Reduce call duration by improving service desk knowledge-sharing

What would it be like if we could reduce the call duration by 25 per cent and the time spent on calls by 15 per cent? Well, if someone were to ask me such a question, I could say nothing but, “Sounds great. Let’s go for it!”

Who wouldn’t want to go for it?

Reducing call duration makes customers happier, and a shorter time spent on the phone results in more time for improving other things. But I don’t believe in miracles. So here’s my next question, “How do you think you’ll achieve this?” The answer is surprisingly simple: by recycling knowledge.

A service desk receives all types of questions. Some requests are received a lot and have similar answers. These questions, logged by email or via the self-service portal, are answered by someone from first-line support. That answer – as soon as it’s written in an email or in response to a call – is, in fact, useful knowledge. Knowledge that you can re-use to answer a similar question from another caller but without, now, being forced to extend any additional resources.

Now, you’ll hear a lot of people say, “Ah! We need a knowledge base!” That’s right, but not quite like you’d expect. Once it’s decided you need a knowledge base, you’ll often have to assign a knowledge manager. He’ll design a handy structure – which takes time – and write the first articles – which also takes time.

But life and business go on and in the process, you still haven’t answered any actual customer questions. That’s how not to do it. It’s much better if you get everyone who works with customers to share their knowledge of working with customers. Then, start paying attention to your knowledge and adding it to the knowledge base. Do you think the answer to a customer question is useful to other colleagues? Put it in the knowledge base. Even if the answer isn’t perfect or complete, or if it doesn’t fit in a certain structure. It doesn’t matter.

Most importantly: The information should be useful. Also, make sure you use a number of good keywords.

You yourself should also check the knowledge base before answering a customer question. Thanks to your colleagues’ keywords your search can be quick. Is the knowledge item for what you’re looking for? Great! You get to quickly answer that question. Is it not exactly what you’re looking for? Quickly improve it. This helps your other colleagues who receive similar questions. The difficulty in this is not about finding a good knowledge manager.

Rather, it’s the challenge of getting everyone used to writing everything in the knowledge base. The percentages mentioned above are actual improvements many have achieved in their service desks using such approaches.

And the best thing about it is that these service desks are creating real knowledge for their customers and they are enjoying doing so. This lets them actively contribute to making everyone’s work easier. A name I’ve given the process is: Best Practice Knowledge Management. This approach makes sure that end users can find knowledge via the self-service portal’s knowledge base before they even have to ask a question to the service desk. This will not only reduce the call duration but even the total number of calls. Simple as that.

Wolter Smit, CEO and co-founder of TOPdesk