Going Social? How a Great Community Strategy Can Make Your Customer Service Shine

What is the difference between a traditional Help Desk and Community Engagement? Sometimes not much. There is often overlap between the tools and methods used in your Help Desk environment and one where your customer service strategy is augmented by community. Understanding how the two can support each other can be a critical leg up in your customer support efforts. In a world where cost of service is rising along with high expectations of fast, quality support from a demanding clientele, integrating a community portal into your Help Desk is smart, effective and surprisingly cost effective.

Can I Help You?

Almost every Help Desk strategy includes a call center – a physical or virtual presence where people can talk to other people to get help with their issues. There is an emotional satisfaction knowing that at least one other person cares about your problem and that they potentially have the power to help you fix whatever that problem is. And with the high cost of phone support, layering in other options for service makes financial sense. To get started, many organizations make their first move toward alternate contact channels by introducing email and / or chat before graduating to portals with self-service choices such as a knowledge base, video learning or community forums.

Adding Community

If you want to take that one step further to include community, it means finding ways to enable your users to talk to and help each other. With the evolution of web methods and corporate portals, most customers expect an organization to have an online presence where they can connect and communicate with your experts. It is an added bonus if there is a community element as well, where peer-to-peer support can increase learning while building a broader trust with your brand. Consider including the following to help your customers engage:

  • A blog section where users can post comments or questions.
  • Live events with experts that enable participants to engage real-time.
  • Forums where users can talk to and advise one another.

The following table identifies which technologies and methods are more likely found in a Traditional Help Desk versus a Community Engagement model:

 

Customer Service Traditional Helpdesk Community Engagement
Methods of Contact Phone, Chat, Email Online Q&A, Forums, Social
Complaint Management Trouble-tickets, Cases, Online Ticket submission, Issues submissions Social Media Sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter), Issues Submission
Feedback Surveys, Ideas submissions Social Media (Likes & Recommends), Polls,  Forums
Education Knowledge Base, Online FAQs, Brochures, Product Guides, Events & Videos Comments, YouTube Videos, Online Q&A, Blogs, Events, Forums

 

I’m Not Happy - Are You Listening?

Managing customer service effectively means being able to handle a complaints process. For most companies, they have established a formal methodology supported by an electronic system known as a trouble-ticket or case management solution. Methodologies such as ITIL, or frameworks like Forrester’s Best Practice for Customer Service , are augmented by technologies that open up an electronic ticket when a customer requires support.

By building on this process, customers can replace direct contact (phone, chat, retail outlet), by being able to utilize a self-service option and achieve the desired results through creating and tracking their own tickets, using a computer or mobile device.

Finally in taking this another step further – augmenting both the actual and the virtual Help Desk with Forums, Blogs, and other online community engagement vehicles – customers can also interact with each other, offering advice, tips and support, often mitigating the need for a trouble-ticket or follow-up. The sympathetic ear remains – it is simply coming from an alternative source.

By combining the knowledge gleaned from all sources, you can:

  • Track issues
  • Resolve complaints
  • Understand how to become more pro-active
  • Analyze trends
  • Meet service level commitments

Let’s Talk

Within the Discussion Forum space, we see the emergence of “Brand Champions” as peer-to-peer conversations take place. Giving them the opportunity to influence others through shared knowledge helps your organization reduce support costs and provides you with valuable insight that can lead to higher levels of quality and customer satisfaction.

It’s Not Too Late to Get Started

If your organization hasn’t included Community as part of your customer service strategy, it is not too late to get started. We know that complaints lodged on media sites like Facebook and Twitter are largely ignored by companies, but by embarking on a strategy that allows feedback as well as interaction among peers through an online portal, you can reap the many benefits and become a leader in your industry.

Adding It Up

When thinking about your customer service strategies, consider the powerful role that community can play. Users become ambassadors/influencers for your organization, and in return you realize tremendous value in terms of cost-savings, brand loyalty and trust.

Today’s point-and-click technologies makes creating communities as part of your online web presence easy and cost-effective, enabling you to benefit from this important, and no longer silent, customer base.