• April 19, 2019
  • By Marydee Ojala Marydee Ojala, Conference Program Director, Information Today, Inc
  • Article

Cleaning Up on the Customer Experience

Want to get a conversation started? As your parents probably warned you, it’s best not to opt for religion or politics as a topic unless you plan to begin an argument rather than have a conversation. Here’s an idea: Ask about a recent customer experience. I’d guess that everybody has a customer experience to share. It’s axiomatic that tales of bad experiences occur more frequently than those of good ones. I’ve seen various statistics about this, but a rule of thumb seems to be that dissatisfied customers tell somewhere between 9 and 15 people about why they’re displeased, while those with a positive encounter confide their happy story in only 4 to 6 people.

Here’s my most recent account of a positive customer experience. My dry cleaner, run by the owner (I’ll call him Bob, since that’s his name), is not part of a franchise. It’s a local business, something I like to support. I took a blazer in for cleaning the other day. Neither Bob nor I realized that the faux leather on the pocket flaps was not intended for dry cleaning, so the cleaning process essentially destroyed the decoration. Bob apologized and offered to either pay for a new blazer or contract out to an alterations shop to fix it. I opted for the latter and within a week had what looked exactly like the original blazer. I wasn’t happy that it needed repair, but I was delighted with Bob owning up to the mistake and taking the initiative to fix it. He probably earned a customer for life.

Contextual Knowledge

Bob has been in business for many years. What irritated him was that he should have known not to have his shop inflict dry cleaning solvent on my blazer. For other businesses, contextual knowledge is also key to providing a good customer experience. John Chmaj, Verint’s senior practice director for knowledge management, explains, “contextual knowledge is a core component of an optimized knowledge management system.” It improves both the accuracy and the quality of results from queries to the KM system, thus leading to a better experience for customers.

Chmaj identifies six criteria that could define context. The identity of the person asking the question, the issue they are asking about, what actions they are taking, where they are located, which app they are using to interact with customer service, and what type of information will best resolve the issue and answer the question. This may sound self-evident, but putting these criteria into action can be challenging.

If you see your customer in an over-the- counter environment, some of those criteria are obvious. However, without those visual cues, it’s much more difficult to determine not only who is asking about an issue, but also the other five criteria. Thus, it’s important to realize that presenting results should be flexible enough to aid in contextualizing customer support. Think about direct matches, grouping information that might be relevant, preferring objects in relation to others, and iterating on results. Managing and measuring context, particularly when context constantly evolves, keeps the customer experience fresh.

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