Collaborative Knowledge Management in the Call Center

Collaborative Knowledge Management in the Call Center

Debbie Richards (Macquarie University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-687-7.ch005
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Collaboration is fundamental to the goals and success of knowledge management (KM) initiatives aimed at supporting decision making and problem solving. Yet many KM approaches and systems do not provide explicit mechanisms which allow knowledge to be collaboratively built up, validated and reconciled so that the more general goals of knowledge sharing and reuse can be achieved. In domains such as the call center, problems and solutions need to be created, retrieved, reworked and reused by multiple individuals and typically involves the use of multiple knowledge management tools, knowledge scattered across disparate sources and implicit “know-how”. Acquiring, accessing, maintaining, sharing, reconciling and reusing knowledge in its various forms are particular challenges in the call center domain where the knowledge needed is complex and constantly changing made worse by short-term knowledge workers. The approach suggested allows knowledge, in the form of rules, to be incrementally acquired as the problem arises, in the form of cases, as part of the daily routine. Using the approach, knowledge workers are able to collaboratively and incrementally capture and maintain the heuristics they use daily for trouble-shooting. Further the system is designed to integrate to a wide variety of information and knowledge sources including legacy systems, recognizing the investment and value of such sources and minimizing the need to duplicate existing resources. This paper reports experiences and issues with knowledge management systems in the call center environment. A case study conducted during 2003-2006 is presented which describes how users found the incumbent systems and a prototype knowledge management system embodying the above approach.
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Call Center Knowledge Management And Supporting Systems

Traditional call center knowledge management software has supported case tracking of information such as customer details and the problem description including the product affected, operating system, version number, relevant error codes and who has been assigned to solve the case. These systems can be seen as an extension to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. Integrating concepts related to CRM and KM recognizes the value of customers, the value of knowledge relating to products and services and the value of managing knowledge for, about and from customers (Gebert et al. 2003). Traditionally clients call front-line personnel but facilities for clients to directly enter, and sometimes solve their problems are becoming more common. In our domain the problem cases/tickets may be machine generated and electronically forwarded. The Internet has opened up the possibility of “customer coaching” or “one to one marketing” via technologies such as voice over IP (VOIP), conferencing and joint web browsing (Hampe, 1999).

Moving beyond the traditional model often requires redesign of workflows and user interfaces and upskilling of the call center staff. For example, Grundel and Schneider-Hufschmidt (1999) offered a custom built user interface for the call center environment in which calls and problems are passed from person to person and perhaps from a range of different device types, ranging from PCs to small handheld personal digital assistants (PDAs) using direct manipulation interfaces. XML to mark-up (web-based) documents is another key to supporting Service Centers of the Future (ScotF) (Schmidt and Wegner, 2000).

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