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Customer knowledge management (CKM) is a strategy that focuses on the task of gathering information about clients that in turn may be used to enhance how a vendor or provider meets the needs and wants of those clients. The strategies employed to collect the information include finding effective ways to extract data from customers as well as locate and absorb information from other sources. The goal of this type of knowledge management initiative is to organize and integrate the collected information in a manner that improves the provider’s understanding of how to relate to customers more effectively, including how to customize services and support to better serve those customers.
The exact strategies used as part of a customer knowledge management process will vary, depending on the type of goods and services offered by the vendor and the range of clients that are served by the company. In some cases, the focus of the management approach may be to elicit information directly from key people within the structure of the client’s business. At other times, the approach may also involve gathering data about the industry in which the customer operates. With both of these approaches to customer knowledge management, the information that is collected can be used to anticipate customer needs and wants, develop goods and services to meet those needs, and build solid relationships with those customers.
Along with using the collected data to enhance the product line, customer knowledge management can also provide valuable clues in how to customize ordering and delivery processes to meet the needs of clients, and how to best manage the customer service and support function for ongoing clients. Little details such as being able to adapt invoice information to include project numbers, client and matter numbers and other sorts of detail relevant to that customer can make a huge difference in the strength of the relationship, especially when competitors are less willing to make any type of customization.
It is important to note that customer knowledge management relies on the collection of both expressed and implied data in order to serve the customer more efficiently. This means that those charged with obtaining the data must not only be aware of the wants and needs explicitly stated by customers, but must also listen for clues that may indicate an emerging want or need that is not yet fully formed in the client’s mind. Doing so can make it possible to develop a product or process that meets that need, proactively presenting the client with a solution before the need actually arises.