Essentially every job in our economy has changed overnight. How do we work while socially distancing, or being directed to shelter in place? What if we can’t simply work from home? What defines “essential services?” How do we deal with either far too much or far too little demand? The questions are hard, and the personal and economic consequences are huge.
In this sea of uncertainty, Support centers and contact centers can be calm harbors. Our advantages:
- Many of us work in remote or distributed environments already, and modern phone systems can handle virtual centers easily
- We’re all used to dealing with remote customers
- Demand is strong for many of us, despite everything that’s happening. For some of us, demand is skyrocketing, which of course is a challenge all its own!
What Support Organizations Must Do
Each of our situations is different. But from talking with clients and extrapolating from current state, here are some common themes.
Scale to Extreme Demand
Some organizations are in the middle of a tornado of demand, especially in the contact center world. (If you have tried to reach an airline, hotel chain, or resellers like Hotels.com, you know exactly what I mean, unfortunately.) I expect the support centers for video conferencing solutions are much the same way, as people who can barely read email on their computers are being told to use Zoom and the like.
There are options available to scale rapidly: increase self-service adoption and success; ramp up outsource partners; deploy chatbots or modern search engines; increase internal efficiency; and onboard new hires more rapidly.
Of course, these are the same benefits we attribute to knowledge management and KCS at any time. The prerequisite to scaling to demand, in or out of crisis mode, is a foundation of good knowledge.
Deal with Rapid Change
If the issues weren’t so serious, it would almost be funny. How many emails have you gotten from vendors that they literally had to walk back the next day as circumstances changed? With what countries do we have travel restrictions today, and what changed since yesterday?
The faster things change, the more dangerous it is to rely on tacit knowledge in your head. Everyone should be searching to see what we know right this minute rather than relying on yesterday’s answers.
Ensure Collaboration Among All-Remote Workforces
Many organizations had some workers who worked remotely. Now, most organizations have made remote work universal. It’s a shock to the system. How do we ease the transition?
We’ve learned a lot from Intelligent Swarming practices. With Swarming, people take the cases that are suited to them. Rather than escalating up tiers of support, we collaborate, bringing people with specialized skills into cases when they’re needed. Cases get resolved faster, support staff transfer knowledge more effectively, customers don’t have to repeat themselves—it’s a win all around.
Interestingly, we’ve found Intelligent Swarming works really well when everyone is remote. Remote collaboration requires that conversations and they knowledge they contain are written down. Written-down knowledge becomes the basis for knowledge base articles: “collaboration is creation.”
And, some people feel disconnected and isolated when they work from home. What we find with Swarming is that knowledge workers feel a stronger sense of team identity, and they feel more connected to their coworkers, than with traditional queues and tiers.
Gain Value from Knowledge Workers When Caseloads are Low
Some of our clients’ software that just isn’t getting used very much now, especially software that revolves around facilitating in-person buying or servicing activities. They want to stand by their people, but they also want to get value from their payroll.
Remember the KCS Evolve Loop? It’s easy to forget while you’re focusing on starting and sustaining the Solve Loop, but if you’re not devoting time to Knowledge Domain Analysis, you’re missing out on easily gained value. Maybe a slowdown in the queue is just the right time to invest in taking your content to the next level.
Demonstrate You’re Doing the Right Thing
Your staff is counting on your leadership to help them weather challenging times. And sooner or later, you’re going to need to demonstrate to your leaders that you’re doing the right things to take care of customers, employees, and the business.
Whether you’re in the demand tornado, the empty-queue doldrums, or somewhere in between, the measures you used last month may not be the right ones to measure today—or at least, they may not tell the whole story. How did your knowledge practices help you scale in times of change? How did they help newly remote workers, and what benefits come from new investments in knowledge and collaboration? The metrics transformations we talk about so frequently become urgent in this new environment.
Knowledge and Collaboration: The Key Enablers
My colleague and friend Gaylan Sankey recently shared a very brief blog post that gave me an appreciation for a new role that knowledge plays: ensuring business continuity. And you can see that knowledge and collaboration are the keys to helping our organizations through this current crisis. So, if you’re doing KCS and Intelligent Swarming well, I predict this will be a smoother time for you than for many of your industry peers. If you’re not, this might be a time to consider starting those programs…this isn’t likely to be over any time soon.
And, if the time isn’t right, right now, we can help you uplevel the knowledge you do have in the short term to get you through the next few months.