Knowledge management for customer service has always been a difficult proposition. It’s not that knowledge management fails to work; it does its job well, as proven by the numerous case studies that show real ROI, as well as the maturity of vendor solutions. The historical difficulty with knowledge management is that many buyers and users don’t understand the difference between knowledge management and content management — and typically view knowledge management as a heavyweight solution that’s laborious to use.
Perhaps it’s time to lose the too loaded term knowledge management and focus on what it is that customer service agents need to do their job — to answer customer questions in a complete, accurate, and reproducible way. They need access to up-to-date content that is aligned with customer demand and which is created in a collaborative way. This content must also be available to call center agents, as well as agents dedicated to the email, chat, and social communication channels. A subset of this content must also be available to customers via a web self-service site. All these requirements translate into a collaborative content hub.
Here are the main capabilities that make up a collaborative content hub:
Easy content capture. You should be able to flag information from any source (email, discussion forum thread, social media interaction) and effortlessly kick it off to be included in your collaborative content hub.
Democracy. Everyone within an organization (and customers as well) should be able to recommend information to be included in the content hub.
In customer service organizations, collaboration should take place around cases and content, and should involve not only collaboration between customers and customer service agents, but internal collaboration within the enterprise. Internal collaboration has quantifiable benefits as measured by increased organizational productivity and efficiency. For cases, collaboration helps increase first contact resolution, decrease handle times and increase customer satisfaction. For content, collaboration helps evolve content to be more relevant, accurate, complete, and in line with customer demand. Some of the technologies that help foster collaboration around cases and content include:
Presence indicators, instant messaging, and video chat. These allow customer service agents to connect in real time with subject-matter experts, supervisors, managers, or other agents having the necessary skills to help resolve a question.
Collaborative workspaces. These allow agents and subject-matter experts to share documents and logs about the customer issue, the troubleshooting process, and the results in real time.
Activity streams. These allow agents and subject-matter experts to subscribe to a case and receive notifications of all changes and additions to a case.
Remote support. This allows customer service agents to invite subject-matter experts and specialty agents to troubleshoot software or hardware with a customer.
SugarCRM was kind enough to invite me to its analyst day and conference — a three-day event packed with product, strategy, customer, and partner information. The firm’s focus was clearly on its momentum into the enterprise. Here are my thoughts:
The CRM market still has room to grow. Sugar used IDC’s numbers to project CRM market growth: $18.74 billion for 2012, $19.97 billion for 2013, and $21.37 billion for 2014. Even though CRM vendor solutions are mature, the CRM market has not stagnated.
The SugarCRM 6.5 product. Today, SugarCRM has 1 million users, has seen 11 million downloads, is used by 80,000 organizations, and has 350 partners on five continents supporting the product. Its newest release focuses on usability and performance enhancements. It offers simplified navigation, an enhanced UI design, a new search framework with integrated full-text search, new calendaring and scheduling capabilities, IBM platform support, and deeper integration with third-party apps. Although the product lacks advanced social features and robust analytics, it does provide solid, well-rounded CRM capabilities.
The open source focus. Open source is more than a movement. It provides results by allowing its 30,000-large developer ecosystem to evolve the product in line with customer demand. “Open” is also part of Sugar’s culture — for example, pricing is readily available on its website, and you can try the product for free.