Category Archives: Knowledge Management
Access to organizational knowledge is important for any organization. In the financial services space, it’s a sound investment practice as well.
Take 3i Group, one of the world’s leading investment firms focused in private equity, infrastructure and debt management. Based in London, 3i has over $15 billion in total assets (around £1.5 billion) through 101 portfolio companies across Europe, Asia and the Americas. Read more and comment…
In order to work efficiently and effectively, it is vital that customer-facing employees and executives have access to the right information—contextually relevant information—at the right time. If not, the inability to engage at the right levels could be the difference between finding new revenue streams and the loss of customer loyalty and brand reputation. This is because true customer engagement focuses on an organization’s ability to understand, adapt and respond to customer needs in a completely agile, real-time fashion.
However, during a recent survey of customer service and support executives, we learned that just 13 percent of those surveyed believe employees can effectively tap into the collective knowledge of their organizations.
• 79 percent said they can only sometimes or almost never get the information they need to make informed business decisions quickly
• 51 percent said they themselves can only “sometimes” get at the information
• 28 percent noted they can “almost never” get the necessary details
• Eight percent said they could not get at the information at all
The survey data clearly demonstrates that organizations continue to struggle with the fragmentation of information at several levels—preventing executives, employees and customers alike, from making timely, informed decisions. Forward thinking companies must seek advanced alternatives to providing an interactive, real-time, one-to-one, end-to-end customer experience. When engaging with customers they must provide insight and knowledge—which is contextually relevant to that customer.
When asked how employees go about resolving customer issues with limited information resources, 73 percent of the survey respondents said their employees rely on a mix of personal networks and systems the company gives them to get their jobs done, while 13 percent said employees rely mainly on their own networks.
This alternative method for information gathering is extremely counterproductive, as employees spend inordinate amounts of time routing through mounds of irrelevant information and often come up short-handed or worse, with inaccurate information. Often, they end up “recreating the wheel.” Furthermore in some industries, this “workaround” practice has greater consequences as it breaks a slew of regulatory requirements.
In order to access the knowledge you need, embrace the new paradigm of leaving information where it resides naturally, and instantly assembling consolidated information that is contextually relevant and personalized—at that point in time—to the user. We call this engaging knowledge to engage customers, and it helps executives, employees and customers gain the insight they need to facilitate decision making, improve day-to-day efficiencies and operations and cultivate one-to-one customer relationships.
The survey results listed above are only some in a series of informative research published by Coveo. Read our new eBook for more insights and check back frequently for our latest statistics and surveys.
Last week during a webinar discussion with Michael Maoz of Gartner, Leo Annab from CA Technologies and our CEO, Louis Tetu, I asked where each would recommend that a leader get started on the road to customer centricity. Not surprisingly, the answers were a fitting end to a wide-ranging, intellectually stimulating discussion about:
• The nature of knowledge and Insight, applied to customer centricity
• How CA Technologies has evolved its approach to managing and accessing information to place customers at the center of operations
• How Gartner sees the relationship between customer service, marketing and product development, which again is centered in knowledge and information
Michael recommended that a great place to start with Customer Centricity is “from the outside in,” with an online forum for customers, where they would show “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Here, according to Michael, companies can learn where they do well, where they need to improve and what is most important to their customers, enabling them to prioritize programs for their customers.
Indeed, early in the discussion, Louis noted that being customer centric is about being centered around listening, responding to and solving customer issues rather than pushing and telling customers about the company’s products and services—aka, a product centric-approach. It is a distinct shift in the way organizations do business—and even use things like social channels. For example, for brands, Twitter should no longer be about telling your followers about the latest product news or company awards; it should be about asking followers for what they want to see from your products and solutions and how you can make them more efficient, effective, etc.
Leo recommended that leaders “embrace chaos and work your policies around information for crowd-sourcing,” noting that many corporate policies can obstruct the free flow of information. Louis echoed Leo’s comments and added that “this is the new reality,” that companies can no longer afford to view every customer as the same. “Every situation has a different context,” he said. Leaders should “embrace chaos, and enable Insight.”
What do you think—is your organization capable of “embracing chaos” to become customer centric? How do you go about about moving from a product-centric environment to a customer-centric one?
Considering that knowledge is ostensibly the most valuable asset of an organization—hence the term “knowledge capital”—it is not only interesting but perhaps essential to consider if knowledge can be engineered. If we can engineer knowledge—which would equate to better Insight, as Insight is the ability to gain knowledge to take action—we would in effect increase the efficiency and effectiveness of operations in, say, Engineering.
In Engineering departments particularly, knowledge is king, and yet information is in multiple, siloed systems and engineers and others are often unable to leverage it. Many organizations tend to confuse knowledge with information. Whereas information is just the combination of the data residing in a vast array of systems and sources, knowledge is the human capacity to take action facing a complex situation; for example, building a better product.
In Engineering, we have siloed information, which is not turned into knowledge through human interaction because in fact the engineers cannot access it in a way that makes sense—which requires consolidation, conversion and correlation. Moreover, with the growing wave of baby-boomer retirees, knowledge within SMEs cannot be tapped by others in the organization, creating the potential for it to be lost completely.
Now, consider even more departments within engineering, for complex products, say a health-related product or sophisticated electronics. The problem expands.
We have yet to consider the next level of information siloization—in departments outside of Engineering, which house information key to the development process—Customer Service and Sales (customer comments on existing products and marketplace demand).
The symptoms of “Insight Deficit” within Engineering include:
- • New employees are not aware of work conducted prior to their arrival, and often redo work that has been done before.
- • Senior technicians and scientists are highly inefficient as they are unable to use even pieces of tests which had been previously conducted.
- • Product quality may suffer due to the lack of root cause analysis—understanding every piece of every product and where it came from, what the materials are composed of, how it works with other materials and parts.
- • Knowledge is “tribal” —in sub-departments, cliques of employees, etc.
- • Highly paid employees create and re-create single-use documents.
Ultimately, these symptoms combine to make it difficult for the company as a whole to go to market quickly with innovative products that include input from customers as well as those who are not yet customers. Products lack differentiation, and the threat of commoditization becomes more real.
The opposite of Insight Deficit is Insightfull operations. Engineers can easily view information mashups from a Unified Indexing Platform, which securely pulls always-updated information from all of these siloed systems, including individual desktop information, enterprise systems, departmental systems, even social media where customers are commenting.
- • Reduce time to market;
- • Increase R&D productivity;
- • Increase development of innovative and differentiated products;
- • Leverage IP for competitive advantage; and
- • Increase flexibility to support different/changing business needs.
In effect, the Engineering department becomes able to capture, convert and deliver data and information for useful technical insight. They continually build and share knowledge to increase R&D competitive differentiation using innovation to combat commoditization and increasing profitability.
How does your company “engineer knowledge”?
It’s no secret that data is growing in size and complexity; even more importantly, the vast majority of this data is unstructured, making it difficult to categorize, understand and manipulate. It cannot be housed in traditional databases and it cannot be understood as a whole. This information is siloed, by systems, departments, geographies, and type. And now more than ever, valuable data that could impact business decisions resides in a vast network of social media channels and enterprises are struggling with a way to harness its power.
Just last week, Gartner issued its top IT trends citing that data will grow by 800 percent in five years, with 80 percent of it unstructured. Part of that is the trend they are calling “the collective,” which includes data from groups and communities and social networks outside the business.
All of this has left companies with an inability to gain a complete view or insight into their business – the people, projects, processes and customers that are at the heart of an organization – and its success.
We call this the insight deficit. And today, we have announced a new solution to help eliminate it.
Coveo 7.0 with Multi-Channel Text Analytics is the first solution to apply text analytics across an index of vast amounts of data concurrently in enterprise systems and social channels. Users can discover information relationships across diverse data sources, behind the firewall and in social channels, to better serve customers, increase product innovation and quality and support decisions made across the enterprise. Users can discover relationships, search and analyze information across billions of pieces of information from diverse data sources, both unstructured and structured.
We focused significant resources and innovation into developing capabilities within Coveo 7.0 to address not only traditional sources such as email and databases, but also social channels like Twitter and chat and calls.
For example, Coveo 7.0 now includes a connector for Twitter, allowing companies to consolidate customer feedback with product and brand information from the social channel with other enterprise information to identify issues and trends and proactively take steps to resolve them.
As a result, businesses are enabled to drive more consistent and satisfying customer experiences across all channels by uncovering the actionable insight that lives in their data.
So now, we make it even easier for you to get at the data and intelligence you need, wherever it resides. If only eliminating federal deficits were this easy.
As a rule of thumb in customer service, financial models show that any ticket not resolved quickly – due to lack of insight – will see its cost roughly triple. When you factor in research time to gain insight, contact and context re-establishment time, having to bring other people into the mix to resolve a problem, escalation time, time wasted when an agent is interrupted by another agent looking for advice on yet another ticket, and more, you’ve got quite an inefficient, costly problem on your hands.
Worse – from the customer experience perspective – because of queues introduced in the process, case resolution time can easily increase 10x. For those of you who are familiar with manufacturing and Kanban principles, this is a very similar topology of problem. Every time a ticket is unresolved it introduces WIP and delays, driving the whole cycle-time up significantly.
So when we do the math at a high level, this 20% of more complex calls often consumes more than 60% of the total customer service budget, because these tickets take much longer, require much greater knowledge aggregation and correlation, and can involve more people. Moreover these 20% more complex tickets are the ones driving the average case resolution time metrics up by a factor.
Even worse is these tickets are the source of 80% of customer dissatisfaction and ultimately client defection. Customers don’t leave after a password reset call; but they are more likely to leave after a sequence of calls during which the agent is grasping at straws to solve the issue at hand. Trust is further negatively impacted if the client has more information than the agent, gleaned from social media and communities.
So at a time when companies are faced with reduced budgets and shortages of staff to maintain a reasonable margin, while at the same time challenged to improve the customer experience, targeting where 60% of the budget is spent, combined with where most customer dissatisfaction arises, seems to me like THE critical place to focus. Thus injecting greater insight into the process of solving these complex issues faster allows for increased capacity which results in higher margins—and also drives higher customer satisfaction. Because this can mean big money, it should be viewed as the single most important initiative within a customer service environment.
Knowledge is everywhere… and yes it means also beyond the knowledge base
While knowledge management in its traditional form – often KBs along with the required access – is clearly a means of delivering the insight required to resolve the most common customer issues, companies focused on the greater strategy of delivering real-time Knowledge Insight into the much broader knowledge ecosystem will win by enabling a more comprehensive strategy. The focus is on optimizing the customer experience vs. on knowledge standardization.
This much more strategic focus for customer service organizations encompasses knowledge management, but also looks beyond that and into the broader knowledge ecosystem, including people’s cumulative know-how, and even reaches out to knowledge within customer communities and other social content sources. For customer service executives, this goal is also much simpler to understand for everybody in the organisation: enabling the service infrastructure to efficiently deliver the right knowledge to help customers and agents understand and resolve each and every issue, every time, quickly and accurately.
We like to distinguish between what we call “process-centric tickets” vs. “knowledge-centric tickets” in customer service.
In the first case, insight is gained from a curated knowledge base by an agent or ideally self-service by the customer. In the latter knowledge-centric ticket case, the best practice is to gather insight by distilling relevant information from various silos, by identifying and consulting key experts, and by correlating and analyzing information efficiently and in real-time.
So where is the knowledge needed to gain that kind of insight? Within the KB for sure. But also everywhere else: within documents, engineering records, CRM and help desk systems, telephony, emails and client communications, ticket histories, and even in cloud-based customer communities, blogs and other social content sources. Then what about information known from other agents’ experiences and how do you go about identifying the experts?
Bottom line: the knowledge required to gain insight is everywhere. It is a knowledge ecosystem which needs to be enabled and tapped into, not just another data silo curated by a pocket of people. Tapping into this disparate, siloed ecosystem with the right tools can save millions while enhancing customer service.
What are your strategies for helping agents and customers gain insight?
…but customer service economics suggest that it might not be the most important one.
In my last blog post on this topic, I went back to some fundamentals that drive a positive customer service experience: customers and agents are seeking efficient real-time insight into the right knowledge to understand and resolve every customer issue, every time. I made a distinction between knowledge management (the programmatic response from the company’s viewpoint, often narrowed down to a knowledge base), and knowledge insight (the ultimate need from the customer’s view point).
But what is the role of the curated content – within the knowledge base – within the customer service knowledge ecosystem?
For most organizations, a good customer service strategy can handle the 80% of issues which are known, in a cost effective way. Repetitive, relevant knowledge can be curated within a knowledge base which helps capture what customers are frequently asking for and the best course of action. For example, I need to reset my password, how do I activate this option?, my product won’t do xyz basic function, etc. Curating that content can be an effective portion of the overall knowledge management strategy. While many companies tend to centralize that responsibility within a KM group, in the best contact centers Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) principles mobilize the entire service staff to help maintain that content dynamically. This is a better approach in my view.
So let’s start out by saying yes, there is a place for curated knowledge within customer service, to help resolve simple repetitive things. So why not just rely on that knowledge base as the focal point for agents?
First, what many fail to see is that this kind of content is also a prime candidate for self-service. If an entry-level agent can gain insight and resolve a customer issue by searching and reading from a knowledge base, then so can many smart customers from a well-designed, relevant, and interactive customer self-service website. The cheapest call is the one you deflect, and the good news is that customers actually prefer that self-service experience too, if it is well designed.
Companies providing their customers with relevant self-service insight into issues, products, relevant documents and solutions, ultimately win by deflecting calls. Hence that self-service insight should be the most important goal of a knowledge base, from an economics perspective, as it can deflect calls significantly while augmenting customer satisfaction. Not always the case. Often times KBs are rather inward focused and looked upon as the panacea for agents. That is one piece of the equation.
Secondly, not every business can predict every customer issue and curate the necessary knowledge into a standard knowledge base. Then what about the remaining 20% of the more complex tickets which require more insight beyond the curated knowledge base content and which are often escalated to more senior level 2 or even level 3 agents? Because those represent a minority of the overall tickets in volume, many companies have not intuitively focused their infrastructure design attention around those types of issues—even though they are the most costly. Alternatively, they rely on key experts within the customer service department and hope these experts stick around.
Knowledge insight means big money in customer service. Financial models show that any ticket that’s not resolved quickly – due to a lack of insight – will see its cost roughly triple. I’ll explore the economics of knowledge insight and how to make sense of the growing customer service knowledge ecosystem in my next blog post.
Today’s consumers, whether B2B or B2C, are much more informed than ever before about the products and services they are buying. This newly found awareness based on product information, industry and peer reviews, and multiple social channels, has given consumers this sense of trust that if others “like me” purchased or bought this product, and they thought it was great, then it must be great for me as well. The impact of this is that it has set the consumer expectation at a very high level.
Most companies have not adapted to the socialization of their products and services with respect to how to conduct the full scope of business. Sales and marketing love it – they can get their name and product out to millions and millions of people, however on the reverse side of the business, the support and services group have to deal with the high expectations of customers, which has been created in part, by its own sales and marketing departments.
Thus the gap has been created.
Customer service is a complex process. To do it well, there needs to be a complete synchronization between the systems of record, people, processes, products and partnerships. However, in most corporate environments today, these attributes reside in either IT silos or departmental silos inaccessible by the organization as a whole to deliver that seamless level of service.
A good example of this is the financial services industry. They sell standard banking services, mortgages, credit cards, life insurance and other services, but each one of these products are a distinct business unit with their own systems of record, so it is no wonder that each one of them markets to you as if their product is the only one you might have purchased from them. Each system only knows what is going on in their space – customers are becoming rebellious to this type of corporate attitude.
A second challenge I see today is that there used to be a “time to quality,” meaning if I saw a product and it was a new design or a 1.0 release of software, I had an expectation that there may be some early glitches that would be worked out over time. I was willing to put up with these bugs in order to be an early adopter. Today I don’t believe that to be true. The consumer expectation is that if you are selling something, it better be perfect and it better be fully-supported from the onset, or else “I am going to be unhappy.”
On the flip side of this equation, I also believe that companies have not listened to their customers, and have not adapted their practices to meet some of the changing demands of their customers. Companies have not embraced the fact that their customers are more educated and know more about their products and services. Company and product transparency is a given due to the Internet. Look at the plethora of information available to your customers – blog posts, customer reviews, press reviews, online communities, and much more. Often, customers know more about the products and services they are purchasing than the customer service rep! You cannot hide from it.
Do I blame companies for being in this state where they are not able to adapt to their customers’ changing expectations? No. For the most part, over the past three decades, companies have purchased siloed products that capture everything an organization needs to know about their customers, their preferences, expectations, and more. The problem is, many of these systems don’t talk to each other, and so the proliferation of “systems of record” have clogged the companies’ ability to react and see their customers as a single entity.
If the customer has transparency – and insight – into your company and your products, don’t you think it would be good for you as a company to have the same level of insight into your customers? For example, what products your customers have purchased, how they use them, where they use them, upsell opportunities, and more. Laggard companies use the excuse that their IT organizations can’t keep up with the changing demands. While that is likely true, if companies continue with the traditional way of physically integrating siloed systems, they will continue to fail to gain better customer transparency and insight.
Forward-looking companies realize that customer insight comes from the ability to see your customer from different perspectives in what I call a single version of the truth. This single version of the truth comes from aggregating and consolidating data collected from all these siloed systems into a unified set of data without moving the physical data. Sounds too good to be true, I know, but the combination of Enterprise Search 2.0, knowledge management and customer experience management, can deliver on this view.
When the company and customer have a balanced transparency of each other, tremendous value is generated in the people, products, process and most importantly, the relationships, between them all. Until companies take the initiative to unify their view, and provide insight into their customers and customer service operations, there will always be an imbalance and the debate will go on.
The word social has taken on so many meanings in the past few years that the word itself can create confusion. Try tying it to the value to be created and you’ve added more confusion. Let’s define it by its basic elements:
- Social = the wisdom of crowds
- Social is about trust, trusted sources, verified sources
- Social is about finding the people who know what you need to know
- Social is about what people think
Consumers use social content for all kinds of activities, from shopping decisions to where invest. It all starts with an Internet search – but generally only to locate a site that has consolidated the information they need – such as a Yahoo:Finance site. There they would enter a stock ticker symbol or name, and view the resulting 360-view of, for example, GE, as a possible investment. They would see stock price, price history over time, key ratios and statistics, news and related blogs, similar stocks they may want to invest in, analysts covering GE, and more. They can navigate through this view, and dive into any of the related materials. Same for online shopping, even for looking up a friend on Facebook, where they would see their friend, recent activities, their friend’s friends, groups, news, and more. Consumers expect this immediate, concise, 360 degree view of information that’s important to them – all within seconds.
And yet, when these same individuals go to a company’s corporate website to find out what’s going on with their recent product challenge, they often are faced with either a single search box which might bring back a list of related information or documents that they would need to read through to find their answer, or having to pick up the phone to call, or, if they have an initial issue to register, adding that to a not-very-user-friendly interface, and just receiving confirmation that it was received. No wonder they will often search the Internet and social media channels, to see if anyone else has faced their issue, and find out how to solve it, quickly, if possible. What happens when they find some answers on the Internet, then need some further clarification and call your contact center? They may be better armed with information than the agent they speak with possesses. If that’s the case, they will lose respect and trust for the agent, as well as for your company overall.
That’s social. And, it has important implications for your contact center, your company’s brand, and your company’s revenue, as the consumerization of corporate purchasing and technology continues.
So what can be done about it? There are technologies available for inside the enterprise that create similar types of interactive “views,” or dashboards containing information mashups, for your customers, agents, managers/executives – really for any constituency. Thankfully for IT, this doesn’t require a rip and replace strategy, rather it involves optimizing the systems and information that you already have within and access external to your organization.
Coveo’s Enterprise Search 2.0 Platform powers these solutions, and by power we mean stitch together the information by pulling data and knowledge from virtually any system into a central, unified index. This contains both structured and unstructured information. In effect, it is using the knowledge of everyone who creates content or interacts with it. From the central index, 360 views of the information important to a certain constituency, such as customers, or agents, are configured, providing near real-time access to the most recent information, in a format which is easy to understand, and interactive, meaning the user can explore the information, interact with it, and follow it. The user can even find experts they can reach out to for help. It’s like navigating to different sites on the Internet, and yet all the information that is returned to you is contextually relevant, timely, and helps the user conduct the task he or she is attempting to accomplish, whether that is solving an issue for a customer, or looking at customer base trends. It’s what your employees and your customers have come to expect in the enterprise and from their vendors, based on their consumer experiences on the public web.
This information doesn’t actually move from the system in which it resides; it stays there. So the central index includes information from online social communities, where customers may be talking about a certain product, or reacting to a new product; to a CRM system, knowledgebase, financial systems, cloud-based systems and those inside the firewall as well. This is crowdsourcing at its best, leveraging the collective knowledge that has been created, and also identifying the creator for additional knowledge sharing. Looking at customer trends, product trends, etc., provides the type of analytics that can move companies forward. Knowing more than what the customer knows when he or she calls your contact center can move customer relationships to the next level, and ensure continued goodwill which will result in a better brand and additional revenue in the future.
Interested in discussing this further? Please join Coveo on Thursday, June 9th at 12:00 pm ET, and our guest Paul Greenberg, the “godfather of CRM” and best-selling author, as we discuss what social means to B2B customer service and how the best performing companies are incorporating these channels into 360 views of customer information. You can register for this free webinar here.
Where does knowledge really reside in your organization?
If managing knowledge was an easy problem to solve, it would have been solved years ago. Today, however, in this age of information, organizations continue to struggle with the notion of knowledge.
Here’s the knowledge challenge: it is not really about the creation of knowledge, but about where to put it and how to access it once you have housed it somewhere.
To date, the theory of knowledge management has been around identifying the knowledge, categorizing it so we know what it is, storing it somewhere, and having a process to retrieve it again. It all sounds simple, so why has it not been done?
Here are five key reasons why this challenge exists:
Reason #1: Not all information is used or understood by everyone – therefore how can it be accurately categorized?
Reason #2: Only certain people can create the knowledge; therefore, only those people can maintain it.
Reason #3: If the physical format of the information varies within a single organization, then it definitely does when collecting information externally.
Reason #4: Not all creators of knowledge are English or Journalism majors. This means content may vary significantly.
Reason #5: The effort to manage knowledge often outweighs the value, due primarily to the four reasons above.
Knowledge is very important to an organization, and so is finding a way to leverage this knowledge across your ecosystem. Here then, I would like to present five key mechanisms for leveraging this knowledge while returning significant ROI:
Revelation #1: Keep the knowledge close to its owners so they know where it is when they have to create or modify it. If additional processes or procedures are put on top of the creation and modification loop, it will significantly reduce the production and value of that information.
Revelation #2: Having multiple repositories that support and leverage the format of the information is vital for easy storage and retrieval.
Revelation #3: Let the knowledge itself determine for whom it is valuable. Don’t preset the categories that will surely miss candidates who could use this knowledge but did realize the information existed.
Revelation #4: Educate your staff on the value of creating knowledge and sharing it, especially when it is easy to do without overhead.
Revelation #5: Rank the information you use on a daily basis so that your organization can see what information is being used and what information is valuable.
So how can this all come together easily? There are significant benefits to having a unified view of all your disparate data from one focal point without having to move it. It allows you to create methodologies that apply to all your knowledge without having to modify or change the existing systems, and it becomes a behavioral change versus a physical change, which can be very expensive.
Another benefit is that because the information and data is staying close to the owners and within the originating systems, there tends to be more ownership/pride of the content versus shipping it off to another system that has all kinds of rules and regulations on who can and how to access the information. The third main benefit of a unified 360-degree view of your information is you can really see how your information is used, what is really important, and where you might have gaps in your knowledge or accessibility to knowledge.