The New Knowledge Management Required for Customer Service in the COVID Era
Presented By: eGain
Anand Subramaniam, SVP Global Marketing, eGain Corporation
“Due to overwhelming demand for service, we are not able to take your call.”
“Our wait times for customer service may be longer than
usual due to COVID-19.”
These caveats are typical of what you get these days on
business websites and IVRs, even as the pandemic shows signs of plateauing.
COVID-19 has triggered a tsunami of demand for customer
service. A flood of questions about payment deferrals, paycheck protection
programs, COVID-19 infection, stay-at-home directives, shipment status, and more,
are overwhelming contact centers, which are struggling to keep up. For example,
I called a retailer’s customer service, and was pushed to voicemail. I left a
message, but never heard back. I then sent an email to them. Same result! No
wonder customers are getting frustrated with many switching to competitors, something
businesses can ill-afford at this time of economic uncertainty.
FAQs and legacy “knowledge management” don’t cut it anymore
COVID-19 questions come in all “shapes and sizes”. They fall
into three main types: Informational, transactional, and situational. Here are some
- Informational query
- Is the stimulus check eligibility based on my income in 2019 or 2018?
- Is there a size restriction for my business to qualify for
PPP (Payroll Protection Program)?
- Transactional query
- How do I apply for mortgage refinancing and get approved
online without having to visit a branch?
- How do I change the beneficiary to a trust in my account?
- Situational query (these are queries that entail problem
resolution, purchase advice, etc.)
- Should I refinance my home loan, given my profile, financial
situation, and the new income tax laws on deducting mortgage interest?
- I live in XX county in YY state. I had some COVID symptoms
and have been self-isolating for two weeks. The symptoms are still there. What
should I do next?
Many websites have FAQs or basic keyword search that put the burden on the consumer to read reams of documents or process hundreds of search results to find answers for themselves. Others have deployed chatbots that can “meet and greet” but get stumped even at the slightest hint of complexity in the customer query. The result? More angry calls to add to the tsunami.
Moreover, customer service agents have been dislocated due
to stay-at-home orders and offshore contact center shutdowns. These lockdowns, coupled
with the fear of infection, have led to agent absenteeism, forcing many
companies to take an all hands on deck approach to meet the demand for service,
pulling employees from other departments as well as gig agents to pick up the
slack. And these employees, real and virtual, are not as familiar with company
policies, processes, and service knowhow. The result? More customer frustration
COVID calls for a new kind of KM
To be able to handle the range of queries in the pandemic
era and beyond, businesses need a new kind of KM, not FAQs, basic keyword
search, clueless chatbots, and document repositories. The new KM needs to be
able to do the following:
- Guide the search
- Guide the conversation
- Centralize and publish
- Integrate and embed
- Guide the search
- While plain keyword search has been improving to some
degree, it puts the onus on the knowledge consumer to process hundreds of
“hits” to find literal matches, which may or may not answer the question.
Moreover, knowledge authors need to anticipate how a user might phrase the
question (recently, Machine Learning (ML) has helped modern KM systems better
understand user intent). More complex searches may call for a conversation with
the customer to home in on the search intent and serve up the answer. Infused
with AI reasoning, KM can help guide such searches.
- Guide the conversation
- Complex questions require a dialog to be carried out, whether
it is with a self-service system or with a human agent or sales rep or a frontline
healthcare worker. The best domain experts know what question to ask and what
step to take next. Also, government regulations dictate conversations and
actions for compliance.
- This conversational expertise and regulatory steps can be
captured into a next-gen KM system in the form of rules and AI reasoning, and
can be served to the customer directly through self-service systems
(automation) or through agents in a human-assisted scenario (augmentation).
Unlike brittle scripts and decision trees, reasoning enables adaptive
conversations that avoid cul-de-sacs and dead ends in the dialog.
- Centralize and publish “everywhere”
- One of the challenges of COVID times has been the rapid
change of information, whether regarding the disease, government relief
programs, stay-at-home directives, or business policies. Businesses are
struggling to publish this information to employees and consumers in a quick
and consistent way. The answer lies in an omnichannel KM system with a single-sourced
content publishing capability to disseminate information to customer service
channels, tailored to those touchpoints.
- Integrate with or embed in systems of record
- Customer-facing employees often use systems of record such
as CRM to get a transactional view of the customer—who they are, what products
they have bought, when they bought them. These tools lack modern KM
capabilities. Many enterprises have, therefore, embedded next-gen knowledge
capabilities into these systems or added an engagement layer to them to bring
together context from multiple systems of record to inform knowledge search and
guidance. For this bimodal model to work, the KM system needs to have an open
architecture for easy embedding or integration with systems of record.
The new KM at work
Here are some examples from our blue-chip clientele:
- A major tax prep services organization helps taxpayers at
scale with a chatbot-fronted, omnichannel digital service and sales process,
including human-assisted chat (text and video) and cobrowse, all connected for
context and journey continuity. In a way, this company safe-guarded itself
against coronavirus more than 18 months ago!
- A large insurance provider handled a 700% increase in
customer service demand, while improving FCR (First-Contact Resolution) by 10%
amid the COVID-19 crisis.
- A multinational bank has been able to empower any employee
to handle any call, the holy grail for any contact center, while reducing training
needs by 50% with conversational guidance, powered by our AI knowledge
solution. The bank vaulted to #1 from #3 in NPS (Net Promoter Score) at the
- A leading telco improved FCR by 37% and NPS by 30 points,
while speeding up agent time-to-competency by 50% across 10,000 agents and even
600 retail stores.
We all know the saying that in every crisis lies a great opportunity. COVID-19 has presented an opportunity to elevate customer service with next-gen KM and leave competitors in the dust. Why not get going now?