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Customer Knowledge – Do you know what you know? 

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 waters.

 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 relationships.

 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.   

           While 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.