“What’s in your customer support stack?” If you ask a customer support leader this question there will be many obvious categories of products they might use: their ticketing solution, tools to build a customer-facing help center, shared inbox for social media support, messaging apps, and a variety of handy tools to help optimize an individual agent’s productivity and workflow. However, one crucial technology category is often overlooked: an internal, agent-facing customer support knowledge base. This is where all of your key support team knowledge is stored: troubleshooting guides, product FAQ’s, how-to guides, and API details to name a few.
I know what you’re thinking: “My team already uses google docs, dropbox, and an internal wiki, isn’t that a sufficient agent-facing knowledge base?” While those tools give the illusion of an internal knowledge base, they aren’t quite the same thing. Simply put an agent-facing knowledge base must accomplish three things:
Live everywhere your team works
Be the single source of truth for your support team’s knowledge
Augment your existing support stack
The end result of this should be an increase in individual agent productivity and improvements in your team’s key performance metrics such as improved first call resolution rate, faster response time, and improved NPS and CSAT scores to name a few.
The importance of having a dedicated solution for internal support knowledge has been driven by a few key trends. First, multichannel support is now the standard customers expect. As a result, your agents are monitoring more sources than ever, context-switching constantly to support your customers. Your agents need a single, dedicated agent-facing knowledge base that will enable your team to support customers with consistency and confidence across all of your support channels.
Next, the rise of live chat, messaging apps and bots in Slack and Facebook Messenger have made speedy responses the norm, not a differentiator. Customers now expect support to be swift and most importantly, accurate. Finally, consumers preference for self-service have only increased the importance of providing stellar support when they do need to talk with one of your agents. Customers expect agents are knowledgeable on any product issue and that they are resolved in one call.
And the stats back up these trends that point to the importance of an agent-facing knowledge base:
42% of service agents are unable to efficiently resolve customer issues due to disconnected systems, archaic user interfaces, and multiple applications (Forrester)
Efficient issue explanation and resolution is the top challenge for service leaders across all performance levels (Salesforce)
71% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service (Forrester)
41% of consumers cited different customer service agents giving different answers as the biggest pain point with getting help from customer service (Forrester).
Consistency, accuracy, and timeliness of support are the key areas of improvement customers seek and that can be addressed with a proper agent-facing knowledge base.
So now that we understand why an agent-facing knowledge base is so critical to improving your support process, let’s examine what you need to look for in a solution.
According to a McKinsey report, ⅓ of your agent’s time is spent just searching for information. That time spent searching is negatively impacting the perception of your support experience in customer’s eyes because it is happening in real time.
A common scenario seen everyday is when a customer first tries to solve an issue by searching your customer-facing help center. If they can’t find an answer they will then escalate their issue to speak with an agent directly either through live chat, or on the phone. Because your knowledge base lives in another tab, your agents have to delay their response, or put a customer on hold to search your wiki or document storage solution to find what they are looking for. A study done on customer experience by Ovum revealed that 45% of customers expect a response in less than a minute when requesting support through the live chat channel, and 97% expect it in less than 10 minutes. Frustratingly, this negative experience is not meeting customer’s expectations and hampering your team’s potential to provide world class support!
Simply put, in today’s world of multichannel support, your knowledge base must live everywhere your agents work in order to provide quick support that meets customer expectations. Here’s how a modern agent-facing knowledge base might approach the challenge of accessing knowledge quickly:
It’s not designed as a portal. Knowledge portals like wikis are not native to an agent’s workflow, so they reduce your agent’s productivity. Browser extensions have emerged and proven themselves to be adopted by client-facing teams because they can be accessed from any tab in your browser in one click.
Integrates with and augments your existing support tools and messaging apps. Something we will dive in depth on later.
Has organizational constructs like tags to help agents find information instantly.
Returns search results not just on keywords, but other more important indicators like usage and freshness of content to ensure the best content rises to the top.
A test you can run to determine whether a particular agent-facing knowledge base accomplishes this goal for your team is to simply measure the time difference between the old way and the potential new way. Get a couple of your agents to run through common support scenarios, time their performance, and measure any differences in the time it takes to access knowledge the old way versus the new way. You can easily calculate your ROI from there. Multiply the time savings by the number of interactions your team has every hour/day/week/month and you can easily calculate the time savings you will accrue by adopting a dedicated agent-facing knowledge base.
What’s equally contributing to time wasted searching for information is the sheer number of sources your agents must search through to find what they are looking for. As a result, not only is your response time suffering, but the consistency of responses across your whole team is suffering as well. Your agents are probably looking through email, slack, your internal wiki, and multiple Google Drive and Dropbox to find information. Even worse, they are finding conflicting information, endless versions and revisions of documents, and have no idea what content is still up-to-date and approved to message to customers.
With the high volumes of support requests your team sees everyday, agents are constantly under pressure to resolve issues as quickly as possible. But there’s a tradeoff between speed and accuracy that always runs in the back of the mind of your agents. The results of which manifest themselves in a few ways when agents don’t trust that the content they find is still accurate:
Quickly reach out via email, Slack or another messaging app to the relevant subject matter experts to confirm that what they are saying is still accurate. But, agents aren’t guaranteed a quick response and it delays the response time to your customers. While this is probably the least problematic of the three options, don’t underestimate the cost of these distractions to the productivity of your subject matter experts. Your support team most likely heavily outnumbers them and if each agent is having to ping or shoulder tap an expert on your team with a question, it can quickly become a burden for them.
Under the pressure of mounting ticket volumes, agents go with the first piece of relevant information they find. While they may be responding with speed, the accuracy of what they are saying is in question, which will have a negative long-term impact on your NPS and CSAT scores.
Escalate the issue to a different tier of agent support or a support manager. The downside of course is that you are transferring the call and putting customers on hold even longer, negatively impacting your customer’s experience.
So, how can you instill confidence in your agents and ensure that the content they are using is still up-to-date?
First, establishing a single agent-facing knowledge base as your support team’s source of truth will go a long way in improving the consistency of response. However, that doesn’t change the broader issue of accuracy.
Find an agent-facing knowledge base solution that ensures accuracy is at the forefront of the presentation layer for agents. They should be able to tell in one-glance whether the content they are sharing with customers is still up-to-date. In doing so, your agents will have the confidence to troubleshoot any issue, with speed and accuracy.
The main issue with using a wiki or document storage services as your agent-facing knowledge base is that these tools are not built for support teams nor understand the daily use cases your agents encounter. Whether it’s a live chat scenario, or one on the phone, wiki’s aren’t made for instant consumption of knowledge, which means they do little to enhance your existing support stack.
One way your agent-facing knowledge base can augment your support stack is by integrating with common apps like your ticketing solution to surface relevant knowledge/troubleshooting guides to your agents based on the product or specific issues listed in the ticket.
In that way, agents may not even have to search for knowledge, but instead will have relevant knowledge surface automatically for them, in their workflow.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s important that your support knowledge lives wherever your team works. A tool quickly gaining adoption amongst support teams for internal communication is Slack. A modern knowledge base will keep pace with the trends that are shaping the support world such as the rise of live chat and messaging bots. Bots could soon be communicating externally to your customers directly, but don’t overlook the ability to deploy bots today to help streamline your internal support process.
For example, so much valuable knowledge gets created in Slack, but how do you capture it so your support team can reuse it in future conversations with customers?
A modern knowledge base solution will adapt to the new technologies your support team is using and will have answers and ideas on future trends that will shape the support world such as how to incorporate AI and machine learning technology to enhance their solution.
In today’s support environment, it’s now more crucial than ever to find an agent-facing knowledge base that enables your team to support customers quickly, accurately, and consistently at scale. But now that you know what to look for, your search has become that much easier.