In the traditional model of customer support, the contact center and the company’s array of self-service venues are the central means through which customers ask questions, obtain information, provide feedback, and/or resolve issues. This model assumes that the company has the “sharpest knives in the drawer” in anticipating customer needs/concerns and providing responses. Social media may prove this assumption false. Through forums, blogs, social networks, and other venues, a “community” can generate its own ideas and solutions by “crowd sourcing” answers. Moreover, studies show that consumers trust peers more than they trust companies.
Forums are popular among technology-based products offerings with hardware manufacturers (e.g., Dell computers), software houses ( e.g., Intuit, maker of QuickBooks accounting software), and service providers (e.g., Comcast) getting in on the action. Tech companies don’t have the capacity to explore (or even be aware of) every possible use of their offerings or integrations with other offerings. Fortunately, someone, somewhere has been there, done that and gladly shares the story with details on the solution. It’s a win-win scenario. Customers gain a comprehensive resource for problem solving while companies gain a host of volunteers who reduce cycle time on customer inquiries and divert volume from traditional contact channels.
Retail shoppers increasingly lean on product ratings and commentaries when making purchase decisions, especially when buying on-line. Does this shirt size run small or large? They’re also increasingly open to advice. Which 32-inch HDTV performs best given multiple angles of viewing? Customers like to get some words of wisdom before they head for the electronic shopping cart or a local store. Some companies encourage their employees to get in on the action. For example, Best Buy has a 2,500+ member “Twelpforce” that monitors customer tweets on a Twitter site and provides considered opinions on Best Buy products.
Forums aren’t just for customers and prospects. You can create an in-house community that lets your customer service representatives share knowledge and experience to improve one another’s skills. Let’s face it, service reps struggle to retain all of the good information they received during their formal training. Some have the luxury of tapping an experienced peer who happens to sit in a nearby cubicle. Others aren’t so fortunate. A forum removes the distance between inquiring reps and their expert peers. These “teachers” take pride in their work and find satisfaction helping others. The on-line community is also a place to share news and upcoming events, or provide hints and tips that impact all reps. It’s “eLearning,” community-style.
Has your company used social media effectively to “crowd source” answers to customer and/or employee questions?