More than one year ago I posed the question to Fast Company readers. It was one of the posts that got some of the more interesting comments. Admittedly, at the time my posts also got some visibility on the site - I cannot remember the last time any of them was linked to from any of the sections of the new "community" site. At this juncture, I am a customer of the magazine who volunteers to give it visibility through this site.
I was revisiting with the comments to that post - all legitimate parts of a larger conversation:
- Companies should care about providing support and service to their customers. And we should keep score of who does by voting with our money. No better way to provide feedback than through action. We should also recommend those companies to our family and friends. I have been practicing this for years.
- Culture can be the salvation of companies. It's ironic that such an intangible could potentially help turn around a company and the experience you have of it. It starts with being truthful and honest with each other as employees and continues in the conversation with customers.
- Opportunities exist to help facilitate conversations around hobbies and passions. Use them. Remember the Long Tail. Liz in the comments said: "retailers such as Best Buy would do well to take a cue from the Borders and B&N models of encouraging customer interaction with book clubs, etc. In addition to helping facilitate user groups and discussions -- both planned and informal -- they could no doubt get manufacturer sponsorship and participation." The Hobby Guy agreed 110%.
- Worry less about competitors and more about making your customers happy. It is well documented that if your idea is any good, you will have to spend years pitching it to anyone who will listen to make it happen. Why not try it out yourself and see? The greatest risk is doing nothing and having your customers walk out unhappy to go elsewhere.
- How about giving karma points to customers who are helpful to other customers? From Tommy's comment, a great story:
- Interdependencies abound in the current economic environment. Peer recommendations are often the point of entry into a new customer's life for a brand. Staying in people's lives is then the work of the companies that produce and sell that product - it comes down to service. There is no amount of convincing you will ever do if your performance in that department is lacking. Today at Fast Company expert blog we discuss how to be innovative in customer conversations.
There are many new media tools where the customers are in fact the service. As I'm learning to use FriendFeed, I am seeing more and more evidence of peer support for customer service issues in the discussion threads. When TypePad was acting up, it was people in my Twitter network who helped first, for example.
If I were a company, I would look to strengthen my relationships with customers - listening and participating to the conversation they are having about your brand would be a fine step. What else would you recommend? Are you doing business with companies that are seeking new ways to be helpful?