Keys to successful customer service: That person

by Becky Brown 20. August 2013 11:00

Recently an individual I’ve spoken with many times called me.  He is quite high ranking in his organization.  He called to tell me that a help request would be coming in from one of his bosses, the first time this boss would be requesting assistance personally.  He said, “I won’t tell you who it is, but his name start with this letter….”  To his surprise, I told him that I’d watch for the request, but that we strive to treat all of our customers the same—all of them are important people.  He paused for second, when he spoke again.  You could hear the smile in his voice, “Really?  I like that….  I like that a lot!”

I receive calls every day from people in many organizations.  It’s what I do:  gather and assess the information then provide an actionable solution.  Sometimes the solutions are easy, sometimes they involve a significant amount of time and resources.  Sometimes, I can’t give them a solution they want.  Regardless of the outcome, I strongly believe that one of the secrets to success in customer support is to treat every inquiry as important, every inquirer as important.  My interactions with the caller lead to previous successes for him.  That’s why he called to give me a heads up, if you will.  He wanted to make sure his boss came away with the same results he did:  quick response time, friendly service, with an actionable result.

Sure, we get the occasional unreasonable request, or an unreasonable person who likes to throw their weight around, the person who tells you that no effort is good enough.  Everyone who has ever worked customer support has dealt with that person.  That person is important too!  You may never be able to win over that person, but you should try.  We should try. 

The satisfaction rate for the product I support is greater than 95%, for the life of the product.  Each product has a group of regulars.  Over time, the regulars, who love you, don’t fill out the customer response surveys anymore.  So, in many ways, the customer support surveys reflect the views of new users more than established ones.  Not to mention the fact that it seems that person always completes the survey, but I digress... The point is, whether from new or established users, the feedback supports the mission:  treat every inquiry as important, every inquirer as important

Every day won’t be perfect.  Every caller won’t be satisfied.  Every request cannot be accommodated.  That person may call you…again.  Just remember, the next time that person calls, you have another chance to make that person feel important.  Isn’t that what great customer service is all about?


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Enterprise | Methodology | Productivity | Success

What do Unmanned Air Vehicle companies, Printer Manufacturers, and Missionaries in Africa have in common?

by DougBrook 26. February 2013 14:23

Recently,  I attended an Unmanned Air Vehicle symposium, comprised of for-profit companies, non-profit companies, federal organizations, and state organizations that all came together for one purpose: To support the development of a UAV Test Center and Complex.  Fortunately, they were forward thinking enough to realize that along with Modeling & Simulation and Infrastructure, Knowledge Management needed to be designed into a successful program.  They were enlisting the collective knowledge of many different organizations to bring innovative ideas to light.

Ideas generated freely and an 'Action Item' list grew very quickly.  After these ideas were generated, everyone went their separate ways back to their regular day to day jobs.  This organization needed a way to keep the momentum going.  Using KnowledgeNow they were able to quickly stand up a virtual community workspace (CoP), compile all the notes and action items, send them out for review using the Document Manangement System and versioning, enable users to sign up to be alerted as content changed and even leverage the Calendar for upcoming events.

As a Knowledge Management professional the most beautiful thing about the way this came together was that most people at the table could not have told you the basic premises behind a formal Knowledge Management discipline, but they were participating in one of the most striking examples of successful KM I have seen in a long time.  Ideas were being captured, paragraphs were being vetted ...

Now the very nature of a Virtual Workspace makes it difficult for this harvesting process to create the silos of information (negative) that can normally occur during this phase of idea creation.  And capturing the ideas in the symposium venue then moving to the virtual world enables the more quiet, introverted members at the table to jump in and truly have an equal voice!

So, what do Unmanned Air Vehicle companies, Printer Manufacturers, and Missionaries in Africa have in common?  The need to collaborate, share internal knowledge, collect ideas, practices, and experience, then share outside their closed community - and they are doing it on KnowledgeNow!

If you have the need to collaborate and share information securely with others outside of your internal community – you should consider KnowledgeNow.  You can learn more at www.knowledgenow.net.

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Collaboration | Knowledge Management

Focused Community: the Core of Successful Internet Communication – 3rd in a Series on Secure Workplace Collaboration

by JoAnn Hague 26. October 2012 11:16

Want to control email usage without drying up your organization's collaborative watering hole?  Here’s how.

Today, most organizations face the following dilemma:

  • Company email is neither reliable nor safe
  • Most employees – including leadership – depend on email to circulate information and to collaborate
  • Email dependence is ingrained in the working-world culture.  Dependence results from ...
    • System familiarity (we stick with software we can use)
    • Cultural acceptance (the company depends on email to conduct business)
    • Instant success (the SEND button removes the task from the employee’s to-do list)

Consequently, email is both a business conduit and a security risk.

How can you seal the breach while maintaining essential communication and collaboration?  The answer:  Create managed watering holes that serve business needs.  Whereas the email system generates many out-of-control channels, the tributaries of your new watering holes are managed by you.

The first step in creating your new online watering hole is to define its purpose and mission; the tighter the focus, the more successful the outcome.  The second is to define the its managers and participants. 

Do these steps sound familiar?  Yes!  I’m describing the beginnings of effective project planning.  Although we recognize the building blocks for efficient project teams (after all, we've managed them for centuries), we lose our way when we enter the new world of cyberspace.  In cyberspace, messages – including attachments – can increase without strategic forethought, and information is disseminated and potentially lost. 

Finally, knowledge is dispersed, and outcomes are unknown and often unknowable.

Isn't it time for a change?

Construct your new internet watering hole with strategic and organizational forethought.  Take a look at KnowledgeNowan internet watering hole built to encompass an organization’s strategic initiatives:

A Collaborative Website That Can Be Up-and-Running in Minutes ... with No HTML coding

Interested?  Take a tour of KnowledgeNow; then, give us a call at 937-427-9900 or send us an email.

Next:  Building Visibility to Ensure Security

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Blog | Collaboration | Cooperation | Enterprise | Insights | Tools | Paradigm Shift | Productivity | Success

The Electronic Watering Hole … Is It Reliable? Is it Safe? - 2nd in a Series on Secure Workplace Collaboration

by JoAnn Hague 9. October 2012 10:45

In Gathering Around the Watering Hole, I said that the workplace’s electronic watering hole is the email system.  We use it because we need to interact to complete our tasks; and we use it because it feels familiar, reliable, and safe.

I asked, “What if it is neither reliable nor safe?  What if it is simply familiar?”

Is email reliable?   

“Email is reliable,” we say, “because it goes exactly where we send it and the replies form the cascade of watering hole conversations.”

Actually, although the email system looks like a watering hole, it is really subterranean tributaries leading to often-uncharted streams.  Therefore, it cannot be reliable because its destination is not predictable.

Is email safe?

From uncharted streams … to rivers … to lakes … to oceans… email can quickly escape the grasp of a company; and, when it does, intellectual property and competitive advantage seep away.

So!  Email is neither reliable nor safe. 

But you already know this.  Leaders often warn against improper use of the email system, and the IT team enumerates the risks.  However, workers continue to depend upon email to do their jobs.  In the end, even company leadership and IT personnel resort to the email system to caution against its abuse.

Here is the actual question: 

Why do we use the email system when we know that it is neither reliable nor safe? 

First, email feels familiar, and feelings mask the dangers. 

“Employees have a false sense of security,” says Bill Miles, Triune Group Program Manager.  Despite two decades of warnings, “people still think they are protected,” he says.  “In the end, a company’s weakest security link is its own people.”

Second, employees depend upon the email system because it is often the only internet networking tool they feel comfortable using.  If the email system is the only internet watering hole, then employees really do need to gather around it to do their work.

Leadership faces a dilemma:  “Open collaboration is good, but a company loses competitive advantage when internal information is lost,” Bill says.  In the end, leadership protects secure or proprietary information by restricting watering hole usage.

For 13 years, Triune Group has built and administered the U.S. Air Force’s secure, collaborative internet workplace:  Air Force Knowledge Now (AFKN), an environment where security is a priority because the safety of our nation is at stake. 

Today, the next generation of that community-based environment is commercially available:  KnowledgeNow

Triune Group started at the watering hole and evolved its system around the needs of those who gather there.  At the same time, Triune Group evolved structure and tools to protect company information and knowledge.

I invite you to see how we do it.  Click here to take a walking tour of KnowledgeNow.

Contact us by phone (937-427-9900) or email to learn more about Triune Group and its services.

Next ... Focused Community:  the Core of Successful Internet Communication

GATHERING AROUND THE WATERING HOLE - 1st in a Series on Secure Workplace Collaboration

by JoAnn Hague 2. October 2012 09:43

Workplaces have watering holes.  The best, like chats around the kitchen table, satisfy both body and mind.  Some business watering holes are official – a conference room, for example.  Many are not.  Important discussions can take place at the office microwave, the coffee pot, or a nearby restaurant.

These open discussions on closed topics present challenges with which businesses grapple every day.  We seek to restrict such conversations to private spaces and closed doors, and we have been trying for decades.  We all understand that some information must remain confidential, but we don’t always contain our impulses.

Why?  Because we are social; we like to interact.  We need to interact.

Now, place us in front of a monitor, hands poised above a keyboard.  The nearby processor provides access to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of strangers, but it doesn’t feel that way.  No, we feel pretty much alone, so we reach out to converse with friends and associates as if we were talking one-to-one, face-to-face.  We type an email; we attach a file; we send out our message. 

We connect with our network.

Email is the workplace’s electronic watering hole. 

We go to the electronic watering hole because it feels familiar, reliable, and safe.  What if it is neither safe nor reliable?  What if it is simply familiar?

What then?

Next:  The Electronic Watering Hole … Is It Reliable?  Is It Safe?

No Team Like Ours

by DougBrook 13. September 2012 15:24

This posting is a personal tribute to the outstanding Triune Group team that has supported Air Force Knowledge Now (AFKN) since its inception in 1999.  Although their labors are hidden, their efforts are visible through the product they develop and sustain.

As you know, the years since 1999 have brought many changes to our nation and its people. Within the Department of Defense those changes have been extensive, resulting in a continually evolving set of challenges.  The AFKN team navigates through these frequent mission realignments and workforce changes.  They redesign; they redirect; they adapt.  They keep collaboration intact and knowledge flowing.

What motivates them?  Here’s what they say: 
“Every day, we talk to people who depend on AFKN to do their jobs.  We serve them.  We know that they need AFKN, and we are there to help them in any way we can.”

That is the core of Triune:  the commitment of our people to the needs of those we serve.

Collaborative suites of software similar to AFKN and KnowledgeNow (the public version of AFKN) are out there, and you may find one that fits your software requirements.  However, I guarantee that you will not find a team like ours.

They provide the underlying support for those who must complete their mission.

And their dedication continues to pay off for both Triune and the Air Force community.  On August 30, the USAF extended Triune’s support of Air Force Knowledge Now through 2013.

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Did You Ever Wonder How the Average Person Spends Their Day?

by Julie Good 18. July 2012 12:26

Did you ever wonder how the average person spends their day?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Note numbers are rounded),
here is an average daily breakdown:

Sleeping -  8 hours 40 minutes
Personal care - 47 minutes
Caring for other household member - 32 minutes
Caring for non household member - 13 minutes
Organization, civic and religious activities - 20 minutes
Eating and drinking - 1 hour 15 minutes
Household activities - 1 hour 48 minutes
Purchasing goods and services - 45 minutes
Leisure and sports (excluding watching TV) - 2 hours 27 minutes
Education - 29 minutes
Watching TV - 2 hours 44 minutes
Other activities - 20 minutes
Work and work related activities - 3 hours 32 minutes
Phone calls and email - 12 minutes

No wonder we are tired - we are certainly busy! 

Organizing reduces stress, but it does not, by itself, guarantee that you’ll accomplish the important projects in your life. It’s easy to spin your wheels on the never-ending flow of small to-dos without making progress toward completion of the big things. 

Each of us are knowledge-workers, in our own way.  We inherently know where to get answers and information we need yet – it may not be as easy as our fingertips.  Our answers may require a phone call, or a meeting with “Joe” to get the information.  Having access to or acquiring this knowledge can mean the difference between a good day or a bad day.

Does your organization have access to all of the knowledge assets they need?

Often, useful knowledge nuggets for the organization get “stored” with individual knowledge owners.  Many organizations are strapped with information resources and knowledge that’s locked in the repository of their best employees.  Perhaps, it’s stored in their brain, or in a file on their computer, or possibly somewhere in the email abyss. 

If you are looking for ways to empower your knowledge workers, Triune has deep experience helping large and small organizations become more effective.  To learn more, contact us at (937)427-9900.

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Blog | Insights | Knowledge Management

Are you losing money and productivity by not managing your knowledge assets?

by Keith Engelhardt 29. May 2012 10:35

Over a decade ago Peter F. Drucker stated: "The most valuable asset of a 21st-century institution (whether business or nonbusiness) will be its knowledge workers and their productivity." That statement is even more relevant today.

 

The Problem

According to a 2010 report from McKinsey Quarterly knowledge workers spend half their time on interactions, their research and experience suggest that companies should first explore the productivity barriers that impede these interactions.  And half of all interactions are constrained by one of five barriers: physical, technical, social or cultural, contextual, and temporal.

 

How do you plan to meet this challenge?

 

Do your knowledge workers have easy access to the information they need to maximize productivity?

 

How open are your people to sharing that information?

 

Have you removed all barriers to maximize knowledge worker interactions?

 

Fortune 500 companies lose an estimated $31 billion a year by failing to adequately manage knowledge resources.

 

As teams are more frequently required to work across time zones and functions, the need for improved collaboration and communication inside and outside the organization becomes more important. Distributed project teams need to share files, comments, and discussions effectively with each other in a timely manner.

 

Since the proportion of employees in knowledge-based roles is expected to increase, executives should be concerned with how to make knowledge workers more productive in order to save time and money, and gain efficiencies.

 

The Solution

A comprehensive suite of knowledge management tools that enables knowledge workers to communicate and collaborate across the organization, as well as with vendors and suppliers can be a game changer. With collaboration and communications tools, knowledge workers are more efficient in doing their job.

 

The benefits include:

 

• Improve their ability to create, acquire, process, and use knowledge

• Enhance knowledge worker productivity

• Improve processes

• Strengthen the work organization

• Drive strategic initiatives

• Increase the retention and preservation of key knowledge

• Provide a competitive advantage

 

 Of course, technology is only part of the solution. Figuring out how to get knowledge workers to actually use these tools is another.

Where high value interactions matter most – customer support, business development, product development, sales and marketing, for example – knowledge workers who can form high-quality interactions and solve complex problems through collaborative teamwork will be a valuable source for a competitive advantage.  Have you removed the productivity barriers within your organization?

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Is E-mail your current collaboration tool?

by Keith Engelhardt 21. May 2012 10:11

Is E-mail your current collaboration tool?
Can you readily find the latest version of a file attached to your e-mails ?
Are your confidential files secure or are they floating around e-mail in-boxes? 

The Problem

Email generally works well as a means of collaborating and it gives an opportunity for some amount of feedback on a shared file or document.

However, it is a nightmare when it comes to real collaboration and knowing who has latest verion of a file and who has access to confidential documents.

 

Did you know that the cost of not finding information is $3,300 per employee per year, according to IDC research?

 

What do you do when you are dealing with critical information that changes often, information which may be held by multiple people, in multiple locations? 

 

Sending out a constant stream of emails is unwieldy, risks information getting lost in recipients’ “Inbox clutter”, and makes collection and sharing of feedback from the recipients difficult at best. Fortune 500 Companies lose an estimated $31 billion a year failing to adequately manage knowledge resources or failing to collaborate effectively.

 

The Solution

Effective collaboration tools provide an environment that allows EVERYONE’S information is securely available to anyone who needs it, anywhere, on a 24x7 basis for effective information sharing and collaboration. 

 

Successful collaborative technologies provide on-demand, secure access to your critical information, ensuring that your people are able to access the information they need, when they need it. 

 

Effective Collaborative Applications

When Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, KnowledgeNow was a key component of the United States Air Force’s emergency operations. 

 

• Quickly establishing an Emergency Operations Community of Practice (CoP), the Air Force was able to give evacuees immediate  access to emergency information, including the capability for evacuees to post questions and receive answers on concerns such as road closures and updated evacuation information.

 

• County, state, and local emergency management personnel used the CoP to communicate, and coordinate with each other as well as  the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

• Through an Emergency Relief CoP, pre- and post-storm airborne images produced by reconnaissance aircraft were made available to  emergency responders from both the state and federal government, allowing them to quickly identify and assess areas of major damage, and direct relief efforts to the areas where they were most needed.

 

They could not have done this relying on e-mail for collaboration.

 

Most organizations never experience a situation of the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina. However when you have a critical information-sharing or collaboration requirement, whether in a time of crisis or in the course of operating your business on a day-to-day basis, you need to be fully prepared. Can you afford anything less?

 

 

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The Answer Goddess

by Becky Brown 1. May 2012 09:27

Every organization has at least one resident expert, the person you go to if you need to know something right now.  When I was in college, the campus expert was the academic secretary, Shawna.  Shawna’s expertise stretched far beyond her written job description.  You see, Shawna literally grew up on that campus.  Her parents taught at the school.  She herself was a graduate.  She had experience in every facet of the organization—from academics, to financial aid, to student services, to technology.  If it was to be known, Shawna knew it, or could find it out in a 2-second phone call.  Even though her job description listed her as academic secretary, the students gave her another title—Answer Goddess.  Every time we addressed her that way, she would blush and say, “It’s no big deal.”  But, it was a big deal!  No one else held the knowledge, skills, experience, and expertise she did, AND she was willing to share her expertise with all of us!

It may seem simple, but, in reality, we all have a little bit of Shawna in us.  We each fill a niche in our organization, but how many of us share our information as freely as she did?  Do we hold on to it tightly because we are afraid that, if someone else knows what we know, we will become less useful or even irrelevant?  Shawna was never going to be irrelevant.  Do we hold the fact that we know things others don’t as badge of superiority and relevance?  That makes people feel inferior and unvalued.  Shawna always made people feel important and valued, even the terrified freshmen.  Shawna was a huge asset to the organization, to her superiors, to her colleagues, and to the students.

About the time I graduated, Shawna resigned and moved 1,000 miles away.  Some of her knowledge still existed at that campus because she invested a little of it in each person who came seeking answers from the Answer Goddess.   Had I known then what I know now, I would have encouraged Shawna to document her expertise somewhere.  Each one of the interchanges was an asset to the organization and to future students.  I would have encouraged the implementation of some kind of searchable discussion forum, wisdom exchange or other knowledge capture system.  I would have planted the seeds of a knowledge management initiative because, even though another fantastic, knowledgeable, helpful person has held that position for years now, some of Shawna’s expertise is irrevocably lost.

Things to think about:

  •    Who are the go-to-people in your organization?
  •    Are you capturing their knowledge, processes, and information?
  •    Are the leaders and workers in your organization openly sharing and collaborating?
  •    Is that kind of openness being encouraged and rewarded?
  •    Are the processes and results being documented and captured for future use?

 

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About the authors

Triune Group deploys knowledge management in some of the world’s largest organizations including the US Air Force.  In our blog posts, we bring our more than 10 years of expertise with the goal of helping others be successful with their Knowledge Management implementations.  Our experts include: Becky Brown, Keith Engelhardt, Doug Brook, Tom Simpson, JoAnn Hague,  and many others who have real world examples of KM success.