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Can you benefit from your call centre agents' knowledge?

Knowledge management has been around for years disguised in many flash terms and in ‘flavour of the month’ phrases. However not until recently has this practiced and approach been adapted to the call centre environment. Over the years organisations have paid large consulting houses hefty premiums to carry out vast studies on how to capture inherit information from within the organisation. However on to many occasions this information is keep within the folder from which it originated.

Call centre agents number one grip is that they are either the last to know or are left out of any important information sharing all together. In some cases this is not that far from the truth. With respect to this environment and in order to have a fully integrated

culture - knowledge management must always be a two way street. The divide between the call centre and the head office will always exist hence the question is not 'how to change this' but 'how to better managed it'? When looking at how to integrate a Knowledge Management System that incorporates your call centre as a partner you must be prepare to share and listen on an equal keel.

The management system should begin to focus and measure the success and failure of decisions, whether made by the team, individual or even the call centre. The call centre team must be encouraged with a sense of belonging to the greater good. It could even include a rewards system that encourages employees and managers to

contribute what they know and learn from each other and show how this will produce better business results. Despite the explosion in hardware and software communications tools (intranets, extranets, internet, voicemail, e-mail, videoconferencing, mobile phones and so on) a recent survey from RHI Management Resources found the following results when employees were asked to rank the biggest challenges and gaps between employer and employee:

lack of communication between management and staff

- lack of recognition and praise

- lack of flexibility scheduling hours worked

- lack of authority to employees

If this culture exists in your call centre then that is where you start. Begin to close this gap and cultivate an environment that allows information to be exchanged and nurtured.

Knowledge management if implemented correctly can allow an easy transfer of vast amounts of information over intranets and other in-house devices. It can also act as a database of all the intellectual property that currently sits inside an agent's head and in every seat on the call centre floor. The arrogance of many senior people within organisations to think that call centre agents need their hands held on daily basis in order to do their jobs effectively is paramount. Many believe that if it were not for the training that has been implemented on their behalf they would be inept to do their job. Many agents work very independently and are often those that spearhead many new procedures by introducing their own unique

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style to the role. From conveying the corporate brand to product information their interaction with customers set a standard that can be benchmarked in many other parts of the organisation. So how does a call manager start to capture this information and manage the knowledge that is commonplace inside the call centre? The answer is through inspiration and a willingness to listen to what your agents have to say and then acting on it.

Call centres have a high attrition rate that is a fact and without a proper knowledge management system in place - how much of the learning curve is lost a daily? With greater job satisfaction a clear knowledge management

strategy may slow the attrition rate but even if it didn’t it can decrease the loss of key procedures and customer information. Through the use of knowledge sharing organisations can gain greater insight as a collective than they could as a single division or team.

If this is new to you and your call centre, I suggest the ‘walk before you run’ philosophy. Start with your customer service team and the vast amounts of information that they use on a daily basis – manuals directories and various sources of documented procedures. With reassurance and training ensure that this tool is not looked upon as just and electronic filing cabinet

but as a real source of information that can be added to and commented on. Also ensure that the software that is chosen is adequate to service the needs of your call centre agents quickly and effectively. The design of this information source must also give a sense of community and further allow the sharing of cross border information.

The key is to create a path for the future that both your call centre agents can benefit from whilst giving senior managers the ability to keep track on the intellectual property that exists with in each and every agent. The goal is to maintain information and get it to the right people at the right time. This is truly knowledge management…

Copyright Author:
Amita Krishna
Director of KrisTEL
IT Malaysia July 2001.