Customer Knowledge – Do you know what
Everyday companies face circumstances
relating to customers, where employees have to think creatively. The
result of any customer interaction can have two possible outcomes. The
first is that the employee uses past experience as a frame of
reference to deal with the situation, or they go into uncharted
Either way the result of the
interaction has value to the business.
Today products and services are being
defined as experiences rather than tangible assets. Customers
contribute knowledge to businesses with every interaction they make.
It is the businesses job to assimilate and convert knowledge that is
in the heads of their employees (and customers), into capabilities and
Many big companies are under the
illusion that huge amounts of customer data will directly lead to more
accurate and better decisions. However, too much data can make it
more difficult to make sense of, and can be overwhelming.
While transactions captured electronically are an absolute must, data
alone only provides half the picture. Number crunching can tell you
what has happened in the past, but people must fill in the blanks as
to why it happens - was any of it good? Was any of it bad? Why?
Because information increases in
value the more often it is used, companies must find ways to
disseminate information and add value to their business.
Unfortunately, knowledge is not
always clear, crisp, or simple. Instead, it is often fuzzy, partly
structured and partly unstructured. It is intuitive, hard to
communicate, and difficult to express. This knowledge is not stored in
databases but is more experienced based and intuitive.
This “tacit” knowledge may be the
only input that can help a company cope with radical change. Without
it, a business may not know that their competitive environment is
changing until it is too late. This may leave a company with the wrong
product, at the wrong time, and in the wrong place.
many facts about customers may be documented in databases, the largest
part of a company’s intellectual capital resides in its employees.
When a person having that critical piece of knowledge quits to join a
competitor, that knowledge also walks out the door.
However, as long as your job security and my job security depend on
what we know (skills and level of understanding), it makes us more
reluctant to share our exclusive knowledge and understanding with
others. Any management initiative that assumes people will gladly
share what they know voluntarily is doomed to failure.
Organizations often spin their
wheels by reinventing solutions and repeating mistakes because they
could not identify or transfer best practices and experiential
knowledge from one project to another.
Starting from scratch with each new
project indicates that knowledge is neither being retained nor shared.
When this happens a competitive asset has been squandered and the
company incurs unnecessary expense to relearn the same lessons.
The real task is to create a company
culture that rewards information sharing and can make actionable
(relevant) information available in the right place, at the right
time, in the right context, so anyone, not just the producer, can
bring it to bear on decisions.
A business that is committed to being
customer focused can take steps to facilitate the exchange of
information between employees by promoting meetings of all customer
facing employees on a consistent basis. These meetings should go over
customer activity for the period, as well as any issues that may have
arisen. Any unique or unusual situations as well as routine service
requests should be discussed.
A senior management representative
must always attend. Participation from all attendees should be
encouraged, recognized, and rewarded.