The rise of social media has completely changed the face of post-sales customer interaction. The ease with which customers can vent their frustrations through venues like Amazon reviews, Twitter and Yelp mean that companies have no choice but to offer high-quality post-sales care if they want to remain profitable outside of the short term. A savvy customer can easily google dozens of opinions about your product and support before deciding to purchase. They don't just want to know whether your product is good, they want to know if they're covered when something goes wrong. They want to read real customer experiences.
The sad fact is that happy customers are much less likely to mention how much they enjoyed your product than the annoyed ones are to post venomous screeds. Unfortunately, many companies shroud their support in secrecy. In attempting to hide potential problems with their product, they leave themselves vulnerable to the random slander of the internet. The only way to maintain a healthy public profile for your business is to ensure that customers with problems are able to resolve them quickly, effectively and in a medium that you're able to control.
If you have great customer support, show it to the world
The games industry is easily the fastest growing sector in entertainment, and it's a sector in which forum communities are ubiquitous. Games companies have learned that they can keep their customers coming back by giving them a place to communicate with each other after their purchases. I'd advise anyone outside of the games industry to go and check out how much effort the most successful companies are putting into their communities. They know that giving their customers a place to discuss their purchase helps to reinforce brand loyalty in those customers. Typical discussions in games communities might include:
- Company and community sourced technical support
- Player-to-player best practices
- Product feedback
- Community run events and meetups
Everything is out in the open in games communities, prospective customers can easily see what other users are talking about, what bugs are an issue and how well the company is dealing with them. It's 100% transparent yet still under the control of the game publisher.
Companies in other industries can gain a lot from observing how strong the relationships gaming leaders have with their customers. No matter how fast the industry has grown, forum communities have always been the backbone of post-sales service. They give happy customers a place to evangelise, unhappy customers a place to seek redress and lets prospective customers know that they'll be in good hands after their purchase.