Chief Knowledge Officer required: Board level role with ownership for driving high quality customer experience through omni-channel knowledge

A couple of days ago I presented at Engage’s ‘Future of the Contact Centre’ conference. A great event, really well attended, and a great opportunity to see some familiar faces and to meet with some new ones.  I also noticed the shift in the vendor hall with many more AI vendors, chat bots, analytics and, interestingly, knowledge based services.

The topic of conversation at an event such as this inevitably turns to ‘what next?’ and AI.  In fact this has been the case at the past few customer events I have attended.  What is very clear to me is that AI is absolutely a catch all for many things.  This article is not intended to explore the differences or explain – that’s a job for another day – however I will just suggest that a lot of what is being termed as AI is in fact just logic; the routing of calls through IVRs, to mobile notifications, to those clever new widgets that appear on your Apple devices at different times of day or locations (look out for them in the bottom left of your home screen).

However when we start getting into the world of machine learning, what is apparent to me as really significant is how you create, maintain, evolve and develop relevant, accurate and compliant knowledge.  This is even more relevant when we think about the recent claims of fake news being generated.  If we will, as I think we will, inhabit a world where the responsibility for diagnosing an issue, a symptom, a technical issue or a complex customer service challenge is diagnosed by a machine, then we have to ensure that the answer is correct, is accurate, is relevant, is complaint and in line with company policy.  This means that we need to find the right balance of leveraging the significant scale and benefits of machine learning in our operations whilst maintaining, at least for now, the appropriate human intervention.

My current thinking is that in order to do this we need to establish a discipline and ownership for knowledge, and I don’t think this is just a compliance role as that is far too narrow.  Neither do I believe that the training team can do this as part of their role – you can’t dabble with it when you get five minutes.  This role is about ensuring knowledge is presented at the right point in the customer journey; that training and engagement skills are keeping a pace with the new scale and diversity of knowledge; that it is omni-channel in its delivery so needs analysis and continual improvement; and its relevance, usefulness and impact on NPS and other customer measures are well managed. Of course what will need to remain for sales operations is ensuring that the incremental benefits from machine learning or AI still enables increased revenues and will not reduce opportunities to enrich relationships with all the known benefits that delivers.  People will still buy people (cue a debate on the Turing test and ex –machina style robot love!)

Some of these are of course characteristics shared with the Customer Experience Director, I recognise that, but for now as this is such a fast moving area I don’t think we can subsume this into that role. The customer experience function still has the main role in ensuring that the operation is effectively run, that the people are skilled and engaged, that the operational performance is delivered and customer journeys still keep pace with customer needs and demands. However, when you ask some of the knowledge vendors what is holding back your clients and prospects, it is often one of ownership and a recognition that the effort to collate knowledge articles (artefacts as they are often called) makes it too hard and a job for another day. The role of the CKO and their team of knowledge architects who act as curators as well as developers needs to be encouraged to create this urgency and ownership as that other day is coming.

So one to watch, but please let us know your thoughts, of course if you are already looking for a CKO then we can help you find one or if you are considering the implications of machine learning and AI on your operations get in touch.

Ember is a business services group helping organisations to become market-relevant and business-ready for the future. Through four specialist and integrated businesses, we can help you define your priorities for change through the analysis of outcome and operational realities, identifying hidden risks and supporting the transition of delivery. Understanding the value of your processes, people and technology and their impacts on customer behaviours and loyalty will deliver long term success through better customer engagements.

Simon Foot
Ember Group Development Director