Tag Archive: knowledge base


In past posts I have focused on implementing GTM standards for product release management. I have made the case that the LBGUPS (Learn, Buy, Get, Use, Pay Service) model can be applied to all products and all industries. The standards afford companies the ability to manage their releases on time and under budget more efficiently. It is important for companies and teams to note that while applying these standards, they should guard against losing their product differentiation messages and market positioning.

No one comments on corporate culture and the workplace dynamic better than Scott Adams’ Dilbert. Check out this apropos strip. http://bit.ly/4y8AEB. Even though standards often create comfortably and conformity, a case can be made for individuality in product development and the GTM process to avoid mediocrity and parity. Whether your products and services are sold via direct sales reps, channels, verticals etc. the efficacy of the sale is based on intrinsic product value. The product value might be price based, customer service based,  or offer increased value and /or productivity. It can also be any combination of all of these. Either way every product has “reasons to believe” that should tie back inherently to the brand value and proposition. (Check my past post dated 8/10/10  for info on marketing and brand cohesion). These “brand proof points” tell the story of how your new product/service fits into the overall portfolio and benefits the customer. Customers purchase based on brand or product individuality with integrated reasons to believe. The challenge of a product development, release management and marketing team is to display how their product is different from what is in the market today while staying true to the brand framework and offer.

These key product values need to be identified and translated early in the strategy and product development cycle to avoid customer confusion on offer vs. value. By inserting a review of brand credo and value proposition early in the strategy and development cycle, requirements teams, product development and marketing can avoid scope creep and execute a streamlined development  and deployment process. The resulting product or service will not violate any brand or “big rules” and strengthen the customer’s “reasons to believe” in the brand or offer proposition. Now the easy part….sell!

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In the past I have spoken mostly about getting your product to market, making sure you have good marketing programs to support your brand and building an ongoing relationship with customers.  Now, I want to touch on how you can offer support for your product and the role of customer self-assistance.

Just a few years ago when you needed help for a product you bought, you would call the company you bought it from and talk to someone. Companies often staffed call centers to handle billing and tech support. Soon after companies began outsourcing all or parts of call centers to offset direct labor costs. We are at a crossroads in the customer support business. Some companies offer staffed call centers, while others have begun migrating to a more 2.0 expereince moving primary support online. Much of this depends on the product/service being offered and the target customer base. If you are re-selling Retail Electric service for example, you are probably still very heavily supporting your customers through traditional call center tactics. If your model includes SaaS apps or other web-based distributions, you have probably added more self-help options. Truthfully, we most commonly see a hybrid approach of traditional support options and next-gen apps. Companies need to understand how “their” customers will seek support.

There are endless options you can choose from when offering self assistance. From self diagnostic tests to chat and e-mail, the choices are endless. Not every option is right from your product or customer base. Choose from some of the options I outline in the two major categories below and apply them consistently to your product/service, offer, marketing, brand and customers.

  1. Social Media – The social web spurs conversations that can help or harm a brand. Customer complaints can reach thousands of people within minutes. Consumers expect an immediate response. Monitor conversations on Twitter, YouTube, RSS feeds, your Facebook fan page, and other industry specific social channels,  and forums. This helps you respond quickly and appropriately to global or groups of issues. All of these social channels allow you to engage your customers in authentic conversations to assist them, and support brand loyalty. Offer peer-to-peer support forums. By allowing them to ask questions and find answers in an online community, users talk to each other, build relationships and solve issues without adding a single call or email to your contact center’s workload. Monitor the forum content and gain reusable content for your knowledge base.
  2. Web Services – According to Forrester Research, 72 percent of online consumers prefer to use a company’s website to get answers to their questions rather than contact companies via telephone or email. You need to provide this growing base of customers with options. You will free up agents to handle Tier II and III issues, drive down costs and do more with less.  Build and maintain a knowledge base of product information, and FAQs. Continuously add to it through social media tools, dynamic adds and search etc. Offer pop-up guides within the base to lead the conversations, or even link out to chat/e-mail services. A staple in the web services category is Chat. It can bridge the gap between your website knowledge base and phone-based interactions. It provides a way to engage a customer or prospect before they abandon a purchase or when they have problems solving their own customer service issue. Consumers like the immediacy of chatting with agents on an organization’s website. Chat can provide more timely and personal resolution, especially when leveraged as a complementary point of contact to the traditional call center support channel. For more complex issues, offer e-mail support with defined turn around times. Finally, push it to the cloud and make all of this available anywhere, anytime and any place. Mobile support with native app building is here and beginning to move all of this information past just PC accessibility. Take advantage.

The key in all of this is to provide your customers with interaction options across many channels and use your common knowledge foundation to provide consistency and efficiency. Empower your customers to self-serve at their convenience, through their communication channel of choice. Please listen to your customers and learn what they are thinking and act on it. Who cares if you think it’s a great service plan if they don’t? Keep your most loyal, knowledgeable customers—the ones with strong opinions and great product ideas close. Make them part of the ideation and innovation processes, so they can help you identify new business opportunities, guide your product roadmap, prioritize and refine ideas, and develop your next breakthrough product. Lastly, evaluate, baseline, identify and adapt to your customers.

You may have the best GTM strategy, an excellent project manager, built and brought your product to market with the customer in focus, but if your offer is not surrounded with marketing programs that match your brand, you are sure to miss your mark. The continuum of the GTM cycle must include marketing programs as part of the LEARN Phase of LBGUPS that add to your company or product line brand.

Let’s assume we are starting our brand, launching a new product line or transforming our offer plan for a product line. We need to ask a few key questions:

  1. Is our brand and marketing programs conveying consistent messaging, and building on our established brand?
  2. Have we done research and segmented our customer base to target our offers?
  3. Do our offers leverage each other?

Tamsen McMahon adds another apropos question to the list from a recent post on her blog shared with Amber Naslund http://www.brasstackthinking.com/2010/08/offer-or-sell/ “Offer or Sell?”.  Are we offering what we sell or selling what we offer?

Companies need to further the customer relationship and offer value vs. a product. Do you want to be perceived as a company that pushes widget after widget with little value add? You might  sell units, but will might fail to build a lasting relationship with your customer.  The marketing activities you use to support your product should not only push your current offer, but enhance brand awareness and elicit brand resonance/loyalty. If your brand fails to resonate and people don’t buy in to, you are doomed.

In today’s climate of corporate distrust fueled by bankruptcies, accounting scandals and non-transparency, your brand must be consistent truthful and respected to continue to enjoy success. As David Kiley explores in the clip on my vodpod widget on the right for Business Week, brand trust is what sets the stage for great performance and consumer trust.

In a nutshell, bring your product/service to market, build your reputation, treat your customers as your #1 commodity and watch the profits roll in.

You have followed my “Golden Rules” to bring a product to  your customers putting them first and managing the process through controls. Now you need to keep the customer in that #1 position and leverage them for add-on sales and incremental revenue. It is significantly cheaper to retain and add-on to a customer base than it is to acquire new ones. Use the information you gather about your customers to make customer service more than just a j.o.b. Give them a quality experience and complete satisfaction, and they will reward you with their business. Use my CRM and customer service strategies to keep your customers longer and engage them for future sales:

Make Great Service a Priority in Your Business

Every great leader establishes “imperatives” for his business and the people who work to make it successful. Excellent customer service must be one of these imperatives. Your staff needs to be trained on your standards throughout the organization; your policy that customers come first needs to consistently reinforced in every setting. Start small and set a standard way of opening/closing all customer interactions. Engage your employees by empowering them to make decisions, use good judgment, and bend the rules appropriate to their level and responsibilities.  Your operating “imperatives” must include good service and your staff must have the ability to operationalize your vision.

Know What Makes Your Customers Tick

Instituting a formal way of tracking your customer interactions will help you identify your best customers, as well as those who may not have utilized your offerings in a while. This will tie to a communication loop I discuss later. There are many software applications designed to do this. Depending on your size and scale of operations , simple Web-based apps or powerful “enterprise software” products might be appropriate. Maintaining current contact information and notes about each transaction with the software, you can sort the data or analyze it to uncover patterns of customer issues/resolutions. You can leverage it to build your knowledge base, CRM strategies and further hone your customer service professionals.

Use your Knowledge Base of Stored Wisdom

All organizations with great customer service programs have one similar trait. They have a consistent system for responding to customer inquiries or complaints. Your employees need to provide accurate information to your customers and offer a  solution to a problem or quote policies that address specific customer situations based on previous interactions or simulated conversations.

Your front line customer service warriors need to know exactly where to look for answers. Developing a “knowledge base” with answers to FAQs, methods for solving problems, and standards for resolving disputes prevents people from relying on the expert knowledge of others only that have more experience. This living breathing store of information should be flexible, provide an avenue for addition/suggestion, and be accessible remotely. Your goal should be to resolve issues during the initial customer contact, and make servicing the customer a comfortable, manageable process.

Effectively Manage Your Customer Relationships

Once you have some history on your customers, and how they interact with you, you can identify your best customers and reward them. You can institute frequent buyer services or cross promote your products with other similar or related offerings across industries. You can extend a service program, offer a 3 for 2 etc., the options are endless. The key here is to manage your customer relationships and reward them for their loyalty. Your churn will drop and your acquisition costs will drop.

Stay in Touch With Your #1 Commodity

Consistently reaching out to customers will make them feel you value their business (which you should). You can use standard off-line tactics, such as postcards, newsletters DMs, magazines or on-line strategies such as e-mails, blast news messages about products, special promos, etc. (of course make sure you follow CPNI rules and give them the opportunity to opt-in/out). Capitalize on social media and ask them to follow you on twitter, subscribe to your RSS feed from your blog or become a Facebook Friend. A simple hard copy or virtual thank-you note after a major purchase goes a long way. This creates a forum inviting customers to contact you with questions, feedback, or to discuss additional requests. Make sure the customer knows that they are your #1 focus, and you are always there to solve their problems, meet their needs and incorporate their ideas into future product developments.

By making customer service an imperative, knowing what makes your customer tick, establishing a knowledge base, managing your relationships and maintaining an open line of communication you capitalize on your acquisition investment and leverage your best sponsors, happy customers!!