The value of Knowledge and Information management in the Contact Centre

Text: Ingmar Dobbelaar − Change Manager at The Customer Contact Doctor

Knowledge management and information management make an important contribution to the improvement of the hard Key performance indicators (kpi’s) of the contact centre, like an average decrease of the conversation duration and the increase of client interactions that are dealt with in one time. How can you make sure that knowledge management is organisationally well embedded? An introduction in success factors for knowledge management in the contact centre.
What is knowledge and information management?
The most important difference between knowledge and information, is that knowledge is structured and goal-oriented information. In a contact centre information is an article in a knowledge bank where it is stated how a certain client question may be solved. Characteristic of such information is that it often also contains information that is not relevant for this specific client question. This information is often linear, meaning that the contact centre agent needs to search the information to find the part that is useful for him. From the moment that information becomes goal-oriented and structured, it becomes knowledge. During the process of solving the client’s question the agents has all the information needed to continue to the next step. Aspects like strategy, processes, systems, people and divisions are part of the knowledge. Examples are:
• Which requests of which clients do we deal with under which conditions and how fast do we settle this request (strategy)?
• How do we identify the client and do we authorize the request (processes)?
• Which client information do we minimally need at which moment (systems)?
• Who can best deal with this request (people)?
• Which extra information does the second line need in order to handle the request adequately (divisions)?

Even though knowledge and information overlap, a distinction between different methodologies can be made. The chart below shows to which field a certain methodology belongs in the main:

Knowledge management Information management
Business Rules Engines  Frequently Asked Questions
Decision trees/charts       Best practices
Case Based Reasoning   Intranet/search engine

In certain cases information management can be sufficient to gain results. Information management often is a precursor of knowledge management.

What do knowledge and information management yield?
In a contact centre the proceeds of knowledge management are  layered. Literature shows averages in regard to the hard kpi’s. These are:
Average conversation duration  – 30%
First contact solution   + 24%
Transferring 1st to 2nd line  – 30%
Educational and training costs  – 80%
Prevented contacts   + 16%

Knowledge management also makes a positive contribution to softer kpi’s like client satisfaction, employee satisfaction, turnover of contact centre personnel, up & cross-selling, client feedback, marketing actions and fault costs.
Because of the fact that knowledge is applied rather more in the chain and that it contains all relevant information from the entire organisation, it is possible to work better and faster (operational excellence). An adequate and fast, correct answer to a client question increases client satisfaction and the loyalty of clients. Satisfied and loyal clients are also more receptive to extra promotions, as a result of which the average turnover and profit per client increases.

How are knowledge and information management implemented?
Knowledge and information management are not just a matter of tooling, but also of security in the organisation. This asks for management sponsorship as well as setting up a knowledge management process and appointing knowledge management officials.
Knowledge transcends divisions and is often regarded as power. Knowledge management leads to internal friction in the starting phase. Higher management therefore needs to put this initiative on the agenda, in order to point to the importance for the organisation and to iron out bottlenecks. Apart from resistance by people there are often also contradictions in procedures, rules and work methods can often also be found. In some cases higher management needs to cut the knot.
Knowledge management has users and knowledge suppliers (experts). These experts are often designated as knowledge keepers. Experience learns us that this last function can better be designated separately. The knowledge keeper is preferably not a knowledge expert. This way the official can dedicate himself to his two most important functions: continually questioning the experts to keep the knowledge up-to-date and keep questioning them so that all possibilities and exceptions are found.
It is better to start with a small knowledge area and fully map it out, than starting too broad. Knowledge about the defined area is then usable for employees, which stimulates the acceptance and use of knowledge management.
Feedback loop
Users play an important role in the feedback loop. They point out to the knowledge keeper where the knowledge is not correct or incomplete. The knowledge keeper then presents the comments to the experts. In a contact centre it is important to look one step further: why does the client make this request? With root cause analyses one does not only look at which request the client has made, but also why. By taking this knowledge into the feedback loop, the cause of undesired client contact can be eliminated (for instance an unclear formulation in a standard letter).
With regard to tooling it is often shown that the extracting of knowledge from an organisation is possible, but the route often runs down after a while because of a lack of maintaining knowledge. Bad maintained knowledge is not used anymore and leads to even worse knowledge. The mistakes are not noticed because the knowledge is not used anymore.

Maintenance of knowledge
The possibility to maintain knowledge is immediately one of the most important requirements of tooling. The most important criteria that can be taken into consideration are:
• fastness with which alterations can be carried out and distributed;
• user-friendliness for end users;
• transparency of the saved knowledge on behalf of validation (the knowledge owner is no expert with regard to tooling);
• multi channel possibilities − ideal is to save all knowledge only once. This knowledge then needs to be used as well in the contact centre as for instance on the website on behalf of self-service.