Knowledge Management, Customers, and Online Communities

What communities will have knowledge about your products?The obvious knowledge management source is a company employee – the customer service representative, the account executive, the IT manager, technicians, and others. But companies have other assets: customers. Whether it comes in the form of a customer calling in to request a product return or executives working on the next stage of an ongoing relationship, the company and its representatives must listen to customers, absorb the information that customers have, and use that acquired knowledge to maximize customer satisfaction. A well-managed customer relationship is a conversation, a two-way exchange. Under most circumstances the customer possesses, and is often willing to share, the information that he possesses. At StyleMatters, where we help individuals and businesses communicate their ideas, we have discussions like these every day.

Using the Internet and social media, companies can take customers and turn them into an instrument of front-line customer service. Online, these unpaid knowledge management consultants interact, inform, and solve customer concerns, reaching a far greater audience than is possible individually. Used effectively, such expert customers can solve a customer or potential customer’s problem before that individual ever picks up the phone or writes an email. This means not only deflected calls and a lower escalation rate across all contact points, but it also gives your own customer-service team an opportunity to observe customers helping one another, an opportunity that, if properly exploited, can mean a better understanding of the customer as well as a greater sense of shared community in all of your business’s relationships.

Look on the Internet for information about a product: a camera, a piece of software, a hard drive… or about a car, a household appliance, a hotel. Answers abound. True, there’s noise mixed in with the signal, but a discerning reader can tell which is which. Now take a look at who is posting potential solutions to users’ questions – they are often not employees of the companies whose products or services they are discussing. Yet these individuals provide thoughtful, informed answers and solutions, generating enthusiasm for the products being discussed. They spend their time and effort sharing their knowledge and ideas for many reasons, but seldom do these reasons include material compensation. They do it because they are interested and engaged – exactly the customers you want talking about your brand.

The value of well-managed self-service content available over the web and through social media, and its ability to increase customer satisfaction is real. A number of knowledge management companies are helping companies realize that value. Style Matters is one of them. With a pool of knowledge management consultants and writers from a variety of backgrounds, the people at Style Matters know how to oversee and monitor the process, steering the direction of the conversation with a proper tone and voice. We ask questions like that are symptom-specific: What is the problem you are experiencing and how can we help you?” and maintaining a solution-centered online community that serves as a powerful knowledge management tool for your business.

Philip Tanfield has over a decade of experience working in all manner of print and digital media, including at alternative and community newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, and for a variety of online media outlets. In addition to his editorial background, he also has experience in web development, photography, video, event management, customer and client services, print production, and more. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and graduate of Fordham University, he currently lives in Philadelphia and works for StyleMatters. 

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