• Ian

    When I first read this I scratched my head – surely this is a statement of the obvious? But then I realised that of course you are right on the money. Of course in many spheres this has been going on covertly for a long time. When I was running a digital agency, all my developers had their support network via forums (or is that fora?) and chat. This was social networking before we called is 2.0. Canny suppliers quickly harnessed the power of these channels long before we had a label for social networking.
    I would suggest that therin lies the problem. Many companies (or their senior executives) are nervous, suspicious or downright scared of social media. I’m sure that you could present a plan and business model for customer support that was fast, reactive, self-generating and self-supporting, running 24/7 with hundreds of volunteer helpers and they would bite your hand off… just don’t mention it used social networking.

  • “Outsourcing customer support to customers!” as you say, can work really well. Online forums which are accessible 24/7 have answered many a question for me, at hours when ordinary businesses are closed. Having good search capabilities and at least once a day checking by one or more experts can lead to an excellent customer experience.

    I have seen that Bank of America has a customer support Twitter account with at least six reps, with names and photos and initials! Very innovative. I’m not sure managing customer service by Twitter is a great way to go – because of lack of database, inadequate search capabilities and deletion of Tweet history, but it’s great to have a point of contact to direct customers to another site with the right infrastructure.

    Very important topic, especially in economic hard times when companies have cut back staff, and in innovative times, when new businesses are launching on the internet with minimal resources!

    Forums get little coverage in the Facebook, Twitter and Google dominated news, but they offer functionality and subject specialization that is vitally needed.

  • It’s an important topic. Somehow we have to make it so people will look to the web first for support instead of the phone because most people (especially non-tech savvy) prefer to talk and listen the old fashioned way.

    Another thing is companies should do a better job of providing access to support resources on their own end because, as stated above, not every person hangs out on forum and even less know how to navigate them.

    Nonetheless we are entering an age where support will only be a ‘follow’ away.

  • Very valid points. Another good reason to handle customer service through social media would be that Customer Support through Social Media is also a good mechanism for research.Tools like Get Satisfaction and User Voice enable companies to get an insight into what problems their customers face, and what customers expect from their product, how customers view the company, etc. on a macro level (even validated by voting in many cases) which the company can use to prioritize feature requests, and the product’s future development overall.

    I wonder what your views are on the disadvantages of doing this though. No product is perfect and opening up your support conversations to the world might just make the limitations very public and there’s also the risk of customers ganging up against the company.

  • Thanks @Achint for your comment. Much appreciated!

    I agree with you that Social Media can be great source of information about customer preferences and company can gain valuable insight about their products/brands from Social media channels.

    Social Media can also be challenge if many customers have negative views/opinions about your brand. Rather than shying away from Social media, companies to embrace them and engage customers to meet this challenge head-on. If customers feel that company is making an honest attempt in redressing some of their complaints, it will go a long way in building trust and confidence in the brand – rather than not doing anything.

    Thanks again for your comment.

    Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.

  • Thanks @jorgebarba for your comment. I agree with you that “we have to make it so people will look to the web first for support instead of phone” Social Media can help in this as when customers share their questions/concerns on Social Channels, they are sharing with their Friends on Social Network. It is easier to seek help/advise from a friend or contact on Social Networks than search on the internet. Quicker companies realize this and tap into this potential, better for them.

    Thanks again for your comment,

    Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.

  • Thanks Anora McGaha for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughts, much appreciated.

    Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.

  • Thanks Ian for sharing your thoughts, I couldn’t have said it better!!

    Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.

  • I saw this example of customer service on Facebook. Thought you’d be interested in seeing it. Looks like they were providing good answers.

    http://www.facebook.com/GENBOOK

  • Unfortunately, statements of the obvious are often subtly wrong, which is the case here. Notice there’s no documentation, evidence or anything other than the usual assertions, and I’ll let you all in on a little secret. Executives didn’t become executives by accepting the word of any and every person with an opinion.

    All three arguments are flawed and/or need important clarification to be accurate, and data is required. Otherwise, don’t bother.

  • i partially agree with it, because this goes well for developed countries but countries where internet penetration is not that high or only in urban areas seems to me it is big challenge because companies need to spend money on awareness as well. lastly, what about those customers who exploit/blackmail company reputation over social media? to me going social for all kind of support has its own pros & cons. it would be two sided sword.  

  • Thanks Waqas for your comment:

    I agree this can be a challenge in countries where internet penetration is low. But silver lining in such cases is access to mobile phones. As 3G/4G voice & data services and mobile phones become readily available, even in developing countries we will see widespread use of Social Media. 

    Regarding customers who “exploit”, well – brand advocates can take care of them I guess!

    Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.