Meeting customer needs means breaking down barriers within organizations and getting disciplines to actively work together.
The modern customer demands that you organize around them. This means that the traditional organizational structures must change. That’s not to say that these structures have no future. They are very manageable forms and are also the most optimal way to get work done.
However, one of the key characteristics of knowledge work is that we ask "Why?" We don’t simply focus on the input (the work), we also focus on the outcome. For years, it was depressing to watch organizations address the Web. It was either a) let’s buy a new content management system or search engine; or b) let’s do a new redesign; or c) let’s publish some content.
These were projects that could be neatly managed by IT or marketing or communications. They got budgets and teams and stuff got done. Tools were bought and content was migrated or created. A new graphical design was approved and implemented. Well managed projects with deadlines. But very little of real value was achieved.
Installing a search engine on its own will do very little to help customers or employees find things. We need cross organizational cooperation to professionally manage the content. Everything that is published needs to have quality metadata. Old content needs to be removed.
All the appropriate content needs to be indexed and that will mean collaborating with application owners and getting them to allow the search engine to index their content. They may need to change the way they create content and organize their applications. It will need to be decided that certain content should NOT be indexed. And all this is an ongoing process.
In many intranets, tasks such as training can be found all over the place in all sorts of different systems and formats. Employees don’t know where to look. But every department wants to ‘own’ their training. That’s not productive. That’s not efficient. There is a better, more collaborate way where everyone can win. Standardizing training design and making it all findable through a single search environment is not just doable but essential for a modern organization.
Customers want unified product pages. They don’t want to go to what they think is the product homepage only to discover that it only contains marketing product information. So, if they want to know about installation or troubleshooting, they have to go to the Support section. And there may well be interesting conversations happening about the product but the customer won’t know unless they go to the Community section.
That’s an archaic, organization-centric and unprofitable model. The best websites are bringing everything together into a unified whole. You are able to find pricing, installation, troubleshooting and conversations about the products all in the same place. This requires a lot of internal collaboration but it is worth it. One organization we worked with found that one of the biggest impacts on increasing their conversation rates was when they introduced installation information on their product pages.
The customer wants it all. They want it now. If you don’t give it to them they leave. To satisfy the customer we must organize around the them and to do that we must collaborate much more.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994. His latest book is titled The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online.