defined as being in possession of not only the correct knowledge to address a customer’s issue, but also knowing the customer’s context at the time of contact.
The benefits of customer service agents (and all employees for that matter) being information aware are many but include reduced training time, reduced churn, reduced time to contribution, reduced average handling times and increased engagement – and on the external customer side, increased first contact resolution and satisfaction.
But are most brands and organizations empowering information-aware employees? If you look at stats from several noted analysts versed in knowledge management for customer service, the answer is no.
According to research from ThinkJar Principal and Founder, Esteban Kolsky, 20% of a service agent’s time each day is spent searching for information. In a recent white paper, Kolsky notes, “when agents have the right access to the right information, they will more happily answer the interactions fast and effectively; happy employees don’t churn.”
The State of Knowledge Management 2014 report from John Ragsdale, the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) and Coveo also paints a disappointing picture. When it comes to providing knowledge to internal and external customers, the report based on a previous survey said that only 35% of the companies responding regularly update content on a daily or weekly basis, and 27% admit “we have not updated our content for a very long time.” Only 36% of those surveyed said have a proactive process to identify content gaps, while 35% say they have no tools or processes to find the same.
Additionally, when asked if they used the same technology platform for both employee and customer-facing knowledge systems, the greatest majority, 32%, said they use totally separate technologies and management teams, meaning agents are seeing one answer, while the customer is seeing another, or either or both are seeing none.
The survey also asked, “If your organization was sharing knowledge as well as they possibly could, how much would it improve the productivity of your team?” Forty (40%) said that doing knowledge management well could increase employee productivity by 20-30%, and a third of respondents said that KM had the potential of a 30-50%+ improvement.
Imagine how that could impact external customers.
To engage customers, brands and organizations must empower their employees. The best first step is giving them the information they need.