Collaborative Knowledge Management in the Call Center

Collaborative Knowledge Management in the Call Center

Debbie Richards (Macquarie University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-783-8.ch408

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Introducing The Call Center

In the period 2003-2006 we1 have been working with the Sydney-based call center in a large multinational Information and Communication Technology (ICT) organization, which will be referred to as ORG X. Trouble-shooting failures or reduced system performance on the client’s equipment was difficult and time consuming due to the complex environments involving multiple vendors, machines, software products and topologies, in an infinite number of combinations. It was no longer possible to expect a single expert to quickly find and resolve such issues. A better approach was needed, to allow both the accumulation of knowledge with guided trouble-shooting techniques, along with interfaces to all other relevant knowledge bases and data sources. The call center of ORG X received around 5,000 customer problem tickets per day globally, 1000 were emailed automatically from faulty equipment to the support center’s case tracking software and another 4,000 per day came from customers, taking on average 2 hours to solve. According to their 2004 Annual Report, ORG X’s cost of services as a whole were in the order of $US1 billion per annum. Better (re)use of trouble-shooting knowledge could save time and result in improvements to the bottom line.

Timely retrieval of the pertinent knowledge is an issue for all call centers involved in problem-solving. Additionally, while not necessarily true of ORG X, opportunities for career advancement in call centers are typically limited and motivation tends to be low with levels of ‘churn’ (the percentage of staff that need replacing) for call centers averaging around 31 percent, and as high as 51 percent among outsourced centers (Batt, Doellgast and Kwon, 2005). A knowledge management system which would allow call center workers to handle the routine problems more quickly and solve more of the interesting problems that were commonly passed to higher, usually more technical, levels of customer support, could provide greater employee satisfaction and stability as well improve the company’s reputation and customer satisfaction.

A number of research instruments and techniques were used during this project. We began with an exploratory approach in the form of an indepth case study at our host organization together with review of vendor offerings and the related literature. The case study involved interviews, observation and surveys but moved into action research (as defined by Gummesson 2000) as we participated in the life of the organization and sought to improve the current knowledge management solution through the design, development and testing of a prototype.

Next let us consider the call center further by looking at the systems currently in use and the issues related to knowledge management.

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