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All about the knowledge

Posted by Zosia Katnik, on 04 Nov 2016

Customer effort – one of those ‘buzz words’, but it will always be relevant. It’s about the measure of how easy it is for a customer to get what they want from an organisation. From a customer experience point of view and when thinking about customer satisfaction (these buzz words are flying out now!), it makes sense that as providers of a service, we should concentrate our efforts on improving what we can, to make things simpler for our customers. Why wouldn’t we?

But isn’t that what all of us do – try to do things better so it’s easier for our customers? At Red Kite we certainly spend time doing this, but over the last 18 months we’ve been working on a different way of accessing information, that helps us share knowledge with staff and customers so they have greater independence when it comes to managing their homes and tenancies.

Traditionally, you would make plans first to achieve an outcome. But being non-traditional, we’ve purposefully been working on this from a different direction. We’ve stepped back from the concept of customer effort and instead focused on staff effort. Of course customers should have a simple journey and we will never lose sight of that in our way of working, but how easy is the journey for our colleagues to access what they need to provide those services to our customers? Our staff are internal customers, after all, and they are equally important when it comes to what they experience. Making their life easier, will in turn make the experience more satisfying for our customers. It’s an old adage, but it’s true.

Enter the Knowledge Sphere, which we launched in early October. It’s a bespoke and ever evolving information repository, built in-house using our existing Sharepoint platform. Put simply, and to start with, it’s going to be the central point of reference for anything our staff need to know. Our very own organisation-wide Google. With the Knowledge Sphere a no-brainer to give our teams everything they need to deliver, we made the commitment early on to deliver it as part of a wider change to the way we do business. We see value in giving staff the tools to help our customers find the answers they need, rather than putting barriers in front of our customers by simply training staff as the experts. Why can’t our customers become the experts for helping other customers?

To get to where we are now, we took the approach of putting all the staff resources we needed in place over a year ago, creating a team dedicated to bringing the Knowledge Sphere to life, rather than waiting for the technology first. Using this new platform, we used in-house expertise and skills to build as much we could ourselves, with some third party support for the fine tuning. 

In essence, the Knowledge Sphere today is a little like a library (albeit digital and cool), where the books (or content and knowledge) are written by our talented staff and then organised and shared with each other, or our customers. Using smart searching and refiners, each person can access the content they need, when they need it – rather than expecting staff to read every ‘book’ in the library to find information! It’s all about achieving better outcomes and making things easier, as well as helping to reduce demand to our traditional channels, encouraging self service and supporting digital channel shift.

Now, when new people join our team we spend half the time and effort inducting them, teaching them the basics, helping them navigate through the mass of processes, procedures and information, because it’s all there in an incredibly powerful online tool. This approach therefore, doubles up as an in-house training tool, delivering value for money not only through a reduction in staff time spent resolving enquiries (and therefore staff cost) but also in terms of the resources needed to coach, train and create or share information.

Essentially, if we can be more efficient and connect our customers, both internal and external, with the knowledge they need through a friendly and supportive approach, every customer will have an improved experience and will be more inclined to access that same information themselves in the future. Sometimes you cannot just tell someone the way; it’s more helpful to show them.
 

And coming back to that question of why it is that our customers can’t be the experts for other customers, that’s where we won’t just stop at the Knowledge Sphere for staff. When designing content, the first thing we asked ourselves was “How can we give this answer directly to our customers?”. By taking this approach we’ve created content that’s customer friendly even though we’ve only launched the Knowledge Sphere internally to staff. As mentioned before, we see the role of our staff being to help customers find the knowledge they need, rather than having to own it, so where possible content that can be searched for or sent to customers for future reference, is far more valuable than a reliance on our staff to be knowledgeable and have to keep giving out those same answers. Our approach here is going to be like all great technology, an evolving and iterative process, but it’s not all about technology – it’s about a way of working. With a great team in place to deliver and the tools to facilitate creativity and collaboration, the potential is vast!


Matthew Hedges

Head of Relationships

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Red Kite Community Housing, Windsor Court, Kingsmead Business Park, High Wycombe, HP11 1JU

Red Kite Community Housing is a charitable registered society which operates for the benefit of the community under the Cooperative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014. VAT registration number 123147939.