Customer Knowledge Management Guide: Everything You Need to Know

What is Knowledge Management? and why you need it

Gaining a 360-degree view of your customers is no more a choice. Like it or not, but you have to push yourself to take a genuine interest in your customers, to serve them better and faster. For delivering unparalleled services and exceptional experiences to customers, you need to be well-versed with the likes and dislikes of your clients, their personal information, search patterns, purchase behavior, and every other aspect. 

But, this can be achieved only when you have captured valuable knowledge from different communication channels and managed it meticulously for continuous use. 

This is where customer knowledge management comes to the picture.

What Is Customer Knowledge Management

Customer Knowledge Management is a systematic process that focuses on enhancing the business value and adding to the delight of customers.
It encompasses the strategies, processes, and tools that are used for:
  • gathering customer data
  • storing it securely
  • evaluating it for better understanding, and
  • using it effectively to build a better bond with customers, that has a direct bearing on the revenue.

In simple terms, customer knowledge management is nothing but the marriage of knowledge management and customer relationship management. 

Knowledge Management + Customer Relationship Management (CRM) = Customer Knowledge Management (CKM)

Both CRM and KM form key strategic tools for achieving excellent CKM. A synergy between the two ensures that customer knowledge management helps you gain an edge over the competition. 

In fact, CKM is about acquiring and managing knowledge about, from, and for customers

Both CRM and KM models are no doubt effective individually, but when used separately, each has its own risks. An integrated approach wherein CRM and KM are combined to form Customer Knowledge Management, is way more beneficial. 

Let's see both these tools (KM and CRM) in detail:

Knowledge Management (KM)

The sphere of knowledge management encompasses everything related to knowledge right from its creation, dissemination to use. It's a science, using which you can convert raw data into meaningful insights that can then be used to make smart and informed business decisions.

Having value creation capabilities, the process of knowledge management is primarily focused on collecting, categorizing, and restoring knowledge for future use. KM is majorly an in-house function responsible for storing information in an internal knowledge base and then delivering information to sales, marketing, and other customer-focused departments of your organization. 

Few Applications of Knowledge Management:

  • Easy access to knowledge: This is about creating, designing, and organizing a cloud-based internal knowledge base to facilitate easy access to business knowledge. 
  • Management of expert knowledge: Knowledge from subject matter experts, is captured and managed to gain insights. 
  • Collaboration: When different teams work together in a collaborative fashion, it results in meaningful knowledge creation.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Coming to the next pillar of customer knowledge management, CRM is about capturing knowledge through KM and leveraging it to derive high-value business benefits. It basically governs the relationship between you and your customers by ensuring that information is used effectively to craft customer-centric strategies that ultimately help in delivering great experiences.

"KM is the service provider for CRM."

CRM capitalizes on knowledge resources such as:

  • Information about customers' preferences, search behavior and their knowledge around your product
  • Insights from employees working across different customer-focused departments
  • Data about the business processes followed to serve customers
  • Business contracts and agreements
  • Customer pain points regarding your products or services

Besides these, there are a total of three major knowledge flows in CRM. They are:

  1. Knowledge ABOUT Customers: This includes basic information about clients such as their personal information, geographic location, preferences, previous purchase history, and the like.
  2. Knowledge FOR Customers: This section includes information that customers seek, such as info about your products, services, and processes to be followed for purchasing or troubleshooting a product, etc.
  3. Knowledge FROM Customers: This is extremely important. Customers have a detailed understanding of how your product performs and where it can be improved. They are fully aware of the challenges faced while using your products or services. Such insights from customers can be leveraged to make the crucial process, product, or service changes.

All this information can be brought under a single umbrella i.e., Customer Knowledge. This knowledge lays the foundation for devising effective CRM strategies that play a vital role in building bonds with customers. 

Now that the concepts of both KM and CRM are pretty clear, let's try to amalgamate the two and look at what Customer Knowledge Management is all about.

Customer Knowledge Management or CKM entails:

  • Summarizing, documenting, and transferring customer knowledge across various divisions of your organization. 
  • Focusing every aspect of the knowledge - About, For and From customers. 
  • Disseminating crucial information to the higher echelons of your firm to ensure that decisions are taken, keeping in mind customer preferences and feedback. 
  • Establishing strong communication with clients and gaining a holistic understanding of their preferences and requirements

The CKM model works with four goals:

  • Knowledge Transparency: Transparency is essential to manage knowledge effectively. This particular goal is aimed at executing business processes that define the requirements regarding the management of customer knowledge. 
  • Knowledge Dissemination: This is to define the requirements of customer knowledge distribution among individuals who have a role to play in the business processes. 
  • Knowledge Development: This goal is to back business processes that are responsible for knowledge creation. 
  • Knowledge Efficiency: This goal focuses on selecting the right knowledge from a wide pool of information available. It's about comprehending the current and future needs of customers, capturing relevant knowledge, and managing its development. 

This integrated CKM approach enables CRM to stretch its data-driven and technology-oriented approach and include people-focused elements.

Why Is Customer Knowledge Management Important?

Customer Knowledge Management is the bedrock of how you interact and engage with your customers. For any business that focuses on improving and enhancing customer support, CKM is the solution. It helps you offer an experience that is exemplary, unmatched, and all that your customers need. 

Given the battlefield that the online marketplace is becoming, customer knowledge management has become the need of the hour. It equips you with the right knowledge to:

1. Provide Personalized Experiences

Personalization is paramount at every touchpoint of customers' interaction with your brand. While they engage with your firm, you need to make sure that they receive a personalized experience at every step of the way.

Some interesting findings by Accenture's survey on personalization show: 

  • 64% of customers prefer websites to function well on desktop, mobile phones as well as tablets. 
  • 59% prefer getting promotional offers, especially on items they are interested in and user-friendly browsing experience. 

In fact, personalization is a winning, tried, and tested strategy to brew better bonds with customers, cement existing relationships, and make sure they don't wither over time. For this, it's best to focus on infusing personalization not just in communication but also in your offerings, as over 50% of consumers surveyed by Deloitte preferred products tailored to their requirements.

To ensure that your personalized efforts are on-point, ensure that you have all the required knowledge that can help you craft exceptional customer-centric experiences.

2. Deliver Instant Gratification Through Self-Service 

"Click Culture" has made customers accustomed to getting anything they want in a fraction of a second. This is why the self-service concept is so relevant in today's time. 

The best way to ensure that your customers are able to self-serve is by providing them with a cloud-based self-service platform in the form of FAQs, user guides, help centers, etc.where they can find answers to their questions on their own. 

Creating an online knowledge platform is a sure-shot way of achieving this. It helps in: 

  • Making customers self-sufficient
  • Reducing the support ticket volume
  • Relieving support staff from answering trivial customer questions

CKM is at the center of all of this. That's because it helps you with the entire process of getting information, extracting relevant knowledge, and using it to gain insights. Once you have collected data, you can store it in your knowledge base for use by customers. 

3. Indulge in Data-Driven and Facts-Backed Interactions

By adopting the CKM model, you equip your support agents with relevant information about your firm, offerings, and also about your customers - their previous transactions, purchase history, preferences, and more. This knowledge enables live chat operators to indulge in value-creating interactions with customers. 

CKM provides contextual guidance to agents, at every step of their customer interactions, just so they can tailor their pitches and offers, presenting prospects or customers with what they need. Also, live chat agents can go through customer information before starting a conversation and mold interactions in a way that results in increased customer satisfaction. 

Arming live chat agents with the right knowledge also helps in training them on how to deal with different customers in different ways, enhancing their skills, and ensuring that clients get the best of you. 

4. Create Relevant Surveys to Capture Feedback

With the CKM framework, you get access to a pool of knowledge resources, leveraging which you can craft customized surveys for customers. 

Standard survey questions won't work for all customer types, as different customers will have peculiar experiences with your brand, their journeys will be different from one another, along with their preferences and other things. 

To create customized survey questions, you need to have the right knowledge, and this is where CKM will be of help to you. For instance, your questions for the set of customers that prefer product A or have a good purchase track record will be different from the questions you create for those customers who use product B or have had bad experiences with your brand. 

Surveys help you gather crucial knowledge that your customers hold. They give you a panoramic, holistic view of your customers - right from the issues customers have with your products, their pain points, areas where you can improve, and much more. 

5. Provide Efficient Customer Support

Knowledge is a virtue. It gives you the power to resolve problems, help yourself, and help others at the same time. This is true in every sense. Speaking from a business perspective, a knowledge-enabled system like CKM equips your support representatives with relevant knowledge, that ultimately helps in providing top-notch customer support. 

So whenever tickets are raised from multiple channels, brought to the help desk, and then transferred to different divisions, your support staff can be unperturbed, regardless of the complexity of the issues. Thanks to CKM, they have direct access to valuable knowledge, which helps them address tickets efficiently and on time. 

Your help desk, as well as live chat operators, can leverage CKM to gain knowledge. This information can then be leveraged to troubleshoot issues by sending an email, sharing a link of a knowledge base article, sharing canned responses for repeated queries, etc.

How Can Customer Knowledge Management Drive You to Success?

It's not just one division that CKM impacts. Almost all crucial departments of your organization benefit from customer knowledge management. The increasing need for businesses to be futuristic, forward-thinking, implementation-focused, and customer-centric is absolutely why you can't ignore customer knowledge management.

"CKM is the molecule to your atom, nucleus to your cell!

Let's look at the benefits you can derive by embracing CKM:

1. Improved Staff Knowledge

Adopting CKM in your system enhances the knowledge of your workforce. They become well-versed with your customers, right from their purchase preferences and previous transaction history to their pain points and the challenges they face while using your products, etc. 

When your employees, especially the customer-focused staff, have direct access to the minutest of details about your customers, it gets easier for them to take actions, make product/service improvements and craft strategies that are in favor of the customers.

Whether it's about responding to a request over call, email, or chat, CKM ensures that your support staff has instant access to valuable information, which they can use to resolve queries in a timely manner.

Better knowledge facilitates smarter decision-making

2. Increased Employee Productivity 

When the time to fetch required information reduces, the productivity of employees shoots-up, helping them to respond better and faster. No more reinventing the wheel - operators don't have to waste time emailing or reaching out to colleagues, while customers wait for information. This reduces waiting time for customers, ensuring higher satisfaction.

KM captures data and provides it to CRM, which then analyzes it and sends relevant knowledge across to different divisions, sales being one of them.

Higher support staff's productivity = higher customer satisfaction 

3. Increased Sales 

When your sales function has relevant business information, it becomes adept at:

  • delivering value to prospects
  • making the right pitches
  • convincing prospects about your offerings
  • upselling your products and services
  • Indulging in value-creating interactions with prospects
  • solving their queries in the initial stage itself

Customer knowledge management plays a significant role in arming your sales staff with meaningful information, which ultimately enables them to present a good picture of your brand and its offerings in the market.

How can your sales figures remain stagnant when your sales team is abreast of everything about your brand and the audience you are targeting? Your sales figures are bound to grow, without a shadow of a doubt. 

A knowledgeable sales team is better equipped to bring in more clients

4. Customer-Centric Marketing Strategies

As CRM disseminates information to various divisions, one of them being Marketing. It ensures that the strategies created and processes followed are molded to accommodate customers' interests. 

When relevant knowledge about your customers reaches the marketing division, teams are in a better position to craft strategies centered around customers. Data such as customers' preferred route to reach your brand, search patterns, purchase history, time of shopping and more, serves as a background for marketing to formulate strategies that can bring you real results. 

Marketing strategies centered around customers help you strike the right chords

5. Exceptional Engagement & Experiences

Reiterating the same thing that knowledge is power, but it only delivers results when used in the right way.

CKM makes knowledge of all kinds - about, for, and from customers, easily accessible to your workforce. It makes the job of your customer-focused teams much simpler, as they are able to engage with customers at a deeper level.

Having complete information about customers, including their preferences, buying behavior, likes and dislikes, the kind of queries that they frequently raise, etc.helps reps gain a thorough understanding of your clients. When they start understanding your customers and their unique buying patterns, they are equipped better to deliver phenomenal experiences. 

A ground-level understanding of your clients helps reps in crafting exemplary experiences that provide real value to customers.

How Is Customer Knowledge Management Different from Traditional Knowledge Management?

The objectives of both customer knowledge management and traditional knowledge management are entirely different from each other. While innovation and growth form the core of customer knowledge management, it's efficiency gain that takes center stage in traditional knowledge management.

CKM sees customers as equal contributors to enhance organizational value. Unlike traditional knowledge management, CKM focuses on customer acquisition rather than retention. This is because customer retention in an extremely volatile online environment is a daunting challenge. With everything, just a click away has made customers fickle-minded, making it extremely easy for them to switch brands. In a scenario like this, CKM is less inclined towards retention and more concerned about how to grow a business by indulging in value-creating interactions with customers. 

Customer Knowledge Management - Indispensable for a Successful Landing

A robust competitive tool, CKM, blends both Customer Relationship Management and Knowledge Management to benefit your organization as well as its customers. With its focus on mutually-beneficial value creation, CKM is the Now Big Thing that has become a prerequisite to survive the intensively-competitive online marketplace. 

In a nutshell, CKM provides you with the best of both worlds - CRM and KM, helping you gather and manage knowledge, analyze it, disseminate it across your organization and use it to build long-lasting, meaningful, and strong relationships with your customers. 

Adopt the CKM approach and get set for a successful landing..!

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About the author

Brayn is a knowledge management expert. He has been published in CustomerThink, PointVisible and Apruve. As a customer support specialist at ProProfs, Brayn has been instrumental in building a robust knowledge base and documents that help support executives keep every customer delighted.

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