I'm not talking about this groundhog day, although it will be nice to see what he says. I'm talking about this one. In short - often the same issues with a product or service come up a lot, especially when the service is technology-related.
If you're trying to solve that very same problem by phone, you know that you'll have a great number of inbound calls that will need to go pretty much the same way.
The tech community has been using forums and discussion boards for this kind of thing for a number of years now. It's become a cultural trait of the profession to be able to support each other and share.
You know that when customers help each other instead of calling the company, both your number of inbound customer requests and product returns decrease. With a publicly available community, customers may also be able to find out which products or services best suit their needs more readily.
There are other ways to avoid groundhog day for your customers with social media:
- When you display reviews on your site, positive and negative, customers may feel the information you provide is more reliable. You know that we all research online before making a purchase. One point that many companies struggle with is that of displaying negative comments or reviews on their site. Customers are more than capable of finding that information on their own. Transparency actually goes in favor of your company.
- When you either build or join a community, which is more likely to help you solve recurring problems in many ways. And it's a place where you'll be returning more often, especially when the community is organic and developed around customers needs and not the company's services. The archives in such sites are more easily maintained and refreshed by a group instead of a person - this was the idea behind Wikipedia and wikis. The side effect to you is that a community may increase loyalty to your brand.
- Start a blog and share the commonly asked questions and known issues on a rolling basis. You know the issues that surround your product or service from inbound calls and emails. Why not share the learning publicly? If a blog is not an option, how about finding out where your customers go to talk about the issues and respond there?
Many companies may feel they don't really need to dedicate resources to customer support. That's a shame, as their brands will suffer in direct proportion to their unwillingness to incorporate what they learn from customer conversations into their way of doing business.
This is especially a challenge for those companies that provide services that are free to users. How does customer support for free services work? We're exploring that question today at Fast Company expert blog. There are several options:
- Make users wait for the service to come back online - the risk is that they may go elsewhere
- Sign up at Get Satisfaction and use that service to communicate with customers - the upside is that you are being seen doing something
- Blog about it - pros it becomes a destination for customers to learn about potential issues and you can engage in a discussion there; cons you may need to wait to find out yourself what happened before you post lest you seem to have no clue and customers may speculate elsewhere on what happened
- Build or join a community or a forum
These are just a couple of ideas to get you started. Once you experiment with and search for existing forums or communities that your own company could join, you will hone into what works for you. There is a happy ending to groundhog day - both for your customers and for the bottom line.
[perhaps we can modify the Wikipedia entry of "Groundhog Day" to include a definition for customer service?]