Social Communities May Be the Ticket to Winning Customer Satisfaction

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Want to deflect the call volume in your contact center, gain trust, provide scalable customer service, and put a dent in your contact center spending? An online customer service community may be exactly what you need.

Online communities have been around for several years. Remember CompuServe, Tripod, and, more recently, MySpace? As with any technology, the space has gotten smarter, faster, and better at serving audiences. Roughly eight years ago, the enterprise realized it could spin the concept of communities for customer service. While most common in the tech, telecommunications, and utilities verticals, about five years ago, more customer-facing companies, such as airlines, began implementing customer service community strategies.

"Customer service communities are becoming more prevalent since information has become more readily available and the response rates from companies have been improving," says Becky Carroll, associate partner in cloud strategy at IBM. "In the past two to three years, social media [including customer service community boards] wasn't really a focal point for companies."

Why Should You Have An Online Customer Service Community?

Recent statistics offer compelling benefits of these communities, such as increasing customer trust and reducing expenditures.

A new survey from online community platform provider Get Satisfaction found the following:

  • Companies said their online communities deliver improved customer support at lower cost. Seventy-seven percent say that community is a key component to their customer support; 49 percent said community has been a cost savings for their support operations—saving them as much as 10 to 25 percent annually.
  • User-generated content is recognized as more credible than any other content. Sixty-two percent of all the survey respondents agree that user-generated content has more credibility in supporting brand trust than content created by employees.
  • The most advanced companies are using their communities to generate product ideas and test new products. Seventy-two percent of respondents that have deployed communities are using them to get feedback on how existing products are used; 67 percent use them to collect ideas for new products or features from customers; and 46 percent rely on them for feedback on prototypes or beta products.

Communities can also provide scale, Carroll points out. According to Lithium Technologies, a cloud-based community software provider, when customers use Twitter to contact companies, 53 percent expect to get a response within an hour; when someone has a complaint, that number goes up to 72 percent. How do you keep these customers happy on social media without having to staff up or handle an influx of calls into the contact center?

"If you think of a company that has hundreds of thousands or millions of customers, and more and more of them are using Twitter to ask brand questions, it would be very hard to scale for that kind of social customer service," Carroll says. "When you think about the difficulty of scaling, online communities, peer-to-

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