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How establishing a knowledge management system improved service at the call center

1 April 2024
Shiri Atzmon
A person touching a touch screen

Implementing a knowledge management system at the customer service center is pivotal for delivering exceptional customer service and consistently maintaining the professionalism of representatives. Typically, companies opt for a phased approach to implementing knowledge management. This means that while certain departments within the organization already utilize it regularly, others operate without a unified knowledge management framework, and some employees may not even recognize the necessity of knowledge management and its benefits for service providers. Recently, I spearheaded a project precisely of this nature, where I introduced a new knowledge management environment tailored for new users within an existing knowledge administration system.

Customer Profile

This call center operates as a small segment within a larger organization offering services in insurance and finance. It comprises approximately 30 staff members, including the department director and several professional support personnel.

Challenges Faced in a Service Center Without a Knowledge Management System

In recent years, the organization has been in the process of implementing a unified knowledge administration system. However, the center in question operated without any structured management or knowledge-sharing environment, under the assumption that its small size made it easy to manage without such a system. This oversight has frequently resulted in various issues, ranging from prolonged customer handling times due to the lack of accessible and centralized information or documents, to misunderstandings and discrepancies between senior staff and service representatives regarding procedural updates. Furthermore, senior staff members found themselves burdened with the task of addressing numerous general and often repetitive inquiries, which consistently impeded their ability to fulfill their primary responsibilities.

Navigating Challenges in Establishing a Knowledge Management System and Overcoming Them

The journey of establishing a knowledge management system at the call center presented a myriad of challenges, including:

  1. Simplifying Work Processes and Embracing the Need for Them

    Complex language intertwined with numerous regulations and procedures is the norm in industries as intricate as insurance and financial services. Expecting every representative to memorize such extensive professional material in detail is impractical, if not impossible. Hence, a primary challenge was to streamline convoluted procedures into easily digestible work processes, devoid of legal jargon yet precise and meticulous. This transformation aimed to empower representatives to deliver efficient service without relying excessively on professional support or department managers. However, the challenge extended beyond drafting these processes; it involved altering the perception of content among senior staff members. Accustomed to instructing new representatives using regulations and legal documents, they initially hesitated or even resisted the idea of simplifying the material into colloquial language. Throughout this process, constant validation and retention of essential professional terms within clear and straightforward work procedures proved instrumental in overcoming resistance and embracing the advantages of the new approach. The underlying message conveyed was that knowledge management serves as a seasoned ally in the workplace, always available to offer assistance and reminders when needed.

  2. Integrating with the Organization's Knowledge Management System

    Although the call center operated without a knowledge management platform, the organization has gradually implemented such systems in recent years. Thus, integrating the center's new system with the existing organizational framework was imperative. To ensure seamless integration, I meticulously aligned the newly created information with the organization's established writing standards, including font usage, titles, colors, and language consistency across different centers. Moreover, I actively sought opportunities to prevent redundancy by identifying and sharing relevant information from other call centers. Participating in training sessions for new service representatives familiarized me with the organization's broader knowledge management system, enabling me to provide informed guidance during implementation.

  3. Organizing Undocumented Knowledge Processes

    While visible knowledge stored in regulations and documents is relatively easy to locate and organize, tacit knowledge among employees poses a significant challenge, particularly when individuals are unaware of its existence or its importance. Identifying such knowledge required firsthand observation of call center operations to discern recurring patterns and areas of difficulty. By pinpointing moments of frustration, particularly among professional support staff tasked with repeating explanations, I initiated conversations to document and organize this valuable knowledge. Collaborating with these staff members, we transformed their insights into actionable information items, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness for service representatives daily.

  4. Managing Change and Sustaining Momentum

    Undoubtedly, the most significant challenge in establishing the knowledge management system was managing the expected change. This involved rallying senior staff members to prioritize participation in crucial work meetings and guiding service representatives through a fundamental shift in their work environment. Recognizing the distinct challenges faced by each group—service representatives and senior staff—I tailored communication and training approaches accordingly. For service representatives, knowledge management was positioned as a tool to streamline their workflow and improve customer interactions, demonstrated through hands-on training sessions highlighting its simplicity and effectiveness. Conversely, senior staff members were presented with knowledge management as a means to alleviate their workload, emphasizing the direct correlation between their involvement and the system's efficiency. Encouraging them to lead by example—whether by initiating system use at the start of each day or guiding representatives to seek information independently—further reinforced their buy-in. Additionally, grooming a designated knowledge management expert within the department ensured continuity and sustainability beyond the initial implementation phase. This individual was equipped with comprehensive training encompassing technical usage, writing standards, and the responsibility of setting a positive example for colleagues, fostering a culture of knowledge sharing and continuous improvement within the call center.

Advancing the Utilization of the Knowledge Management System at the Call Center

Despite the extensive content and information generated throughout the establishment of the Knowledge Administration at the Center, the true journey commenced upon project completion. A common thread underlying all the challenges outlined above was the process of change experienced by the call center staff. Initially, objections and apprehensions regarding the impending changes were prevalent. Many female employees, both service representatives and senior staff, failed to grasp the necessity of implementing the knowledge management system. However, as the technical framework of the knowledge management system was being established, a concurrent shift in perception occurred among center personnel. What was once perceived as a daunting and cumbersome process, requiring substantial changes in work habits gradually evolved into an opportunity for improvement and workload alleviation. It became a platform for expressing opinions and sharing the wealth of knowledge available.

As the establishment of the Knowledge Directorate neared completion, I encouraged senior staff members to brainstorm and contribute additional content for the organization, such as a vision board for mapping out future work endeavors. Their collective brainstorming yielded diverse and valuable ideas, enabling them to collaboratively devise realistic and measurable timelines for knowledge administration tasks. While undoubtedly, unforeseen challenges will arise during the ongoing development of the center's knowledge management system, this time they embark on the journey equipped with a crucial and formidable tool for the future: a profound understanding of the significance of a structured knowledge management system, regardless of the center's size.

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