The Exodus of Expertise – A Strategy for Documenting and Safeguarding Your Company’s Specialized Knowledge

Pretty much every company has a Greta.

  • Greta is a valued and experienced staff member who possesses a great deal of institutional knowledge.
  • Unfortunately, that knowledge has not been documented.
  • She is eager to be helpful and answer questions, but the one-on-one format is inefficient which makes it difficult to scale.
  • And due to the informal nature of these direct interactions, the questions (and answers) are not tracked. So Greta ends up answering the same sort of questions over and over and over again.

In my prior article I explained the founding of ProNavigator (that frustration 90 minute call with an insurers call center…). You would think someone like Greta would be an asset to an organization and is a solution to the problem I encountered. You would be correct…except that Greta is about to retire and much of what she knows is NOT documented. So once Greta retires from the company, her wisdom, knowledge and insights also leave the company. This is one of the leading sources of knowledge gaps within an organization. Knowledge gaps create time delays and time delays end up degrading customer experience, increasing call average handling times, and increasing the costs of your operations. One specific use case that we encountered with an insurer shows some steps you can take to eliminate these knowledge gaps.

An insurer we work with has a typical call center which is used to answer agent questions, handle customer inquiries, and process requests. Even with a ton of documentation, knowledge gaps exist with inexperienced employees or with complex queries, which forces call center employees to have to pull in subject matter experts (SMEs) or other experienced colleagues to resolve the call. Even if the SMEs are available, your customer on the other end of that call is going to experience a delay. Worse, if the SMEs are not available, you may force the customer to call back, further degrading the customer experience.

An approach to address these knowledge gaps is to implement a system that can capture and store the full corpus of questions and inquiries that are occurring. With messaging apps like Teams or Slack, it is relatively straightforward to see the types of questions of your front-line SMEs. You can transcribe conversations to extract key questions that need answering

  • Are there questions that go unanswered? This could be a sign that the SMEs are at capacity or that institutional knowledge is missing from your organization.
  • Are there queries that appear over and over again? These reveal opportunities for training materials or Job Aids to provide standardized answers or add to an FAQ in some client/agent facing portal.
  • Can you identify the SMEs and proactively engage with them about the known (and unknown) knowledge gaps?
  • Can you scale this process across multiple SMEs, call centers and employees?
  • You will need to find a method to make this new data easily obtainable. Just putting this knowledge into documentation is not enough, if employees still cant find it because they do not know what to look for.

By curating a database of these questions and queries, and by making this database easily searchable, you reduce the amount of time it takes your employees to find information to solve their problem whether that be in the call center or in some other part of your business such as product management, underwriting, and claims. The less your customers need to wait for an answer the better the customer experience will be for them. But a just as important side benefit is in employee satisfaction. Employees are frustrated at systems that hinder their ability to do their job. Closing the knowledge gaps and making search easier and faster benefits customer and internal culture as well.

In future articles, I will provide additional use cases around the knowledge exodus and how we found innovative ways to solve them.

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