Category Archives: Sharing Knowledge

How can business and technical people work with sales and marketing on customer experience initiatives?

A misconception about customer experience makes many people think that it’s exclusively the responsibility of the sales and marketing departments. But people who actually deliver products and services and customer care teams are the ones that can have the most important impact on the experience of the customer.

Both categories of employees are usually either very specialized (which makes them very useful in some areas of the business but not others) or not specialized enough to perform anything but basic tasks (e.g.: customer care performing basis tasks in IT)

Among the specialized people, those with expertise in business will rarely know tech very well and vice versa. Since customer facing people (e.g.: sales, marketing, customer care) usually aren’t experts in either, they usually need to rely on experts for questions they cannot answer or problems they cannot solve. This can bring the challenge of resource allocation and collaboration and one solution would be to have a “connector” between the two categories of employees which will help them work better together.

Such a person would be responsible for the following:

–          Translate customer needs into business and tech needs and make sure that everyone is on the same page. In software, a project manager may be assigned to this during the implementation, but this usually stops after the go live when customer care is the main responsible for the interaction with the customer

–          Determine which issues are important and work with both business and technical people to solve the problems by escalating to the appropriate person and following up on the actions required

–          With sales and marketing, gather feedback from customers and communicate with them to explain company strategy, future development plans, etc.

–          With product development to increase transparency, thus trust (see this post)

–          Get involved in user communities (formal or not), participate in analyzing social media interactions which can be used for product development, to proactively solve problems, and contribute building a brand that people have reasons to trust

Such a person is hard to find because (s)he will have to be good at business, technology, and communicating with people, even though not an expert in either field. Most professionals will specialize in only one, maximum two of these fields, but never all three. The good news is that extended expertise in all three fields isn’t actually required because this person needs to work closely related to marketing and communications, business operations, and IT.

What do you think? How important is such a person in a company? Are the various departments of a company too specialized and disconnected from each other and from the outside world?

Disconnected - geograph.org.uk - 1516053

Is more transparency needed in business software product development?

We usually learn very little about products and services until they’re officially released. This can be explained by the fact that companies don’t want their competitors to find out about their new products or they simply want to create some sort of suspense which keeps people interested in their new products.

While this may be a good marketing strategy in industries like consumer electronics or fashion and apparel, it doesn’t work so well in business software. Companies spending an important part of their budget on business software would like to know what the vendor intends to deliver in the future besides maintenance, patches, and bug fixes. Still, vendors rarely share a lot of information regarding their future road map and when more details are provided to industry analysts, they are usually bound by non-disclosure agreements.

We don’t expect software vendors to make public all of their ideas and efforts made towards improving their software and services, but we think that they should try to find a way to share their initiatives while keeping the important details confidential. The question is: how?

To answer this, we think that vendors should ask themselves the following questions and see if any of it applies to their product development initiatives:

– Is product development mostly based on requests from customers? If yes, is there a way to share with those customers (or everyone else who may be interested – eg: other customers or prospects) some information about the new features? Most vendors use ticketing systems for enhancement requests but not all of them are transparent when it comes to the management of those requests. There are some who actually close dozens or hundreds of tickets by batch because they realize that they don’t have the time and the resources to manage them. Of course, customers are never told that – they’re actually told nothing, they simply don’t get an answer to their questions. If product development is based on what the company thinks that’s needed in the market, it would be nice to explain how you determined which features are needed and which aren’t.

– What can you share without jeopardizing your product development process? Even though your competitors may know more about you than you think, sharing information considered strategic may put you in a bad position. This is why it’s important to define what kind of information can be share and with whom. When you work with partners and customers testing some new features, you’ll have to share some information with them, but does it make sense sharing it with other people (e.g.: analysts, experts, etc), communities (e.g.: user groups), specialized magazines, etc.?

– What do your customers want to know? While it’s easy to assume what people want to know, the best way to find out is to ask. Some may want to track every single issue and enhancement request they create. Others will only want to know what’s new in any major release. It will be almost impossible to satisfy everyone 100% but the idea is to cover 80% of the requests, which are probably generated by 20% of your customers(following Pareto’s rule)

– What’s you level of commitment to a roadmap and product enhancements? All vendors have good intentions (usually) but they’re not always realistic when it comes to allocating resources and time to improving their products. Also, some of the features that may be very important for a new customer may not be needed by others, so they may end up not being included in new releases. The ideal is to find a balance between promising things you may not be able to deliver and providing no details on future releases.

Since transparency is increasingly important in business, we think that vendors should definitely share more information about their product development initiatives. Again, this doesn’t have to be about shearing secrets or confidential information, but about documenting and sharing stories about new features and how they were created, tested, and implemented.

This type of pro-active transparency can also be helpful when potential customers are comparing various solutions and may require information on roadmaps and future developments. More and more customers are not happy with the promise of a “future release” and consider it a bad sign when vendors are reluctant to share information on their future development plans.

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By EFF (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Can questioning help us improve knowledge?

We recently found this article which describes how “the legitimation of formal, ‘evidence-based’ scientific knowledge about parenting within nursing and midwifery can have the effect of replacing and discrediting embodied, informal and culturally located ways of knowing and learning” The article questions knowledge transfer in healthcare, which is done mostly as “a unidirectional movement from expert professional knowledge providers towards the consumers of that knowledge”

Something similar happens in business, where people acquire knowledge from experts which are either the teachers in business school or the more experienced colleagues at work. Is this way of transferring knowledge efficient? Does it exclude knowledge that our teachers or co-workers may not not have but may prove useful to you? 

Is this type of knowledge transfer too subjective? One definition of knowledge (shown in the diagram below) states that knowledge is found at the intersection between truths and beliefs, but what some people believe may not be relevant to others, therefore what some consider to be valuable knowledge may not have the same importance to those who are supposed to benefit from it.

Classical Definition of Knowledge

What do you think? What is the best way to transfer knowledge? How do we make sure that we transfer knowledge that is really useful and objective? Can questioning help?