3 Unique Knowledge Management Challenges for Your Distributed Workforce

businessman analyzing charts as example of knowledge management challenges solved

We’ve all been there: that terrible feeling when you don’t know the answer to the question. From a student struggling to come up with a response to their teacher as the entire class looks on, to an employee attempting to provide an answer as a customer waits, the feeling of not knowing is no fun for anyone. Knowledge management challenges can be tricky to solve.

Knowledge management (KM) and knowledge transfer can be major pain points within organizations, especially those with a large distributed workforce.

Despite the fact that information continues to grow at a rate of 40-60% annually, many companies are falling behind when it comes to managing internal knowledge. According to a recent study, 57% of companies haven’t updated their corporate content for “a very long time.” Although there don’t seem to be immediate consequences from neglecting knowledge management, errors can rapidly snowball and make a major impact in the long term.

Beyond avoiding the snowball effect of flawed knowledge, companies that share information more effectively enjoy better productivity. A survey from TSIA found that 43% of companies believe productivity could be improved by 30% or more just by sharing knowledge more efficiently.

With these risks and benefits in mind, let’s look at three key knowledge management challenges when you have a distributed workforce.

Challenge 1: Supplying the field with instant answers

In many field roles, employees are working one-on-one with customers – there’s no good option to put that in-person interaction “on hold” while the employee finds someone to answer their question. And it undermines their credibility (and the credibility of the brand) when they don’t know or can’t immediately find an answer for the customer.

A perfect example comes from the financial advising industry. According to Forbes, expertise is one of the top three things clients want from their financial advisor. When advisors are engaging one-on-one and are asked a question they don’t know the answer to, they’re often between a rock and a hard place: they want to appear knowledgeable to their client by quickly supplying the right answer, but it would feel awkward to interrupt their session to call their support team.

For this type of scenario, it’s crucial to be able to offer your field workforce access to a comprehensive knowledgebase. Enable them to ask questions in natural language from a web or mobile interface, and ensure that the answers provided are helpful, up-to-date, and most of all, specific – a generic answer is almost as bad as no answer at all. Your knowledgebase should be able to pull information from multiple sources, like authored content, internal databases, and trusted third-party sites, to find the best answer.

If the answer proves difficult to find, you must enable immediate, real-time escalation to your field support team. For example, a major airline uses Astute technology to allow their flight attendants to text and video chat with support agents to help resolve issues as needed, ensuring they’re able to provide the best in-flight experience for their guests.

Challenge 2: Keeping information consistent and complete

Whether it’s retail store associates, restaurant staff, auto dealers, or anybody else who works out in the field, it can be difficult to get everyone singing the same tune.

Astute research found that one of the top reasons employees do not use a knowledgebase is they feel they already know the answer. There’s an assumption that by using their own expertise, they’ll be able to provide the correct resolution. Even so, 44% of consumers have received incorrect information from company representatives.

A unified solution to knowledge helps define and validate the right answers to begin with, and by training all employees to use the system, you ensure everyone is able to provide correct and consistent answers throughout all their customer interactions.

This brings up the broader question of knowledge transfer – how to effectively get information out of the heads of your subject matter experts (SMEs) and into a format that can be distributed across the workforce. That’s why it’s important to look for a KM tool that allows SMEs to easily contribute and update content, making the process of knowledge transfer much simpler.

A sophisticated KM solution can also automatically identify and alert you to knowledge gaps, so you can focus on supplying answers to questions that are actually being asked. Being notified of gaps also helps you prioritize the work of knowledge gathering and authoring.

Challenge 3: Sharing the right information for the role

Depending on who is searching for an answer, you may want to customize the information they see or provide tailored guidance to that particular role. This is called “profiled content,” and it enables you to use the same foundational content to power knowledgebase interactions for your field staff, your contact center agents, and your customers via self-service.

Having tailored guidance for agents and field employees can be especially valuable in high-turnover industries, as it enables even new staff members to get resolutions right the first time.

For example, let’s say a customer wants to know if their coupon to your retail store is still valid. They can use web or mobile self-service to find the answer, but a store associate could also look up the policy in real time as the customer is standing with them in the store. The associate could be shown deeper information about certain exceptions to expired coupons, and guided steps to overriding the system to allow the customer to use the coupon. Obviously you wouldn’t want to show that level of detail to just anyone, but it’s incredibly valuable for a store associate, especially a brand-new one, to have that information available in the moment.

How are you currently addressing these knowledge management challenges for your field workforce? Map out a strategy tailored to your business needs with the experts at Astute – get in touch with us today.