Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Conversation and Customer Support

Posted by Becky Carroll on August 30, 2007

at-sign.jpg (This is the second part of the article series Conversation: Customer Support in a Web 2.0 World.  Today’s post focuses on the use of blogging and other Web 2.0 tools in customer support.)

Using Blogs to Engage in the Support Conversation
Business blogs are becoming more common, and they can be leveraged very nicely for product support. The biggest potential with support blogs is to proactively share information with customers about upcoming releases, new functionality, and product plans. Customers can subscribe to blogs, so they can become a quick and easy way to get the word out when a fix to a common problem is available. Some organizations with this type of blog are the following:

  • Novell, used strictly for support with multiple authors and categories
  • Dell, used for general company info, customer feedback, and directing specific inquiries to the support site
  • Macromedia, which uses blogs as a quick way of getting hot topic information out to their communities on a daily basis as well as a way to get customer feedback on upcoming product features.  Macromedia includes links to both employee as well as customer blogs on their site.

Blogging can be a very powerful tool for customer support to use with its customers. There are a few areas which should be addressed up front, before starting a support blog.

Authors
It should be decided how many authors will be part of the blog and who will do the writing. It is best to choose authors who have good written skills in addition to a passion for communicating with customers. A product support blog can be written by one author or could have many contributors. It is great to get product development engineers involved in guest posts on occasion, as this is great for customer trust.

Commenting
It is optional to allow comments on blogs. However, the only way a blog can be used as a conversation is when customers are allowed to leave their feedback or questions. That said, it is recommended to refer customers with immediate technical issues to the proper support channel. It is also important to respond to customer comments.Get engaged, be open, and invite feedback and even assistance from your customers!

Simplicity
The best blogs are often those which are the most simple in structure. Blogs with too much information in the sidebars can become confusing. Likewise, support blogs should not be the medium for the marketing department to advertise constantly, although they can be carefully used to educate customers on new offerings in a relevant manner.

Personal Touch
Blogs are a great way to keep the personal touch in conversations with customers. Including photos of bloggers, as well as the right amount of personal information, helps customers put a face with the company and encourages interaction.

Other Tools for Engagement
Communities
Microsoft has created many different communities which incorporate the use of blogs, forums, and wikis. Sean O’Driscoll did a wonderful presentation on this at the SSPA Best Practices Conference. One of their developer communities, Channel 9 incorporates video casts, wikis, forums, as well as a “playground” to engage customers in conversation.

Large communities such as the one outlined above are a great place to find create a strong customer-to-customer support forum. In this case, a majority of customers “lurk”, or only read the online material and don’t actually write any of it. Another idea is to create small communities where customers are more likely to contribute. These “neighborhoods” could be around specific product lines or even better, around the needs of your customers to help them more quickly solve problems in a way that is relevant to how they do business.

Tagging and Context
Customers are looking for fast ways to find what they need on a product support site. Technology available to implement search results is becoming more commonly based on communities. For example, Lithium has technology using the “wisdom of crowds”, where crowds may know the best answers. It is how the community votes that will influence the order and content of search results.

Other technology, such as that from Baynote, creates new keywords for articles as it tracks the terms and phrases customers are using to find their results. They are tagging articles using this “wisdom of invisible crowds”, hence creating community-guided support with little effort from engineers

Start the Conversation
Social media has pushed customer service and support into the spotlight. Customer expectations are high and budgets are strained. Making the most from each customer interaction is critical to understanding customers but also to creating a great customer experience. I think the last point of the Channel 9 Doctrine  speaks volumes about this very topic. I encourage you to take it as your own as you begin to engage in the Web 2.0 support world:

“Commit to the conversation. Don’t stop listening just because you are busy. Don’t stop participating because you don’t agree with someone. Relationships are not built in a day, be in it for the long haul and we will all reap the benefits as an industry.”

(Note: This 2-post series was first published in the SSPA News.)

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8 Responses to “Conversation and Customer Support”

  1. Daksh said

    Becky – Wonderful post !

    I think this post should serve as bit of thought article per se for organizations trying to dive deeper into Web2.0 to gauge in more gripping conversations with their customers.

    What are the key issues that need to be looked into, before we get in the zone of blogging?. If you’re trying to find an answer to that question, well there’s no better place than this blog-post.

  2. Becky,

    I echo Daksh. Very thought provoking post. In part 1 you mention that businesses are reluctant to engage in blogs and wikis because of negative comments. You point out these conversations are occurring elsewhere. What these companies don’t realize is that, by having a blog, discussion board, or wiki, they can be a party to the conversation. The best practice is the Southwest Airlines blog where loyal customers usually defend SW without SW having to do it.

    Regards,

    Glenn

  3. GREAT advice Becky! I hope that companies that are struggling to use social media to provide better customer service give this post the attention it deserves!

  4. Daksh, thank you for the rave reviews on this post! It is a good, high-level summary of some issues to consider when thinking about a corporate blog. Thanks for commenting!

    Glenn, great to see you chiming in! I also love Southwest and the interaction they provide with their customers. All levels engage in conversation; I posted recently an example from a SWA pilot. I do believe it is important to take part in the conversations already in progress.

    Mack, thanks! Your compliment means a lot, especially as you are my main man when it comes to blogging. :-) Let’s get the word out!

  5. [...] more good news.  It’s an advantage that feeds on itself.  By starting or participating in conversations about your company, you are indeed providing excellent customer service by listening to your customers, addressing [...]

  6. Here Conversation and customer support are two different word as a describing the same as both are used in the sense of saving something as both are corelated to each other as customer supports are playing an important role for developing a business as business totally depends upon the customer satisfaction . Everyone knows that customer service is vital, but lots of firms still address the task haphazardly. Customer service comes at that point when customers are highly engaged in the problems they have.

    “So in this way we can say that for the development of any business customer satisfaction in too much important”.

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