A Knowledge Base That Works for Customers and Agents
Broken down to its fundamentals, customer service is about speed and accuracy. Consumers expect first-contact issue resolution in a reasonable timeframe. When that happens, customers tend to be happy. When it happens repeatedly, loyalty increases as users become accustomed to service experiences in which their issues are resolved in an efficient, expeditious manner by engaging agents who listen to the voice of the customer.
Given a choice, customers would prefer to reach a live agent. At the same time, there is a growing demand for self-help tools, a change in sentiment that cannot be ignored. Striking a balance between those two customer care methods is the challenge that will be explored here.
Have a Goal
Before going down this road, be clear about the problem for which you are solving. One assumption is that self-service automatically means faster issue resolution, but that’s not necessarily true. While DIY means never being on hold or in a queue or being transferred among agents, it also does not guarantee that the customer can implement a solution more quickly or more accurately than an agent, nor is it certain the correct information will be found. In fact, the search feature of self-help libraries is often a source of frustration for users. Helping people to find the right information means knowing the type of information they are likely to need.
Creating a helpful self-service portal is a good exercise in learning how well an organization knows its customers:
A catalog of user personas is something most organizations already have, but they are usually deployed for conversion, not retention. But it’s what happens after the sale that determines customer satisfaction. After all the work and expense put into acquiring customers, you don’t want to lose them over a poorly conceived customer self-service portal.
Have a Plan
Building a vast knowledge base of reference materials, how-to guides, tutorials, and maybe even videos is both time- and labor-intensive. Also, these tools must be considered living organisms requiring ongoing care and feeding. While some information in the library will never change, creating a measure of consistency, there is always new information to consider – fresh FAQs will be added, new product lines will have to be accounted for, and the technology behind it all will need updates. Determining if the results are worth the effort can be challenging, though this article provides a checklist of factors to consider in determining ROI.
Self-service does not entirely discount the live agent. Imagine using an airport kiosk or self-check lane in the grocery store. There is usually a human being nearby for those just-in-case moments that seem to happen when they are least convenient. But that’s the point of customer service to begin with – turning those episodes of frustration and even distress into memorable moments. Suppose the self-help approach is not leading to resolution. In that case, an agent is just a click away, and service teams can give customers links to references and other library materials for future use.
While self-service is typically viewed from the customer side, it also has implications for agents. Queues are less crowded, and support teams have the time and flexibility to work on higher-level issues or escalations. As technology becomes more complex, so do customers’ support issues. A good knowledge base serves operational efficiency by eliminating hold time and handle time entirely for simple things like resetting a password or checking on order status. The DIY application, in this case, benefits the overall user experience – the customer is self-satisfied by resolving an issue independently and has a positive view of the brand that made it possible.
A self-service portal can also be a data generation tool since access will likely be password-protected. This is traffic worth analyzing; tracking individual users’ activity within the knowledge base means knowing which tools are most/least valuable, what issues are most resolved this way, what content produces higher engagement rates, and what emerging problems have to be addressed.
Also, take advantage of your audience’s interest – solicit user feedback by asking if the content was helpful, and have a place where customers can ask questions. These are easy ways of gathering consumer sentiment and learning where content needs to be beefed up or material is missing. Done well, a knowledge base helps to educate your customers while empowering them, two things that help build user loyalty.