By Kate Leggett, Director of Product Management – Knowledge Management, KANA Software
There is a prevalent demographic group known as ‘Generation Y’ - the last generation of people born in the 20th century.
Generation Y is characterised by its enthusiasm for trends like social networking, blogging, music downloading and SMS.
These individuals continue to teach us about how we choose to communicate. Rather than read the paper, watch the news, or turn on the radio, they often rely on blogs and wikis as well as user groups and forums.
They only pull the information that they want, when they want it, in the format that suits them at that particular instant in time.
The information gathering trends of Generation Y are challenging traditional assumptions about how customers want to be served; just because a ‘Baby Boomer’ prefers to use the telephone, it doesn’t mean everybody does.
In today’s world, customer service should not restrict you to a particular channel, but instead provide a menu of options to communicate with businesses.
Multi-channel customer service will help build trust and loyalty with your customer base. Only when you have a receptive customer base, can you be successful at marketing and selling to them.
Many customers expect to find answers to routine questions on a company’s support website without having to make a call to a support desk at all.
A support site powered by a regularly updated knowledge base, should display the right answers to the most frequently asked questions. Customers can search the knowledge base using either keywords or natural language to find their own answers.
The best self-serve implementations also include sophisticated knowledge retrieval methods that help narrow down search results. This is because search typically overwhelms a customer with too many solutions to consider.
Forward-thinking service organisations are experimenting with having power users publish content directly to a knowledge base without it being routed through a review process so that new information is instantly available to their customer base.
These service organisations are also integrating knowledge bases with discussion groups and forums, so user communities can easily recommend information for addition to a knowledge base, ensuring that it organically grows with customers’ changing demands
If a customer cannot solve his issue via self-service, he should be able to escalate his question to a customer service agent using the communication channel of his choice.
In each case, the details of the customer’s self-service session should be captured and passed to the customer service agent receiving the request so that no information needs to be repeated.
Likewise customers should be able to choose to receive answers to their questions via SMS, email, chat or all three and a request, for example, to be called back at a particular time, like during their lunch break or after-hours.
The most innovative customer service centres are actually solving problems before they start.
For example, if an agent perceives that a customer is taking too long to complete a high-value transaction, such as a mortgage application, a proactive site would offer a chat session to the customer to see whether he needs help in completing the application.
The agent could also offer to co-browse the application with the customer, helping him navigate the complex form.
Using a blend of analytics and knowledge of customer preferences, these service centres are also proactively pushing knowledge to customers, sometimes even before they experience a common problem.
Analytics let you pinpoint the most frequently asked questions from your knowledge base, and if a service centre detects a skewed interest in a particular question, perhaps regarding a feature in a newly launched product, these centres are able to push the answer to this question to all customers who purchased a particular product.
Even more forward-thinking customer service centres have melded speech-to-text conversion tools with knowledge bases and customer service tools so that you no longer need to use your computer for self-service
Other companies offer voice activated self-service help via a knowledge base as you are waiting in queue for a live agent.
You are prompted to search the knowledgebase or walk down decision trees as you wait – and if your issue is not solved by the time you are connected to an agent, your entire transaction is passed along to the agent, maximising the value of your hold time.
At the heart of each of these customer service solutions is a knowledge base integrated with a case management system which can manage multi-channel customer requests – via the phone, web, email or chat.
This integration ensures that agents always have the same view of the customer, and are able to offer the same answer to a question every time, whether or not the medium is used to ask the question, or that is requested to receive the answer.
With customer service software like this all generations of customers are getting exactly the information they want, when and how they want it.
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