Helping the Groundswell Support Itself!

Have any of you ever heard of CarePages?

I had a friend once whose little boy was dying of cancer.  There is enough to deal with when you have a sick family member, let alone all the calls that you receive from friends and family offering support and asking for updates.  It can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed more than you already are.  My friend became a member of CarePages, where she was able to post updates regarding her little guy and other people were able to respond and offer their love and support.  People supporting people; this is an example of the groundswell supporting itself.  Supporting the groundswell is one of the objectives of my previous POST blog.

Supporting customers can be a real burden; usually if you receive a call from a customer after a purchase, it means something is wrong with the product.  These calls can be very expensive and time consuming!  In today’s world you will most likely notice that company’s are encouraging customers to go online for support.  Many companies have answering services when you call their telephone line, indicating that you can find support on their websites.  The other day, for example, I needed to talk to Shaw regarding a movie refund for a movie that didn’t record properly.  I called their phone line, where I waited on hold for 20 minutes.  While I waited, I was able to go to the website and start an online chat with a customer service representative, who was able to assist me.  I hung up the phone before getting through to a telephone customer service representative.

The reason for the push towards online support has a great deal to do with cost.  Many companies have moved their call centres overseas, where it is 40% less expensive to compensate the call centre employees!  Have you ever had this experience, however, and become very frustrated with the language barrier on the other end of the line?

This is where the groundswell comes into play once again in a big way.  Who are you more willing to trust: the company you purchased a product from or other customers who have similar products that are able to support your queries?  Customers trust other customers more, and they are willing to spend time helping each other.  

Have you ever joined a forum?  Forums are a great way for customers to share information and opinions.  They are also a great place to get help.  If you have a problem with your printer, how convenient is it to go online and be able to ask a question and get an immediate response?  Perhaps the question has even been asked before and the answer is available to you without even having to ask!  Forums also have a tremendous cost savings, as illustrated in the following ROI analysis:

roi

Wikis are also an option to reassure clients.  Think about Wikipedia for a moment.  Imagine if you can build something like that for your own customers?!  Well you can.  The benefits of wikis include client support, enabling clients to feel like they are solving problems together!  You must determine, however if a wiki is right for you!  Are your customers ready to share in a common collection of information?  Wikis are more difficult than forums are to get going, so you must make sure your customers are ready for it!

The cost benefits of groundswell supporting technology such as forums and wikis is immense.  People post questions and other people answer them – genius!  However, the groundswell needs your participation as well!  If you decide to move forward with building a supporting community, here are some suggestions:

  1. Start small, but plan for a larger presence – for example, start with only one product line but plan to include all of them down the road!
  2. Reach out to your most active customers – find your enthusiasts and ask them how they’d prefer to participate!
  3. Plan to drive traffic to your community – advertise and don’t forget search engines!
  4. Build in a reputation system – encourage users to participate and behave in the right manner!
  5. Let your customers lead you – listen to your customers’ opinions!  They will tell you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong!

People expect you to listen and respond to them so make sure you do so!  Embrace the dialogue and collaborate with your customers!

Westjet has a FlyerTalk forum, where customers communicate with one another and ask each other questions.  Westjet can look at the forum and observe what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.  They can then join in, supporting their customers and learning from them in order to improve their business.  They also have a Wikipost, where they are able to share information with their customers in an efficient manner.  Westjet is doing it right!