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Three Customer Avatars You Can Retain Through Knowledge Management Practices

Presented at Activate Customer Service 2021. In general, no matter the industry, we experience three types of customers:

  • the ones that want to work with you,
  • the ones that begrudgingly work with you because they’ve been told to, and
  • the ones that work with you but continue to do what they want to do even when the consequences are negative results for them.

Dr. Young will share what she has experienced and some actionable tips to use with the three types of customers, including how to support them using proven practices, how to make them an ally rather than a frenemy, and how to turn them into returning customers.

Dr. Cynthia J. Young, CJ Young Consulting Founder/ CEO



Dr. Cynthia J. Young: Hi, I’m Dr. Cindy Young and this presentation is going to be about Three Customer Avatars You Can Retain Through Knowledge Management Practices. And so we’ll go over the three avatars and organizational knowledge. And I’ll talk to you about six ways that I know how to maintain customers and retain them as well as work with them, make life a lot easier.

So I work with customers daily, whether I am in the office or if I’m at my computer where I am right now. I’m a consultant. I have my own consulting company to do knowledge management. So I’m very, very in love with knowledge management. I’m also a full-time defense contractor and I’m an Adjunct Professor. So I have 22 students that I’ve only known through virtual world that I need to support their learning and their understanding. And so I had to share a lot of knowledge with them about why they’re doing the things they’re doing and what they’re doing because I teach project management and there is a lot of knowledge management involved in project management, as you well know.

Okay, so the objectives. We’re going to talk about three types of customer avatars that you may support and you’ll recognize them. And if you don’t, if you don’t think this is wise you just wait. You’ll see these avatars are in your daily lives. We’re going to talk about how you can use organizational knowledge to support positive customer engagement. Because organizational knowledge is knowledge that you are using, your team is using, and that you’re going to use for these customers. And you want to keep those paying customers even if you can’t change them. So even if you can’t change them, you still want to build those relationships.

You have different types of organizations but all your organizations need to care about the customers. And we know this is a no-brainer. We know that you’re needing to care. However, there’s different ways of showing that you understand what their needs are in about gaining knowledge and about how you’re going to share this knowledge.

So you may have a customer support center and this may operate with people in conjunction with bots or it may be totally reliant on one person or three or a hundred people. What’s important is you need to have everybody along at the time, the same game rules, so that they know how to play the game. How do they know how to respond to the customer? What’s authorized? And you need to give them the autonomy. We’ll talk about that.

And then the other two photos you’ll see these are service-based industries, but one of them is also getting a product. So you have a product and a service. And you know, the service in the coffee shop is that you’re providing them what they want to drink what they want to eat, but the service is you’re also providing them a product that they want to drink, how they want it. And then when you’re getting your hair cut, it’s not a virtual environment, but you still need to have these tools in place to be able to understand what your customers want. And so this may come with an online survey. It may come with feedback, but either way you need to know how to talk to them, how to reach them to understand what they need.

So, what’s organizational knowledge? Organizational knowledge is tacit or explicit knowledge that your organization has not just with one person, but with the team or with the entire organization. It’s part of your culture of processes and procedures and lessons learned. We can talk about the tasks aside of shared experiences and understanding why things happen to having a forceful backup. You may have explicit knowledge where it’s all written down. It’s all codified. So you have lessons learned that are a combination of both.

And I put the standing orders on here. Standing orders are pretty important. We used these in the Navy. When I was in the military, we used these when the Commanding Officer would leave the bridge, they have standing orders. And these standards weren’t just for when they were asleep. Anytime they weren’t up on the bridge or when they didn’t want to have to keep reminding you do things a certain way. They had standing orders that would say when to contact them, what you should say when you contact them. Because when you wake them up in the middle of night, you have to understand that waking somebody up in the middle of the night is kind of a jarring thing. They may not necessarily understand who’s calling them why they’re calling them. So the captain gives you a script of what to say, how to say it, talk to them about the weather, talk to them about what time of day it is. They understand what you’re looking at. They’re trying to get a picture of what’s out there, but ultimately they’re your customer when you’re running the ship for them in their absence, they’re your customer, even though they are the commanding officer of the ship.

So, standing orders are just another way of conveying knowledge because entire team has to read these as they come to the bridge before they take the watch. Now, the important thing is that whatever knowledge, tacit or explicit, it provides value to the business, as well as to the customers. And you can use this to shape your relationship with these customers.

So the customer avatars, we have three different types of customer avatars here. Compliers, begrudgers, and toddlers. And yes, I’m talking toddlers as in people who act like they’re two or three years old and act like the whole world’s coming to an end because they’re not getting what they wanted. So we’re going to start with Compliers.

So the Compliers our customers that they want to work with you. They know what you’re about. You want to work with them. They share their knowledge. They share what they need to have done. And they share maybe what hasn’t worked for them. They don’t make you guess. They want to solve the problem as much as they want you to help them solve it.

You have Begrudgers. Now begrudgers are customers have been told they have to work with you. They may have been hired behind their backs or they may have been hired with this person knowing that they’re going to be hired, but they are temporary and/or your support is temporary. And they’re there because they want to just get the job done, but they don’t necessarily want to work with you. They’re just working with you because they have to.

And then toddlers. So Toddlers, they’re difficult because they don’t want you there. They think you’re against them. They don’t want to work with you. They don’t understand why you’re there to work with them, but they only think it’s bad news. They don’t think that it could possibly be good for them in the end.

So more about Compliers and Compliers on the scale of dream and nightmare, they are the dreams. They want you to help them as much as they want to help you. But they also know that you have their best interests at heart. The challenge with you is taking the trust to a new level. You want to make sure that their trust has the knowledge that’s there to support them. That they can come to you, if they have another problem that you won’t say, well that’s not my statement of work. I’m there to help you. So you want to understand what they really need and try to work it out with them so they’ll continue to be your best customers.

So a Begrudger, they’re like a bad dream on the scale of dream to nightmare they’re the bad dream, they’re the in-between. They’re not like that all the time, but they do have a need to be heard. And they also want to be part of the solution to the problem. You want to figure out what makes them tick and to overcome anything that they want to push back on.

And so toddlers, toddlers are the nightmares. They are the people that you come to work and you don’t want to work with them. You hope that you’re working offsite and you only have to interact with them from time to time, but you really need to figure out how to get around that. You need to figure out why they don’t like you and why they’re afraid that you’re there. They may be scared that you’re trying to do the job to replace them with somebody else or that they may be afraid that you’re going to do the job better then that company won’t need you anymore.

Well as a customer, you just want to know why they don’t want your help because this is going to feed back to why they won’t help you. Because it’s hard. It’s hard for them. It’s hard for them to accept help. It’s hard for them to want to say, “Oh yeah, maybe you’re right.” Just kind of like a child’s afraid to say, “Maybe mom and dad are right. Maybe I shouldn’t say no all the time. Maybe I should say yes and just do what they say, because it’s better for me.” Well, you can’t treat them like a toddler, but you got to treat them like, “Hey you know, I need to overcome this. Let’s work together. Let’s become partners. Let’s make this a good event. Let’s make this happen.”

Organizational knowledge practices that you can use for your customer and get the team aligned at the same time. But you also have to know sharing the knowledge that the organization is there to support the customer. You don’t want to just share knowledge and then tell them, “Hey, don’t tell the customer this.” You need to ensure that the knowledge is shared with all of the team because you want to make sure that the customer is just as open with you as you are with them. And the more you share with them, if you hold out the olive branch, they’re more apt to take you up on it.

So lessons learned. There are six practices here but the first one is lessons learned. You want to get input from all, not just from your team. You want to get input from your team and from the customer and their team. Because if they’re part of the plan for discussing the issue after you identify an issue as a problem, if you discuss it, then you can come up with the joint recommendation to solve the problem. And this only comes when you use your knowledge and their knowledge and everybody can work off the same thing. You don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining to people why this is a problem. But it also leads to better partnerships.

Preplanned responses. Now, you have to ensure your team has mentored and that they’ve received the same autonomy to use preplanned responses. Because if you have to send them from one customer to one person or team, to another person to another person, they’re going to get very frustrated. Think about last time you were on a call and you finally got through. You were so happy. You finally got through. You’re going to talk to this person They’re going to help you. And they said, “Well, I can’t do it. Let me transfer you to another number.” And then you ended up in the queue waiting for that next person to get ahold of you. And then they say, “Well, I don’t know why you were sent to me? I can’t do that. I’m going to send you.” And they end up sending you back to the same person. And you’re in this cycle of getting nowhere. It’s very frustrating. So you want to have a preplanned response ready so that people can help and people can have an answer ready but you know, you don’t want to send them to many places. You’re not going to get anywhere. And even with a bot, a bot can be helpful, but you know, bot has had the same answers. And if they send you to a person you got to make sure the person knows that that person has already been through all the bot. So don’t ask them the same questions. It’s going to get very frustrating.

If you can make a process where you have all the information that you’ve answered for the bot, from the customer’s aspect to you along with asking the customer to explain anything that you may not know, this is going to get you a lot better frame of mind for the customer.

And quality. Now, we use quality check sheets. We use checklists. We use quality management practices. We may have a team that says, I’m a look over your work, not to check for “Hey do you know what you’re doing for your job? But just make sure that maybe addition errors and subtraction errors are proper that maybe spelling is there. And that you’re also in accordance with what the requirement is for the company. Maybe the contract says you have to have certain amount of time in there. And if you’ve spent too much on a project, where are you going to recover and why did you spend so much?

So these quality checks are just in place to keep you in alignment with the customer service and product requirements because you want to make sure those deliverables meet the expectations that the customer is paying you for. Because if you’re not, the customer may plod through with the contract, but after that, they’re not going to keep you. They’re going to get rid of you.

Knowledge Sharing. Knowledge Sharing is knowledge betweenyou and your team or you and your customer, or your team and your customer, all of you are sharing knowledge. And you want to share insights because when you share insights this is a lot better for you than just having one person to have all the knowledge. Because when one person has all of the knowledge or they hoard it because they’re afraid other people are going to be smarter than them or get a better position, or maybe get a better insight of the customer because they know more, that’s not really going to help your team. Your team may end breaking up actually, because of it. They may leave because they’re not feeling that you’re supporting them.

But you know your customer also needs to know the information. They need to know the knowledge. They need to know why you came up with a solution, why you’re having problems you? So as you share knowledge, your team will grow. And so will your relationship with your customer in a positive way.

Knowledge Transfer is a complementary thing with knowledge sharing. You may have some things where you have to tell your customer and your customer may say, “Hey just send me that information and also tell me why you got this information and what the insights are from there.” It’s just a one-way conversation and you can solve problems that way, or provide solutions to problems. But you need to share the whys. And sharing the whys, if you do it through Knowledge Transfer you’re going to expect that they’re going to feed back to you. They’re going to transfer the knowledge back to you. And it may end up in a knowledge sharing conversation, but you still have to have ways of doing both, both efforts, sharing and transfer.

And then you want to make knowledge accessible. When you’re not around, you need to have a way for your customer to reach out to you. And even if they don’t get a hold of you, they can get ahold of an FAQ. They can go to the website and pull down your report. Maybe you’ve investigated a problem and reported it there. Maybe you can just email it, or you can even tailor it to what kind kind of information they’re looking for. What kind of knowledge they want.

So, if you give them the cost report, and you’re not around to talk to them about it, but you can post it somewhere, they can go up to it and they can see you put that my estimated to completion is this date. Well, that’s fine if you just are just passing information. But if they want to know why you’re not going to end on time, you have to be able to tell them, “Well we’re not going to end on time because you’ve added this in.” Or “We could end up on time if we pull back on this, or if we work extra hours, but to work extra hours then we need more funding.” Just those kinds of things, which you know your solution, tell them the whys.

So now we’re going to get the final objective here. We’re going to talk about keeping your paying customers. Even when you can’t change the customers you can certainly change the relationships you have with them.

So, with the Compliers. As you add these organizational Knowledge Management practices, you are not only going to keep them and continue to blow them away, you are going to want to get them to recommend you, to refer you to their other friends that may need customer service like you have. But you’re also going to want to have continue the positive relationship with them.

Begrudgers. They are going to get calmer. You want them calm. Just like this photo shows she’s in her Zen moment. So as you improve your relationship by my using this Knowledge Management practice, they will begin to see you’re there to solve problems and not to fight them. Because you don’t want to have to constantly be fighting somebody. It makes a miserable day for both you and for them. They just may not express it. But as you share what you know, and share how you’ve gotten these ideas and you ask for their input and their knowledge and refer to their experience, it’s going to make for a better relationship.

Toddlers. They want to know that what you’re doing is going to bring them an easier life. That you’re not purposely making their life difficult. So they’re going to start accepting your support the more you use these Knowledge Management practices and including them in the discussion. Because when you include them, they feel more valued. They trust you. They feel like you’re there to support them. And when they know you’re out to make them better and you’re not just trying to take their toys away because you want them, it’s because they support the solution, they’re more apt to help you. And they may not become Begrudgers overnight or even Compliers overnight, but they won’t throw as many fits and they will support you the way you need to be supported. So you can support them the way you need to support them.

So there are five takeaways and they’re not all-inclusive of all the things we’ve talked about but these are in general what I want you to take away from this. I want you to build a relationship with each customer by exchanging your knowledge. Because when you exchange knowledge, you are giving the customer a reason to trust you. You’re giving them, “Hey, this person has shown that their understanding of what my needs are.” And so they’re providing it. They’re pushing rather than not and having me pull.

You want to ensure your teams are properly prepared to use knowledge. They know what to do with it and what they’re allowed to do. You’re giving them the autonomy to work with it and to respond to a customer the same no matter who the customer reaches out to.

You want to make your customers feel as if they’re your only customers. You’re going to tailor how you’re going to do business with them, by anticipating what their needs about what you know about them. And that’s how you find out is that you work with them and you tailor things until you get it exactly the way they want it to, or as close as you can.

Remember the bad news doesn’t get better with age. So make your customers part of the team by being upfront with them, being open with them, share with them when things aren’t going quite right and tell them what you’re doing. Don’t come to them with a problem without a solution.

And then finally listen to their input, ask clarifying questions. You need to emphasize that you’re there to support them so that when they are at their worst, you can make them feel like they’re at their best. It’s going to be a real big difference maker if you show that you really care.

And so this is my contact slide. If you want to get ahold of me, you can email me or sign up for a call. Just let me know if there’s anything that I can do for you. Thank you so much for joining me. And I hope you got everything out of this that you wanted to.

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