Why are KCS and Knowledge Management so Important?
Customer service is increasingly important for businesses wishing to achieve a competitive edge. Quite a few analysts see customer service as a decisive competitive factor in many areas of business. This means that the list of publications on customer service is almost endless. In recent years, the focus has broadened and research has emerged that increasingly focuses on customer experience.
A good overview of many aspects of customer experience can be found on the Gartner website.
The approach “Running the Business through Your Customer’s Eyes” is increasingly important for companies, according to research by Bain & Company. According to a 2014 survey by the market research company Gartner, 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience.
Companies that have tried to improve their customer experience often fail because of the discrepancy between what customers expect and experience, and those metrics actually measured and reported internally. In the fog of the internal competitive battle, managers receive conflicting reports. Internal data show that the processes are working fine, but negative testimonies are piling up in forums. One thing is clear to everyone involved: Customer Service matters! So what does a possible approach to a solution look like?
(A good summary of how the question of “Why customer service matters” impacts on the Bottom Line is provided in the article 8 Ways Customer Service Affects Your Business’s Bottom Line)
Meeting Customer Expectations
So what really is the key issue? It’s about the expectations of your customers. And here it becomes clear that the best service is “no service”. By the time a customer contacts Customer Service, their expectations have already been under-fulfilled. According to research by the Consortium for Service Innovation, customer expectations are very quickly undercut and contacting Customer Service is usually preceded by numerous attempts at self-help.
The following graph illustrates the progress of customer value with increasing efforts to solve the problem:
(Source: Consortium for Service Innovation)
Gartner has also pointed out the importance of self-service in a number of publications. Here you can also download the study “Does Your Digital Customer Service Strategy Deliver?” free of charge.
3 Rules for an Optimal Customer Experience
In summary, 3 essential rules can be formulated for an optimal customer experience:
- The best service is no service
- The customer needs optimal self-service support
- Customer Service must provide optimal support
Customer Service is Always About Information
If you look at these rules, you will quickly see the one element that unites them. Besides excellent products and services, information is the biggest success factor for an optimal customer experience.
The challenges are very great for most companies. Information is only available in an insufficient form, it is outdated, incomplete and incorrect. Moreover, it is only found in under-integrated information silos. This results in major disadvantages when it comes to gaining a competitive edge.
We will now consider this in more detail, addressing the rules formulated above in reverse order.
Rule 3: Customer Service Must Provide Optimal Support
What do most companies already succeed in doing today? Well-implemented CRM systems support Customer Service in case processing with information about the customer and also offer good statistical evaluations of customer behaviour.
The situation is quite different with information about products and services, processes and technical documentation. Even important information on organisation and responsibilities is often not available to agents in case processing, especially when service partners are involved.
The solution: Do not abandon the agent to information chaos. Trustworthy, understandable, complete and integrated information that is immediately available during case processing is the key to success here. This is especially true for the integration of service partners.
Rule 2: Optimal Self-Service Support
Most companies leave self-service largely to their customers. Information that is important for customers in the self-service process is scattered or can only be found as testimonials from other customers in various forums. Customers must search for themselves, and have to separate the useful information from the erroneous. Their questions remain unresolved, information is incomplete, and advice is opinionated. With every minute that passes in this search process, your product or service loses value (value erosion).
The solution: Do not leave the customer’s information needs (only) to a community. Easily understandable and complete information that can be found immediately by the customer during research is crucial for customer satisfaction. In case of doubt, a company can manage this better than a community.
Rule 1: The Best Service is No Service
Increasing your no-service rate is certainly the ideal solution. But to achieve this, you have to do more than just analyse data. It is not enough to collect statistical data on customer transactions or to control your partners through case numbers – in case of doubt, anyone can do that. Using information is the key. This means that information must be collected from all areas and as many process steps as possible, it must be brought together and it must be analysed.
The solution: Communicate, expand, analyse and proactively improve feedback. Communication should take place at all levels, with all stakeholders and at all times. “Information providers” include customers, Service agents, partners and the entire company organisation. Integrating this information and bringing it together with data from Customer Service is the best way to ensure improvements and an increase in the no-service rate. A very simple and straightforward example is that product features described in a misleading way can lead to false customer expectations. As a result, negative posts in forums and contacts to the service desk pile up. Their active feedback leads to a more comprehensible version of the described features.
Information / Knowledge Management
Intelligent information is the key to success – but it is not simple to find, it is not simply good and it is not integrated. And it is never really easy to use. Intelligent information needs information management – “There is no Operational Excellence Without a Correctly Working Knowledge / Information Management“.
Think beyond Customer Service. In the end, information is needed by everyone involved and everyone contributes to the documentation process. Everyone contributes to creating and revising information, and thus ensuring quality. This includes not only Customer Service, but the entire company organisation, customers, partners and suppliers.