Frontline staff are the external face of many organisations, as they deliver the core services and products to customers. They range from staff in bank branches and call centres, to sales people and field engineers.
The services delivered by frontline staff are often complex, and are updated constantly with new procedures and policies. Underpinning this is a large body of frontline content that provides comprehensive reference, training and support material.
There is no question that the services and activities of frontline staff are business critical. Since these staff rely on frontline content to do their jobs, that also makes these knowledge bases business critical.
The brutal truth, however, is this: most frontline content is neither recognised or managed as business critical. This is a significant business risk for businesses, as well as impacting the quality of day-to-day customer service.
If frontline content is to be regarded as business critical, three aspects must be considered:
- how the content is managed
- what technology platform it sits on
- how business risks are recognised
Manage frontline content like your life depends on it
For more than 15 years, we’ve highlighted the importance of knowledge in call centres, and in frontline environments. More broadly, every type of customer-facing role is underpinned by a substantial body of knowledge.
This content covers many needs, including:
- initial training of new starters
- procedures for common (and uncommon tasks)
- processes for using frontline business systems
- policies that apply to customers or clients
- scripts for use in customer interactions
- problem identification and resolution
These needs routinely require tens of thousands of pages of content, ideally online, but also in the form of PDFs and documents. This content must be of the highest standard, enabling staff to easily find accurate content that can be quickly digested and used.
Sufficient resources must be allocated to managing frontline content. At a minimum, there should be staff who have full-time responsibility for frontline content. In larger or more complex organisations, a substantial team may be needed.
These staff must also have the right combination of content writing skills and business knowledge. They must have strong connections back into the wider organisation, enabling them to keep on top of constant changes and updates.
Without these resources, frontline content will invariably be out of date or incomplete. Worse still, the content will be steadily falling further behind, which will impact on staff productivity and customer service quality.
Maintain a robust technology platform
Frontline content needs to sit on a suitable technology platform, whether it is an intranet solution, web content management system, or specialist knowledge management product. This must provide strong support for content creation and delivery.
This makes the content management technology solution a key component of frontline delivery, and a suitable product must be put in place.
In too many instances, frontline content is left at the periphery of the organisation, out of sight and out of mind for central IT teams. Frontline content can end up by default with whatever is used for the corporate intranet, or teams may be left to fend for themselves in purchasing a separate solution.
The industry has also been around long enough for some early movers to now find themselves with platforms that are no longer supported by their vendors (if they even still exist!). These solutions may still be strong in functionality, but without ongoing vendor maintenance they are as good as dead.
With the business critical nature of frontline content, the technology platform should be chosen and managed accordingly. The specific needs that emerge from such a large body of content must be well addressed, and the product should sit as a highly visible element of the corporate IT environment.
Frontline content is a business risk
All larger organisations (and many smaller ones) have a risk team who maintain a ‘risk register’ for the business as a whole. This collates all significant business risks, and ranks them accordingly to impact and likelihood.
The real test is therefore this: is frontline content on the risk register?
Frontline content, and the technology platform that underpins it, should be identified and managed as corporate risk with ‘business critical’ status. This ensures visibility to senior leaders, inclusion in risk management planning, and allocation of sufficient resources to mitigate the risk.
Frontline areas should seek out the risk team, and invite them to assess the importance of frontline content. Corporate risk teams can ultimately end up as strong allies and advocates for better managing frontline content and tools.
Giving it love and attention
Frontline content can be virtually invisible within organisations, despite how dependent frontline staff are on it. Even within frontline teams, the body of knowledge that they rely on can be taken for granted.
Great customer service can only be delivered by staff who are well-informed and supported. Recognise frontline content as business critical, and start agitating at the highest levels for it to be managed and resourced accordingly.