How Just-In-Time Information Keeps Customer Service Agents Ahead of the Curve

In its early years, Toyota pioneered “kanban,” a manufacturing methodology inspired by how supermarkets stock their shelves. One of kanban’s pillars is just-in-time (JIT) supply chains, designed to efficiently meet consumer demand through a three-bin system across the factory floor, warehouse and supplier facility. When any one bin runs low on components, a kanban (originally a card but now a more advanced signal) is passed between teams to coordinate rapid replenishment. The idea is to improve visibility and streamline inventory management by avoiding excessive stock on-hand.

Kanban’s influence has extended well beyond the auto industry, inspiring the agile development movement and even some of the specific features of customer service management software. For example, in advanced knowledge management (KM) systems, something similar to JIT applies to the quick adjustment of the articles and documents available to your agents. This concept of “just-in-time information” ensures the freshness and relevance of these critical resources when they are resolving support issues, just as kanban maintains exactly the optimal levels of stock.

Just-in-time information as a difference-maker for customer support agents

Let’s look at the flipside of the support relationship for a moment and consider what it’s like for internal end users or external customers to have outdated info delivered to them via a KM platform without JIT-inspired practices in place.

Say you wrote a lengthy, highly-specific email to the help desk about the persistent crashes in the company content management system; in response, you get a generic automated message.

These auto-replies are much less well-received than personalized messages, which always exhibit higher engagement rates. However, agents without complete, up-to-date knowledge base articles at their fingertips may have few other realistic options than to stall for time with such techniques while they search for the situation-specific right answers. This approach leads to delays and inevitable dissatisfaction on the other end. A survey from Actionable Research once found that speed was even more important to both consumers and IT professionals than response quality, yet neither is possible without JIT information.

Imagine a car manufacturer trying to ramp up new model production on a demanding schedule, without any insight into how many parts were available. Or, consider a situation in which there are an overwhelming number of such components to sort through, but no one’s sure of their quality or suitability for current production. That’s basically the predicament for customer service operations with no access to crucial supporting resources.

In contrast, JIT systems built into knowledge management software allow agents to:

  • Have outdated and/or incomplete articles automatically flagged for updating.
  • Request revisions directly from the original author(s) or modify the materials themselves.
  • Close tickets more quickly, or avoid opening them in the first place.
  • Improve the overall first call/interaction resolution rate – one of the most important customer service metrics.

The upshot of JIT information: More proactive and effective customer service

Navigating a sea of tickets or customer emails can feel like playing defense, i.e., agents are under constant pressure to locate the necessary info and transform it into helpful responses that also make positive impressions. With JIT information they can become much more proactive. Resources can be continuously modified with the help of other customer service management software features such as centralized knowledge base search, easy content creation and streamlined self-service capabilities.

RightAnswers is the ticket to better customer service. To learn more about our comprehensive KM platform with just-in-time information, check out our blog entries or request a demo for a closer look at the solution in action.

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