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It’s All About Knowledge!

What is knowledge?

Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something, that can include descriptions, facts, information and/or skills acquired through experience or education”, according to Wikipedia.

Ben Franklin revealed, “an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

What does knowledge have to do with customer service?

Consider this, have you ever been to a government website and struggled to find the answer to what you think to be a simple and rather common question? Have you ever called into a government contact center and spoken to a friendly representative who could not help you? Have you ever gotten conflicting information from a government agency by going to more than one source such as the website, visiting the agency in person, or reading about the organization in the news?

I suspect a majority of us can identify. What is the reason behind these inconsistent and unpleasant experiences?

A lack of knowledge

What can your organization do? You can start by providing the right knowledge, to the right person at the right time. Every time your agency interacts with a citizen, there is an exchange of knowledge. A lack of knowledge is at the root of most negative citizen experiences.

Establishing a centralized knowledge foundation will help your organization capture information about services, programs, news and other essential information in a single place so that employees and citizens can gain consistent access to the knowledge. As a result, employees don’t have to be experts on everything; instead they can leverage the knowledge base to easily find answers to deliver to the public. Additionally, a knowledge foundation enables citizens to help themselves finding answers to common questions.

How do I replace a lost Social Security Card?”

Where do I get a US Passport?”

How do I get a green card?”

How long does it take for beef to thaw?”

These are actual hyperlinks to government sites where agencies such as the Social Security Administration, The Department of State and the USDA have consolidated knowledge about the services the organization provides to make that knowledge readily available to citizens.

But, how can establishing a knowledge foundation help my organization address the requirements outlined in the Executive Order on Customer Service?

The mandate explicitly highlights the need for organizations “to streamline service delivery and improve the experience of its customers.” The first step in delivering an exceptional customer experience is establishing a knowledge foundation. The knowledge foundation will help your organization ensure the consistent delivery of services and information across the channels citizens want to engage- the web, social, mobile and contact centers.

Additionally, the mandate suggests the need to “learn from what is working in the private sector and apply these best practices to deliver services better, faster, and at lower cost.” The good news is that there are several private and public sector examples of well established knowledge foundations. Many organizations have a head start on building out a consolidated knowledge base by allowing consumers and citizens to search the website for answers. Answers are being retrieved from the knowledge base.

Organizations should avoid manually assembling and maintaining a knowledge foundation. This approach is resource intensive and expensive (not goals outlined in the Executive Order). Instead, to address another recommendation outlined in the Executive Order, leverage “innovative technologies to accomplish the customer service activities, thereby lowering costs” and therefore your organization can take advantage of existing solutions that automate the collection, dissemination, and updating of knowledge.

In selecting a solution, make sure that you take advantage of self learning technologies. Your organization likely has hundreds, even thousands of citizens interacting with you daily through the website, email, chat, phone and social media channels. Let citizens suggest the content and assess its quality for you. This approach, combined with the right self-learning technology, will guarantee that your knowledge foundation is what citizens want, including access to timely, accurate and dynamic information.

The Executive Order also refers to maximizing customer service, while at the same time reducing costs. Therefore, in keeping with the theme to help your organization address the goals outlined in the mandate, establishing a knowledge foundation doesn’t mean organizations have to engage in a massive, costly overhaul of their information systems to create an all-encompassing knowledge foundation. On the contrary, with today’s self-learning technologies, a knowledge foundation is best created by:

  • Seeding the foundation with institutional knowledge that is already easily accessible
  • Capturing knowledge over time during the course of daily interactions with customers
  • Organizing knowledge based on customer needs rather than internally driven schema

The bottom line is, establishing a strong knowledge foundation is key to delivering a great citizen experience.

Without complete, accurate, relevant, and current information, accessed via a knowledge foundation, you can’t serve citizens in a compelling manner, in the manner they expect.

At the core of addressing each of the steps outlined in the Executive Order and meeting citizens’ expectations for enhanced level of service is the need for knowledge. The American People need knowledge at the right place, right time.

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