Conversations with Your Customers to Improve Your Organizational Knowledge Management

Cynthia Young, Knowledge Manager, McKean Defense, Virginia Beach, VA, USA

Keywords: Knowledge management, Conversation, Employee empowerment

Industry: All

Level: Basic


Having face-to-face conversations, or conversational touch points, with customers is critical within the overall scheme of knowledge management. There are tools within Information Technology (IT) that support these conversations such as SharePoint or other information sharing capabilities, but you cannot see reactions to statements, questioning looks, or furtive glances at co-workers through IT systems unless it is during a videoconferencing. Even through videoconferencing, you cannot see all of these reactions and looks and must rely on the words spoken. Face-to-face conversations with your customers can help to ensure your organization is part of the customer’s team vice just the workhorse for the customer.

Setting up a weekly battle rhythm or drumbeat to allow for these touch points with customers will optimally help deter misunderstandings and prevent last-minute surprises. A weekly battle rhythm also allows the customer to review with the support organization the lessons learned and to discuss the way ahead face-to-face vice in an emailed report or through a conference line. These will make the in process reviews less painful on all since the communication will support organizational risk management and a supported/supporting relationship for risk mitigation. Change management can be managed with support (supplier) and customer conversation.

The largest impact of the face-to-face conversations will be in the management of the knowledge through sharing and converting from tacit to explicit knowledge. This will operationalize the knowledge gained through conversations. The effects of active listening is the supporting factor in encouraging continued face-to-face conversations and benefits both the supplier and the customer by negating distractions that the customer may not be aware that are occurring. These distractions, which are normal fare when conducting telephone or video conferences, keep the customer from providing their full attention and unless actively engaged in the conversation, the customer may be working several issues at once.

Value to the Participants: Participants will learn the value in face-to-face discussions between suppliers and their customers by the knowledge management practices used throughout the organizations they support and can also support their internal organization to provide a systems-thinking approach to problem solving.

Key Take-Aways:

Participants will see that using lessons learned in a face-to-face “Issue – Discussion – Recommendation” format rather than a list of problems to solve. This is starting point for a road map for mitigating barriers to success. This format will permit fact-based conversations rather than strictly opinion-based conversations.

Participants will also see the benefits in personal relationships in support of knowledge management for not just customer support, but for empowerment of their own organizations’ employees to act on behalf of their organization in providing for the customer and improving their organization’s bottom line.

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