Improving the customer experience is all the rage these days, with the ability to satisfy customers now widely acknowledged to be the competitive differentiator. Companies extol the excellence of their customer experience delivery online and in print. The importance of providing a great customer experience takes pride of place in vision and mission statements. Is it an overhyped business trend? Not in this case; the trend tracks with reality. In a highly competitive environment, the ability to manage customer relationships well and deliver a great experience really does give companies an edge.

There’s little controversy about the importance of delivering an excellent customer experience, but there is much disagreement about how companies go about doing it. One facet of the customer support delivery process that has attracted the attention of industry experts is knowledge management, which includes self-service tools like knowledge bases and frequently asked question (FAQ) pages. When delivered in a highly usable format, these types of self-service resources are enormously popular.

The operative word is “usable” since poorly organized self-service assets can have the opposite of the intended effect. As CRM software analysis site Software Advice notes, while providing self-service options should be an effective way to increase customer satisfaction, self-service resources that are “incomplete, unclear or do not answer the actual question” can backfire, leaving customers even more frustrated and significantly degrading the overall customer experience.

Companies that want to use knowledge management tools to improve the customer experience should look for an application that allows the business to choose which internal resources customers can access as a self-service option. It’s also crucial to select an application that lets the company organize support material and present topics to customers in a variety of ways. For example, users might search by modification date or product feature, and it’s vitally important that they find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.

Businesses should also seek a solution that enables seamless teamwork. Invariably, the company’s collective knowledge is greater than any one individual’s expertise, and a platform that allows support agents to leverage the entire group’s know-how can improve the customer experience by enabling swift resolution. A support platform should provide a backroom collaboration feature where support team members and colleagues from other business areas can work together to solve problems.

Ideally, the customer support platform would enable customer requests to come in across multiple channels, with automatic ticketing and tracking. A well-designed platform would also include a way to prioritize support requests, such as keyword searches for terms that indicate high levels of distress, and it would give everyone access to the same set of customer data. That last feature not only keeps the support team on the same page, it eliminates annoying support call pitfalls for customers, such as having to state their name, provide the product name and describe their issue repeatedly.

All of these elements support the delivery of an exceptional customer experience, but the self-service component is also notable for its ability to deflect service tickets, which enables support agents to focus on resolving more complex issues. Software Advice published a report last year that indicated that businesses that deploy robust self-service resources see immediate results. In fact, the company says that 76% reported that they saw “significant improvement” in first-call resolution metrics.

When evaluating platforms for effective knowledge management, Craig Borowski, Market Researcher at Software Advice, said, ”TeamSupport immediately stood out for its knowledge management application. It has more features than many competing products, some of which are invaluable for businesses that want to improve customer experience without raising the costs of providing service. TeamSupport’s ticket deflection and article suggestion feature is a great example.”

Companies that want to successfully compete in a crowded marketplace can set themselves apart by focusing on the customer experience. Finding a way to deliver a great customer experience during the support process is critical, and a well-designed solution that facilitates teamwork and enables self-service delivers benefits to customers and the support group. Businesses that find a solution that puts all of these elements together can compete and win in a changing marketplace.