“Knowledge management is not a shrink-wrapped thing in a box, it’s a discipline,” – Scott Elliot
Modern businesses and enterprises operate in intensely knowledge-driven environments that were made possible by a variety of electronic knowledge sharing mechanisms, the global information highway, and a modern emphasis on data capture and dissemination. The catch phrase of knowledge management is widely used to denote processes that identify, capture, retrieve, and share an enterprise’s information assets; these assets may include documents, policies, databases and the work experience generated by individual workers. Knowledge management assumes outsized importance in modern businesses because the integration of the above aspects of a business enterprise can elevate customer service mechanisms and improve the end-user experience. Businesses need to view knowledge management as a justified business investment because the outcomes of such implementations will definitely outweigh the initial costs. We note that companies and commercial organizations that deploy knowledge management practices to boost business functions can achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction and trust.
Businesses must realise that first-rate customer service should be a corporate watchword and must figure among the top priorities of a commercial organization. The very tangible gains that accrue from the use of knowledge management techniques are coterminous with business objectives; such techniques can reduce customer service costs for a customer facing organization. For instance, a medical services group can develop an extensive database for internal use by its customer service representatives. The said workers can use the database to answer customer queries on the telephone and achieve a high rate of problem resolution during the first contact with a customer. We must note that this strategy is based on the continuous addition of relevant business information to said database, as also training service representatives in the fluent and efficient use of said database. The lack of such business practices may result in customers repeating their phone calls to achieve resolution, thereby driving up business costs and eroding the metrics of customer satisfaction.
The modern electronic age has compelled many businesses to implement the use of Internet and web technologies in their customer service paradigms. This approach enables the deployment of self-service options and thus represents a cost-efficient approach to certain aspects of customer service. We note that knowledge management operates at the core of said approach. For instance, a hardware manufacturer and supplier can choose to use web technologies to answer common questions posed by most customers and business prospects. This technique primarily hinges on knowledge management practices because concise and relevant answers have to be provided to each customer that poses a query to said business enterprise. The web-based self-service paradigm can offer the correct answers, thereby ensuring a high degree of customer satisfaction and significant wins in terms of customer conversion. The human aspect of customer interaction can be reserved for scenarios wherein, highly experienced technical staffers and customer-facing sales personnel can guide customers to the final contours of a bespoke solution crafted specifically for individual customers.
Knowledge management gains further importance because it has a direct bearing on customer retention. Every business must work to retain its customers and expand the said metric. We could say that knowledge management helps a company to gain a competitive advantage. For instance, a software manufacturer can extend its customer service policies to include animations (coupled with screenshots) to guide customers in the use of a new software product. The final guidance package is the outcome of a systematic knowledge management initiative wherein, company workers pool in their collective expertise and product knowledge to create fluent guidance package for the benefit of its customers. This strategy can become part of standard business practices at the said enterprise and may help it to expand its mind share and customer base. New customers may be attracted to the business because the said guidance package makes it easy for customers to adopt new software packages. We note that this approach cuts the time required for trouble shooting and placing calls to customer care contact centres.
Every business regularly operates with its clients, customers, vendors, and suppliers. Needless to say, businesses must value the time of all these stakeholders and must use knowledge management techniques on company websites, online forums, chat modules, and mobile apps to cater to the knowledge requirements of these diverse stakeholders. Self-service channels such as FAQ pages can help the business to efficiently deliver organised and vetted information on a 24×7 basis. The central plank of such information sharing lies in an integrated approach to organizing and presenting pertinent business information. We may note that this strategy can help businesses to achieve their customer service goals in a consistent manner, while attaining substantial cost savings. This strategy is also premised on the fact that the global Internet can be accessed from any point on the planet and therefore, connectivity technologies can be combined with efficient knowledge organization to craft outstanding customer service paradigms.
Knowledge management tools and techniques can be leveraged by a business to train its customer service representatives. This can directly impact customer service levels and can generate higher customer satisfaction. For instance, a banking and financial services institution can use knowledge management tools to train its staff members on the various products and services marketed by the bank. We must note that banking and financial services hinge on knowledge-intensive operations and therefore, customer-facing operatives need fluent and expert knowledge to pitch for and close a sale. The tools mentioned above can help to bring all staff members on the same page in terms of product and service knowledge. In addition, the content being purveyed by said tools can be updated over time to reflect the latest state of knowledge and updated information.
In the above paragraphs, we have surveyed some of the significant impacts of knowledge management techniques in the domain of customer service. Every business that hopes to leverage knowledge management systems to improve customer service must work on the premise that no knowledge is too trifle for capture. Another watchword that may underpin this strategy is that knowledge management is essentially an accretive process and therefore, it is incumbent on the commercial organization to constantly develop and refine its knowledge management practices. In addition, internal business processes must be aligned to extract full mileage from the multiple databases that lie at the core of a knowledge management practice. Businesses must remain sensitive to the fact that knowledge management operations must have a full ‘buy-in’ from the top management cadre; else, the use of such systems may not generate the optimum returns necessary to sustain and multiply the returns on such investments. Businesses must also enable their customers to contribute meaningfully to knowledge management strategies. For instance, an insurance services provider may choose to poll its customers on the most popular insurance policy, the requirement of various types of insurance, customer preferences in terms of business practices, etc. The elicited information can be easily integrated with the firm’s internal knowledge management systems in an attempt to create a better customer service experience. In light of the above, businesses must understand that knowledge management needs to be a dynamic process that must steer clear of corporate silos in the interests of achieving outstanding business outcomes.