I recently switched ISPs at home and was doing some research on how to put my new modem into bridge mode. I was pleasantly surprised to find the answer on a customer community owned and operated by the provider, a big cable company. Well-liked companies like Apple and Google have had support communities for years but for other companies, it takes some courage to do your customer support out in the open.
Customer are talking about you online, whether you like it or not. Whether on social media, independently run forums or review sites, you can’t contain customer feedback. Will an open customer support community just help to expose your warts to the public and damage your brand? On the contrary, it can actually work to your advantage:
1. Transparency creates goodwill. Everyone makes mistakes. Owning up to mistakes in public creates goodwill with all of your customers.
2. People are more civil in front of peers. You know that guy who flies off the handle? He might not do it in a public forum in front of other customers, and if he does, the damage is mitigated by your empathetic response that is there for everyone to see. On social media, his friends and followers see his complaint but are less likely to see your response.
3. No news can be worse than bad news. Many of your customers know very little about your company or about how it goes about dealing with support issues. A support community, with all it’s content and activity can be comforting to an anxious customer waiting to hear back from you.
4. Faster time to resolution. Why go through providing account information and authenticating yourself if you just want to know how to change a setting? This can be irritating. A support community is a dynamic knowledge base and is a more efficient way to solve some types of problems.
5. Share the positive. If you are trying to hide negative feedback behind a curtain, you are also hiding all the positive feedback too. Your community gives happy customers a place to express themselves to the world.
In the age of social media and pervasive internet access, it makes sense to move more of your customer support out into the open, on your terms and on your domain.