Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Want to Empower Your Customers? Do it with Knowledge Management Software

How to succeed in business without really trying? Put your customers to work.
I’m only partly kidding. Stop and think about it for a minute—people love self-service. They like self-checkouts in supermarkets, they like pumping their own gas, and they love buffets (although, come to think of it, that might be more about the all-you-can-eat aspect). Even if you sell products on a Web site, you too can put your customers to work in order to empower them while cutting costs and streamlining operations.

Knowledge management applications that run in the cloud can provide your customers with everything they need to help themselves, at the same time that they free up your employees to focus on the segment of the customer base that does want or require your assistance. Take the knowledge base—an online collection of information that customers can use to troubleshoot, research and make decisions, all without ever talking to a customer service rep. Point the public to your knowledge base, FAQ, user forums and other resources online, and you’re also creating a great opportunity for upselling and cross-selling, as well as fostering communication and collaboration between customers.

Live chat, a dedicated customer service Twitter account, and a strong Facebook presence can also give your customers the answers they are seeking—while also capturing snapshots of customer preference and demographic data that can be used for sales and marketing purposes. The knowledge management applications you’ll use to do this can operate behind-the-scenes too, so that all departments of your company have access to continually updated, accurate customer information.

Customer relationship management applications, including contact management and knowledge management, can greatly improve your relationship with your customer. Let’s take a look at a case in point.
Practical Application:
Belkin Corporation is a leader in connectivity and electronics accessories—they make things like wireless routers, USB adapters, electronics battery chargers and computer-gaming equipment. If a customer has a problem with a Belkin product, they can troubleshoot that problem by going to the Support section of and accessing drivers, downloads or searchable how-to articles in the knowledge base. There is live chat with representatives, an option to email a question, and a telephone number. If your product is under warranty and needs to be replaced, you can request that replacement, then check its status later, all online.
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a majority of Belkin users will try the knowledge base, live chat or email options first, before calling a rep. That means that Belkin saves on payroll, training and employee benefits costs. The employees who do still staff the help desk have more free time to devote to customers who do call—those who need a little hand-holding for whatever reason, or who have a particularly complicated issue to resolve.
The cloud-based knowledge management apps that Belkin employs also gives their call-center agents more information they need to do their job; they can access the customer profile, including products purchased, previous complaints or troubleshooting and any notes that other agents have made on that account. If necessary, another agent or manager can be brought into the conversation, and they have the ability to access the same information at the same time.
For the business, empowering customers by allowing them access to a vast knowledge base creates customer satisfaction, lowered business costs and increased sales. By empowering your customers with knowledge management software, they can do many things you previously would have needed an employee to manage. Customers love it, and they have no clue they are raising your bottom line with their do-it-yourself work.