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Twelve tools to integrate with knowledge management practices for better customer experiences

Have you ever walked into a store only to be ignored by the store employees? Have you ever reached out to customer service with a problem, only to get transferred multiple times with no resolution? Even worse, being asked to repeat the problem multiple times for every person you are transferred to for assistance? Customer service is not just the responsibility of those with the title of customer service representative. It must be a part of every employees job to ensure customers receive the product or services as advertised.

Customer experiences have the capability to bring success or failure of an organization. For the purposes of this article, you will read about three different types of customers you may support, how you can use humanize organizational knowledge to support positive customer engagement, and how to keep paying customers even if you they won’t change their behaviors.

Organizations need to care

If you don’t care about your customers, or if don’t care if they’ve enjoyed what you have provided, then you won’t be in business very long. Consider going to a restaurant or coffee shop and your order being made badly or inedible. What about in a barber shop or hair salon? The ability to quickly help a customer and ensure quality products or services is essential to the first-time customer becoming your repeat customer.

There are three overarching customer avatars to be aware of when providing customer service: Compliers, Begrudgers, and Toddlers.

Customer avatars

Compliers are customers who want to work with you to solve their problems. These are your dream customers. The know why they’ve hired you and trust you. You can count on them to provide you knowledge and information because they know you have their best interests at heart. The real challenge with Compliers is taking the trust to the next level.

Compliers before
Figure 1. Compliers before.

Begrudgers are customers who work with you because they’ve been told to. These are your bad dream customers. Begrudgers are not the ones you prefer to work with, but they are also not the ones you would say are the worst. These customers only show up part of the time and are not willing to share knowledge or information with you. The real challenge with Begrudgers is figuring out what makes them bad dreams and to get them to work with you because they see the benefits of the collaboration.

Begrudgers before
Figure 2. Begrudgers before.

Toddlers are customers who work with you but continue to do what they want to do even with negative results for them. These are nightmarish customers who don’t care if you succeed or if you have an easy time of the work. They truly believe they don’t need any help and are upset that you are there to help them. Like true toddlers, the most common word you will hear from them is “no,” and their attitudes can go from go from happy-go-lucky to pouty at a moment’s notice. The real challenge with Toddlers is understanding why they won’t accept your help even though you have been assigned to support them.

Toddlers before
Figure 3. Toddlers before.

There are 12 tools you can use to support your customers through knowledge management practices to provide better customer experiences.

Twelve tools

There are 12 tools that can support as knowledge management practices and are of great use in customer service when integrated into the organization’s culture. These tools are not knowledge management-specific and should already be in use in an organization, but if you look at them through the knowledge management lens, you will begin to see their importance as a grouping of tools. This familiarity is what makes them easy to integrate to improve or retain positive customer experience efforts.

Processes, procedures, guidelines, and references

These are all parts of organization explicit knowledge that employees should have access to and use on a regular basis. A training program of all processes, procedures, guidelines, and references requiring regular reading can help employees know what standard practices the organization has and how and when to use them. The ability to use automated searches to locate what is available is useful, but if employees don’t know what to look for or have an idea of what the knowledge represents, the time it takes to help a customer may result in a negative experience and even a loss of a customer.

Checklists and check sheets

Checklists and check sheets are used in organizations that prevent neglect of customer requirements and meeting standards. A check list is used when there are items to ensure are reviewed or completed. A check sheet is used when you need to collect and analyze data or information.

Consider purchasing food or drink in a restaurant or coffee shop and food coming out of the kitchen lukewarm or your coffee shop not having sugar or cream for your daily dose of caffeine. Having daily or weekly check lists can help the team when reviewing and purchasing necessary supplies. Check sheets can help you to know when your equipment may be failing to reach the proper temperature. Both are easy-to-use reminders, but when not in use, your customers may be the ones you notify you of what needs to be done and leave with a negative experience.

Mitigations

Worked as part of risk management, mitigation planning in advance of a customer receiving a broken product or service can help a service member be prepared when they come across an issue. As part mitigation planning, this is where employees must have autonomy to put the mitigations into action. For instance, if the customer comes to you with a complaint about a hotel room, wouldn’t you like to be authorized (as a preplanned response) to give them a new room with a complimentary breakfast  or even be able to provide them with an upgrade if an equivalent room is not available?

Lessons learned

It’s not enough to write the lessons learned and then distribute or post them to the organization’s site. Lessons learned should be incorporated into every project in that they are reviewed prior to start of the project, shared as new ones are created, and then, as a library, reviewed for redundancy and recency.  They should also be shared with other project managers who are leading similar projects and their team members as they occur to reduce errors of a project in process.

An easy method of capturing lessons learned is to use the issue, discussion, recommendation format as shown in Table 1 below and tagged for easy location in the lessons learned database.

Table 1. Example of a lessons learned structure.

Lessons Learned Title
Issue Write one sentence to convey the problem.
Discussion Write the background and why the problem was or is a problem in one paragraph of three to five sentences.
Recommendation Write how you solved the problem or recommendation(s) to solve the problem.

Standing orders and preplanned responses

In the military, standing orders are rules to notify and to follow that are used in the absence of the Commanding Officer (CO). A CO cannot be everywhere at all times of the day and night so standing orders are their guidelines and rules that their teams must take if they cannot reach them. In some instances, the standing orders are also rules about when to contact them and when to act as needed. A CEO or someone who can represent their interests can be assigned similarly in an organization’s standing orders to address whatever is considered emergent. While it’s likely that the CEO won’t be on call for these incidents, there can be upper management that can be such as reimbursements or emergency recalls of products.

Similarly, organizations can use preplanned responses that are task related. For instance, if each employee had a desk guide for each system they worked work with or service they delivered, the desk guide would walk them through the required actions. This would ensure that each customer received standardized services and products and the organization can update as needed rather than leave the employee to struggle through the process leaving the customer frustrated.

Forceful backup

Having forceful backup is ensure knowledge is not required or allowed to only be with one person but to have more than one person capable of taking care of a customer for the vast number of customer needs. By having forceful backups, you have multiple employees equipped to handle the various customer service needs. This also allows time off, emergencies, and promotions for employees thereby supporting retention of the team members thereby retaining the corporate knowledge used in customer experience situations.

Sharing experiences

Lunch and learns, informal discussions, and mentoring are all methods of sharing experiences with others. By sharing experiences, employees will be able to ask questions and will be able to recall the requirements and mitigations when needed. A way to do this is to think about what the customer is reacting such a badly made order. How did they react? What would you have wanted done if you were the customer? By having these conversations with each other, you can come up with new solutions or learn about ones you weren’t aware of previously.

Now that you’ve been exposed to these 12 tools, let’s look at how the customer relationships can improve.

New customer relationships once organizational knowledge management practices are used

For Compliers, by adding organizational knowledge management practices to your customer support, you shift the relationship from simply positive to a referral relationship. The Compliers want to share with their friends and family because they have experienced reduced wait time and quick solutions to their complaints. They will recommend you since they have experienced the good you have to offer them.

Compliers after
Figure 4. Compliers after.

Begrudgers begin to understand you are working to solve their problems and not fight them. The Begrudgers started off remembering the bad experiences they’ve had and now see that not every organization operates at the same level of service. They will begin to offer suggestions that will help you provide to them the products or services they really want now that they know you are listening.

Begrudgers after
Figure 5. Begrudgers after.

Finally, your most challenging customer group, Toddlers, begin to see your customer service as positive and accept that you are there to work with them – not against them. The Toddlers are not 100% sold on you, but they are at least willing to give you a chance. You will have to continue to work with them in order for the relationship to not revert back to where it started, but now, you have learned more about the customer and can continue to grow your relationship.

Toddlers after
Figure 6. Toddlers after.

For all of your work with these three customer avatars, you may never convert all of them, but with knowledge management practices and the 12 tools built into your organizational culture, you have a starting point to work from.

Key takeaways

  • Build a relationship with each customer by exchanging knowledge.
  • Ensure your teams are properly prepared to use knowledge and have autonomy.
  • Make your customers feel as if they are your only customers.
  • Remember that bad news doesn’t get better with age so make customers part of your team by being upfront.
  • Listen to their input and ask clarifying questions.

Header image source: Icons8 Team on Unsplash.

Customer avatar images source: © licensed for use by Dr Cynthia J Young.

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Dr Cynthia J Young

Dr Cynthia J Young is the Founder/CEO of CJ Young Consulting, LLC, a knowledge management consulting firm, the TMPC Curriculum Development and Training Lead for Leidos, Virginia Beach, and a U.S. Navy retiree. She holds professional certifications as a Project Management Professional, a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, and as an ASQ-Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence. Her doctoral study, Knowledge Management and Innovation on Firm Performance of United States Ship Repair, provided her the opportunity to gain additional professional and academic expertise to facilitate improvements in organizational knowledge management. Dr Young is the creator of the Knowledge Management Bootcamp® and the author of three chapters in the Refractive Thinker® doctoral anthology series – two of the anthologies have been certified as an Amazon #1 International Best Sellers. In September 2020, she gave a TEDx Talk called “A Knowledge Mindset: What You Know Comes from Where You Sit."

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