A story about the tragic death of a pet hamster recently made national headlines.
Belen Aldecosea was traveling from Baltimore to Fort Lauderdale last November. She wanted to bring along her pet dwarf hamster, Pebbles, which she claimed was certified by her doctor as an emotional support animal.
When a Spirit employee told Aldecosea the hamster was not allowed to board the plane, Aldecosea flushed Pebbles down the toilet in airport restroom.
She claims she did this on the advice of a Spirit employee. Spirit adamantly denies any employee told her to do this.
Here's one thing that's not in dispute: Aldecosea contacted Spirit prior to traveling and was erroneously told by another employee that the hamster was allowed.
The stakes can be high when customer service employees are asked about seldom-referenced policies or obscure problems. They need access to the right information in the right place at the right time.
Here are three ways Knowledge-Centered Service can help.
Knowledge-Centered Service, or KCS, is a process organizations can use to capture, structure, reuse, and improve critical information used to solve problems.
Reducing memorization is one clear benefit. Here's a short experiment to highlight a common challenge:
Name all of the planets in our solar system in order from closet to the sun to farthest.
Many of us will struggle to recall the first eight. There's controversy by the time we get to Pluto. Is it a planet or not? NASA's website is surprisingly unhelpful when it comes to settling this question.
We need clear, reliable information that's easy to find in situations like this.
One client of mine struggled to get employees to remember a three-step procedure for greeting office visitors via a security intercom system. They tried team meetings, emails, and written memos but nothing worked.
The solution was putting the right information in the right place at the right time. My client hung a sign next to the intercom with the three steps. Problem solved.
Another client struggled to get employees to remember complex technical information about the medical devices it sold. The solution was creating a single page with links to information sheets for each product so employees could quickly and accurately answer customer questions without memorizing the answers.
If you're old enough, you grew up during a time when you memorized all of your friends' phone numbers.
Today, I can barely remember my own phone number. Important information about our friends such as phone numbers, birthdates, and addresses are all safely stored in our smart phones.
It's a phenomenon called digital amnesia where we've become less adept at memorizing information.
That makes training much more difficult since traditional training often revolves around getting participants to memorize facts, procedures, and other information.
KCS can help solve that. Rather than memorizing piles of information, participants are taught to use a knowledge base to identify known solutions to problems. I've helped clients cut new hire training time by as much as 50 percent by switching from a memorization-focused training regime to a KCS approach.
The best part happens when new information is introduced.
Let's say your company releases a new product. You can do a short hands-on training meeting with the new product and capture everyone's questions into a searchable frequently asked questions (FAQ) document that anyone can access.
Now your team can quickly recall what they learned about the new product and sound like an authority when answering questions just by accessing the FAQ. That FAQ can be updated and corrected as new insights are gained or you receive feedback from customers.
Good self-service often runs on information, which means that self-service can fail when that information isn't readily available.
For example, some airlines allow passengers to book free stopovers. This is essentially an extra long layover that allows you to visit one city and then continue to another hours or even days later for the price of one ticket.
Here's what happens when I search the Spirit Airlines website for information on stopovers. (Yes, I added the space on purpose.)
Nothing useful here, not even a clear "we don't allow stopovers" policy. This will probably prompt a call to customer service if I wanted to find the answer.
A best practice is to routinely track what customers are searching for. So if you notice a lot of customers are searching for "stopover," "stop over," or even "layover" you can add a helpful resource that appears when a customer searches any of those terms.
Many customer service software providers have created an interim solution to help customers locate self-service. The Zendesk Answer Bot scans customer emails and intuitively suggests solutions before the customer hits send.
The principles around KCS have been around for a long time. I was first introduced to them 20 years ago and have seen first-hand how important knowledge is in the world of customer service.
You can read an overview of the KCS methodology here if you'd like to explore the topic further.