Customer relationships are increasingly multichannel.
A customer service strategy often includes a self-service portal or an extranet, and consumers utilize a Google search or transact on the Web. Yet in many organizations, people -- on support desks, in contact centers, and in the sales field -- are still a primary touch point for each customer. As such, they play a crucial role in customer engagement and possibly in the future management of that customer relationship.
Despite the importance of these people, they're under mounting pressure -- consumers are become savvier and products are becoming more sophisticated. Furthermore, as budgets are tightened, the amount of value we need to extract from this most-expensive resource -- our people -- only increases. It is of paramount importance that these employees at the crucible of the customer relationship are enabled with the right information that they and consumers need.
Organizations are often awash with good content, but its spread can be patchy. Content embedded in the heads of experienced employees in the field -- people who have good market and product intelligence that could be shared and transferred -- is too often overlooked by the knowledge-marketing professionals. There are also emails packed with attachments, documents on individuals' hard drives, and perhaps one (or many) neglected intranets.
So, the first challenge is to unlock this information, to give staffers an easy way to share their experience and knowledge. If it's in their heads or on their hard drives then a social software strategy or intranet must be developed within the organization to enable them to quickly create and share content. Shared cultural influence and knowledge is often gained through peripheral vision; people may come to an intranet for one thing and come away having learned about something else entirely -- a new product, a new colleague, or a bit more about the organization's mission.
Processes need to be implemented to encourage people to post documents to this central portal, rather than attaching those documents to an email often sent to a limited audience. The goal is to give people good reasons, even incentives, to stop by and utilize the intrabet; a massive and unwieldy filing system isn't going to engage anyone.
Once this content is captured, it also has to be understood: The created content should be tagged with keywords identifying what it's about, who it's for, and what product it relates to. On an intranet, logins will quickly establish a visitor's identity. Having tagged the content with a suggested audience, we can then start to think about serving personalized content to this employee.
Let's imagine I am a newly hired, customer-facing computer technician working in a service center in Dublin. I have supervisory capacity over two junior technicians, one of whom has just called in sick. What I need from the intranet is:
- lots of technical information from engineering to better serve my customers,
- some human resources policy about handling employee sickness, and
- an orientation guide to the Dublin office.
Searching for all this will take time -- but if the intranet can give it to me at my fingertips, I will consume it.
This isn't just about creating new content on a shiny new intranet -- it's about leveraging what the organization already has. An enterprise search strategy must be in place alongside the intranet to exploit the increasingly natural instinct to turn to Google with this type of problem. Applying usage analytics to the intranet, in addition to external-facing Web sites, will help analyze what people are searching for -- and, perhaps more important, what people are looking for and can't find. Not only could that improve the organization's understanding of its employees, but also the kinds of customer problems they are trying to solve.
Of course, this all takes place in a multichannel world, so all this information needs to be consistently shared across all touch points. Once employees are empowered with the right information, they can do a better job ensuring that customers continue to get a consistent service experience.
In summary, to engage in a successful relationship with customers, unlock the experience and knowledge within the organization:
- Enable employees to collaborate and share knowledge, content, and documents.
- Make the intranet ‘sticky' and compelling; encourage employees to both contribute and consume content during the working day.
- Use tags and implement enterprise search to help employees find content easily.
- Leverage what you know about the audience and deliver content personalized to the individual.
- Apply good, old-fashioned content management principles -- understand content, analyze its usage, and evaluate what your audience needs.
About the Author
Ian Truscott is vice president of content management product strategy at Alterian. He is responsible for leading the strategic product vision and market direction for Alterian's Web Content Management products, which were incorporated into the Alterian portfolio following the acquisition of Mediasurface (and its flagship products Morello and Immediacy) in July 2008. Truscott's role also extends to ensuring customer satisfaction, product-led communications, sales and delivery support, and compliance responsibilities. He previously held the position of chief technology officer at Mediasurface, with responsibility for the technical vision and development of the Morello product. His passion for Web technologies and experience of enterprise software has grown over the last decade through engaging with global blue-chip organizations such as AstraZeneca, McDonald's, Diageo, and Glaxo, while working for some of the major vendors and pioneers in this arena across the United States and Europe.
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