Supporting Your CX Teams With Collaborative Knowledge Management
When CX is all hands on deck
Picture this — the Support Manager for a food delivery company wakes up, phone flooded with Slack notifications. Overnight, her entire support team was eliminated: their offshore BPO had shut down due to COVID-19, and none of the agents were equipped to work from home. Meanwhile, support requests came rushing in, as shelter in place orders took hold, food delivery demand shot up at an unprecedented scale, restaurants scrambled to shift their operations to keep up, and understaffed couriers were totally overwhelmed.
It was all hands on deck: everyone, from assistant to CEO, engineer to marketer, was scrambling to field the mounting support requests (and they’re not the only ones). To solve their customers’ issues, an engineer had to ping finance; the VP of Marketing slacked a product manager; the office manager reached out to engineering about a bug; the Head of HR slacked a customer support manager. Suddenly, there was a need for knowledge from across the organization, and no one had access to all of it. Meanwhile, L&D and support operations teams worked through the night to package and disseminate all critical information across the company. Utter chaos.
How to start supporting customer support
Sure, many Customer Support teams have (or, at least, believe they have) a strong relationship with Product. But, the reality is that Customer Support is a company-wide effort, and not just when your entire BPO shuts down overnight. The problem is, collaboration, communication and knowledge rarely flow freely throughout a company. Even between Product and Customer Support, there are frequent communication breakdowns.
That’s a lot of valuable time wasted.
It’s not surprising that so much time is eaten up by hunting down information given the sheer quantity of places where knowledge is stored.
For many businesses, knowledge is department-specific and siloed in platforms, portals, DMs and subject matter experts’ heads. How is anyone supposed to find what they need, especially if the knowledge lives outside of their department? How does a Support team starved of cross-functional information effectively function? How can the rest of the org learn from consumers if they’re not connected to the frontline?
All of this searching isn’t just annoying and inconvenient — it’s costly. From both customer satisfaction and operational efficiency perspective, this knowledge disconnect is effectively costing your company money in time wasted.
While support agents struggle to find what they need, and question whether the information they do find is accurate, customers are waiting on the other end with waning patience and mounting frustration. Agents ask the same questions again and again, because the answers aren’t captured and shared team-wide. Meanwhile, subject matter experts from across the company are pulled away from their own work flows to help the Support team. And, it’s probably safe to assume that your Engineering Lead was not hired to field customer questions.
CX is a cross-functional effort
Our team at Guru sought to understand just how cross-functional Support really is, and we were astonished by the results. In a study of over 2,500 Support employees, we found that nearly half of respondents rely on information authored by members of their Product and Engineering teams. It’s not just Product and Engineering knowledge that’s needed, though: 39% depend on knowledge created by their Sales teams to solve customer issues, and another 36% need information from their Marketing teams. If you want to learn more about what we found, you can dig in here. Clearly, Support is a team sport: it’s deeply cross-functional and reliant upon the contributions of team members across departments, beyond just Product.
"You need to create a cross-functional village of partnerships and relationships and advisors, because that’s going to create the right infrastructure for your CX team to succeed and grow.” - Jordan Pedraza, a forward-thinking support leader cultivating a 21st century CX team at Handshake, on the importance of integrating Support with the rest of the company.
But, how can you build connectivity across your company, especially when some or all of your team is remote? How can you efficiently and effectively harness your entire company’s knowledge so your Support team can help customers on their own, without pinging other team members?
We’ve invested a lot of time and resources into understanding how to set companies up for success, and we found that the key is in building a knowledge-driven culture.
Among the components of cultivating a knowledge-driven culture, it’s critical to have a free flowing network of knowledge created by and available to anyone and everyone in the company. Teams need a central source of truth, where employees across the organization are empowered to contribute to the knowledge base, and where everyone across the company has equal access to verified information, whenever and wherever they need it. A newly hired agent working remotely should be equipped with the org-wide knowledge required to resolve customer issues independently and confidently.
How successful remote teams scale knowledge management
Shopify, the leading commerce platform enabling businesses of all sizes to create and manage their online stores, supports more than 1M businesses worldwide. Their Support team of over 2000 employees has been remote and distributed since around 2014. At the time, their knowledge wasn't discoverable or trustworthy; meanwhile, their product was growing rapidly, and Shopify didn’t have a single source of truth for their processes, procedures, or best practices. Without having a knowledge team or a knowledge base that could be relied upon, it was difficult for their agents to do their jobs effectively.
To solve their Support team’s knowledge problem, Shopify brought Guru on board in 2016. While Guru helped centralize and verify knowledge for their Support team, Shopify’s Support leaders soon realized that they hadn’t solved all inefficiencies. Namely, they were still having to ping cross-functional teammates for the information they needed — creating a bottleneck for knowledge managers, who’d then be responsible for putting all of that information into Guru. Turns out, it wasn’t just a Support team knowledge problem.
Recognizing the value of cross-departmental knowledge for the Support team, as well as for other internal departments, Shopify expanded their seats so that other departments could create and access information in Guru. Now, according to Dana Tessier, Director of Knowledge Management, “The vast majority of our content is created outside our team, with us acting as curators.” And, Shopify’s Support team has the cross-functional information they need to help customers without having to reach out to subject matter experts or managers. You can learn more about Shopify’s journey in the fireside chat with Tessier and Guru’s founder and CEO, Rick Nucci.
Other customers like Slack and Better Mortgage have made a similar shift from knowledge management for Support to knowledge management across the company because they have realized the benefits of a cross-departmental, connected knowledge management tool.
How we benefit internally at Guru from a knowledge-driven culture
Here at Guru, we live the benefits of networked knowledge every day. A great example of this is in our new feature and marketing launches.
At first, we struggled to streamline communication between our Product, Design and Engineering teams and our Customer Support team, so that they had what they needed to respond to customer issues or questions regarding new functionality. Our #release-management channel in Slack was extremely noisy, and sometimes the Functional Specs document created for the project kickoff wasn’t updated as modifications were made to the functionality during development. This often put our Customer Support team in a reactive position: as customer questions came in, they’d ping the relevant internal stakeholders for answers. This was frustrating for our Customer Support team, as well as for the subject matter experts responding to Customer Support and the customers waiting for answers.
Now, when a new feature is released, all our CS team has to do is look in Guru to find the information they need captured in a Feature Breakdown Card, which is the single source of truth for that feature. Created and curated by the Product Marketing team, the Card is constantly updated as dates shift and functionality is re-scoped during development. They also contain customer-facing language for how to talk about the features, and responses to commonly asked questions.
Here’s the template we use, in case you’d like to give this format a shot:
These Cards reflect cross-functional knowledge and communicate that knowledge out to everyone in the company. According to Guru’s Customer Support Manager, June Zhang,
“Guru’s Customer Support team relies on Feature Breakdown Cards for the most accurate and up-to-date information ahead of company feature release so we don’t have to shoulder tap our Product and Marketing teams before a launch. This product information helps train our team on the ins and outs of a feature, prepare externally-facing Help Center articles and answer any customer questions.”
Given how far-reaching support issues can be, a collaborative knowledge management tool is critical for Customer Support teams to be able to quickly resolve customer issues. However, it’s not always just Support teams that need access to this type of information; other cross-functional teams can also benefit greatly from a unified, org-wide knowledge base.
Building a collaborative, knowledge-driven culture to empower your CX team — and, your entire company — may sound daunting, but the good news is that you already have the building blocks you need: the knowledge is there. You just need to harness and activate it.