Steve West, Head of Marketing at Shelf, reveals his top predictions for knowledge management in contact centers in 2022.
Over the course of a day, the average person in the western world is exposed to as much data as someone in the 15th century would encounter in their entire life.
Yet for those in front-line support across all industries, their ability to navigate an avalanche of data and information means the difference between your customer support remaining competitive or falling behind.
As global contact centers went largely remote, accessing the right information across an enterprise’s content sprawl —and often multiple cloud platforms and channels —quickly became one of their most serious challenges.
An EUI study found that 42 percent of remote workers admitted the ability to access information quickly and easily has the greatest impact on how productive they are. As a result of the recent shift to more agents working from home, organizations are now uncovering long-lasting issues caused by tech limitations.
Simply put– gaps in a company’s knowledge infrastructure that could be previously be overcome in an office setting with lots of tribal knowledge can no longer be ignored.
While emerging from the pandemic has been slow and uncertain, businesses are waking up to the reality that a distributed digital workforce is here to stay.
For companies already struggling to retain and excite their employees in an era of unprecedented worker shortages, access to information and answers is becoming an obvious place to fix things.
KM enhancements and digital transformation initiatives are well underway just about anywhere that companies are trying to improve customer and employee experiences. Employee-centric leaders are finally taking a closer look at their organization’s knowledge infrastructure, and 2022 represents an opportunity to finally take action.
With that in mind, here are a few realities CX leaders can expect to see as they consider spearheading knowledge management initiatives this year:
1. KM half measures and shortcuts will no longer cut it
In July 2021, the U.S. Labor Department revealed that a record four million Americans quit their jobs in one month, sparking what we now call “The Great Resignation.” As employees leave en masse, organizations can’t just ‘sort of’ fix what’s wrong—they need to actually make changes.
To add fuel to the fire, quit rates are also expected to increase according to Forrester’s Future of Work, so new investments will be key to keeping smart talent in place to buffer the impact.
The value of improving knowledge management (KM) has been proven—better decision-making, avoidance of redundant effort for additional productivity, and increased customer satisfaction.
But for many companies, sticking with in-house technology and simply upgrading features to save budget and time means sacrificing the critical capabilities and tools employees need to achieve results.
Doing—or in this case using—the same thing over and over and expecting better outcomes isn’t just crazy, it’s unrealistic.
2022 will see more organizations reshift their thinking to how the entire knowledge management infrastructure can be improved, giving rise to knowledge automation technologies that require less employee effort.
With knowledge automation, businesses can tap into AI and machine learning to do more with the content they have, like:
- Make it more discoverable
- Optimize usage to reduce redundant content
- Automatically improving its value based on usage insights
A reality that leaders must accept is that the only truly effective way to manage today’s staggering volume of information is with the help of AI. With a remote workforce, this will be key to more intelligently and predictively manage content.
This paves the way for AI to reliably identify and surface answers directly to teams (more on that later).
2. Enterprises will eliminate knowledge silos to reduce information overload and inconsistencies
Employees are already overwhelmed by the tsunami of information coming their way, and it’s only getting worse. In fact, many spend almost 20% of their time tracking down answers to do their job effectively. That’s a huge productivity drag, and it directly correlates to employee burnout.
When a company’s knowledge base no longer fits how a modernizing staff operates, employees will seek answers and manage resources themselves as best they can to stay ahead. As people and departments rely on their own means or bespoke technologies, knowledge silos and duplicative content creation flourish.
According to CCW Digital research, disconnected systems are the #1 contact center pain point; a whopping 80% of these contact centers say their customer service reps frequently have to access multiple screens when supporting customers.
When this is the case, it makes sense that employees resort to their own tactics and resources to safekeep answers.
In 2022, expect to see more organizations upgrading their knowledge bases to a more centralized and singular knowledge infrastructure to deal with so much data and eliminate these propagating silos.
By centralizing knowledge management, organizations can manage one source of content, and with the right technology, push controlled information and data across the tech stack. With this approach, employees are more likely to utilize content companies provide, and administrators are set up to successfully maintain and control the content.
A single source of truth for company knowledge also frees up time employees typically spend searching for answers, since it eliminates the need to switch between tools and apps to find answers.
3. Smart assist technologies will be linked to knowledge management initiatives
Everyone’s dealing with employee burnout. Forrester’s Future of Work 2022 reports quit rates are already as high as 2% at some companies—because employees are overworked and unsupported. The snowball effect then leaves those left behind further stretched thin and stressed out.
What’s often overlooked as the common reason for leaving is the sheer amount of work and information each employee is expected to handle.
Imagine trying to be an effective customer service rep when a frustrated customer asks for the status of a late order and this information isn’t easy to find quickly.
Consider global supply chain issues as another example. In addition to shipping delays, contact centers remain understaffed. Reps in these industries need to answer questions fast and accurately, which can prove difficult to do in a timely manner with so many inefficiencies that need to be addressed.
2022 will also see a rise in AI and smart assistance becoming more integrated with knowledge management initiatives.
The ability to automate answers is fast becoming a much-needed boon to customer-facing employees (not to mention temporary gig workers who have little knowledge of the company they represent). AI-assisted answers will be vital to achieving company goals while supporting an overtaxed workforce.
Answers are only as good as the knowledge from which they’re sourced, so these smart assist initiatives will become more intrinsically connected to overall knowledge management upgrades.
Knowledge automation technologies ensure content pools are properly maintained, so automated answers become more and more reliable overtime.
The benefits of AI assistance extends to onboarding and training programs as well. Smart assist technologies give new employees access to information they need, when they need them, without the need to memorize where everything is located.
Since agents must often familiarize themselves with copious amounts of new company information, this can reduce the dedicated time needed to retain knowledge and enable front-line staff to be customer-facing much sooner.
There’s no better time to set employees up for success than right at the jump.
4. Digital self-service demands will stretch the limits of legacy KM
Contact centers specifically are still experiencing the consequences of inefficient KM coupled with pandemic-level support volumes.
Front-line staff need answers immediately if they’re ever going to effectively maintain surges of unprecedented proportions in the future.
Other than hiring around the problem (which isn’t cost effective and can further complicate the situation), companies are seeking better ways to empower customers to self-serve in order to alleviate employee workload.
Until now, managing these channels means additional strain on the already maxed out knowledge worker.
Connecting legacy knowledge base solutions is incredibly difficult and oftentimes impossible due to rapidly evolving technologies. After all, these legacy KM systems weren’t originally designed to integrate seamlessly.
If implementing and improving self-service channels is truly a priority in 2022, watch for proactive contact center leaders to begin exploring a knowledge-as-an-infrastructure strategy.
This consolidated approach means employees can effectively manage one source of knowledge that feeds into tools offered to customers, like:
- Self-service portals
The knowledge automation solutions that support these strategies further empower customers through improved usability in whatever support channel they prefer to use.
AI-powered search within portals and FAQs means customers find more answers on their own, and connecting support bots to a more powerful source of knowledge can improve deflection rates dramatically.
5. New techniques and unique customer insights will reveal opportunities for more efficiency
Expect the role of a knowledge manager to evolve as new knowledge automation strategies and solutions become more prevalent in 2022.
Automating content management processes is already revolutionary for the typical knowledge manager. By streamlining the ways in which content improvements are identified and recommended, these systems reduce redundant and manual task work–so knowledge workers can focus on content quality and delivery.
Knowledge automation technologies also offer new insights into employee and customer motivations, preferences, and decisions. Knowledge managers can then use these insights to help improve KPIs across the board.
For instance, this type of system can identify how often a piece of content has been used to successfully resolve an issue type that’s been surging, and works to ensure more customers come in contact with this knowledge.
Or what if the same article is being used over and over, but those conversations seem to take twice as long to resolve and require additional knowledge sharing?. A knowledge automation solution can automatically identify those insights in order to improve the content that’s not working, and thus, remedy those long handle times.
The idea that “knowledge is power” has never been more relevant as today’s globally staffed, data-driven organizations navigate the Great Resignation. The goal is to try to help employees do more with less, activate the vast amount of information they store, and share it most effectively. For many companies this involves taking a step towards knowledge automation.
Expect much of what’s been presented here to pop up if your organization has slated knowledge management improvements for 2022.
About the Author
Steve West is Head of Marketing at Shelf.
Shelf frees companies from the complexities of knowledge management with AI, so employees can do a better job and always find the answers they need. For more info visit Shelf.io.