For anyone creating knowledge content, customer support agents likely represent a large part of the audience. Support agents need information to progress through onboarding, assist customers, and learn how to support new products or services. Unfortunately, the content we work so hard to create doesn’t always find its way into the support agent experience.

Before we spend all our time considering why internal customers aren’t using product documentation, it’s useful to consider how customer support agents find content in the first place.

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Where customer support agents go for information

Here are some of the knowledge sources most common to the agent experience:

Google Search

Let’s be honest: Google is often the quickest way to an answer. Why? Because most organizations lack the integrations and cross-departmental collaboration that make “the content you need, right at your fingertips” possible. We can’t really expect support agents to rely on broken site search or bad click navigation when Google is one or two clicks away. Right?

The knowledge base

Support agents often turn to a knowledge base for authoritative information and approved steps for troubleshooting. They’ll reference this content while assisting customers, sometimes sending it to them directly. Ideally, the knowledge base is part and parcel of a broader web self-service portal, one that allows various users to authenticate and see only the knowledge they need to achieve some successful outcome. Here is a good example of a self-service portal.

Within the customer relationship manager (CRM)

Most of a support agent’s day is spent in some kind of case management system. Some integrations inject product documentation directly into this agent experience. This way, support agents don’t have to waste time switching windows to find content—they can see what content customers have already seen before submitting the ticket, link solutions to cases, and review the previous cases, all in one place.

Community or forum

Though not always as reliable as some other sources of knowledge, a well-moderated community or forum can be a good source of information. A forum can be especially useful for fixes to lesser-known issues or hotfixes. In some cases, certain agents might be asked to help out on the forum and moderate, which can help deflect cases while proactively keeping a pulse on emerging issues.

Don’t forget tribal knowledge

There is one key method of finding information excluded from the list above: keeping it in the family. I’m talking tribal knowledge. More often than not, support agents turn to each other first for information on specific issues or situations. They ask more experienced agents who’ve seen it before.

Unfortunately, much of this knowledge isn’t documented anywhere. If it is, you have to know exactly where to look. I’ll give you an example: during my days as a technical writer, our team was trying to figure out why our colleagues in support weren’t using our knowledge base content. Come to find that the support agents were using a shared OneNote to copy/paste canned responses, quick links to oft-used KB content, even code snippets.

How did we technical writers get access to that OneNote?

Word of mouth. And many of the solutions contained therein weren’t available anywhere else.

How to make finding content easier

The problem with tribal knowledge is that it cannot always be found in an efficient way by support agents or other internal users. How do we find a way to capture this knowledge in the flow—to make it an easy and efficient part of the agent experience?

With regard to finding knowledge, how do we make our existing content easy to find? Do we integrate it into the CRM? Do we enable agents to create content on the fly?

Maybe we finally make our knowledge content public.

Ultimately, understanding who our knowledge content is for and where they go to find information is only half the battle. Making sure that content is seamlessly integrated into the agent experience requires a broader strategy capable of spanning organizational silos.

Additional categories: Customer Support, Knowledge Management