Curb Contact Center Costs Via Customer-Support Communities

Jun 21, 2010 8:37 PM  By

When it comes to customer communications, posting a static FAQ section on your Website is no longer a sufficient e-commerce best practice. Consumers have become savvier, and support communities must keep up.

With an online community, you can focus on the complete shopping experience, allowing your customers to share feedback, connect with other customers and get answers in real-time – all without ever leaving your e-commerce site.

Customers want instant access to answers: People spend a larger portion of their day using search tools like Google, specifically in search of answers to their questions. The most valuable information comes from a merchant’s customers, employees and partners. In fact, customers are often more knowledgeable than employees themselves.

With a wealth of how-to information, customer-support communities can alleviate the need for traditional, more time-consuming services such as phone and e-mail. By providing instant access to the answers, you can lower support costs and increase customer satisfaction.

A support community helps customers with specific product or service issues. A group of people shares best practices and knowledge about the product or service, supported by modern collaboration technology like blogs and forums.

What’s more, other customers who have used a product or service may be able to better answer questions than support personnel. Because these communities are largely self-supported, staff can be reallocated.

Customers perceive other customers’ views as more authentic than advertising, and they are far more likely to engage with one another than with companies. Merchants can leverage the power of peer-to-peer support and user-generated content.

The ability to capture and analyze user information is a significant advantage of hosting a customer community. These communities can be optimized to track customer satisfaction, while at the same time providing valuable metrics, like time-to-solution and online answer rate. In addition to allowing customers to more quickly access the information they need, it is much easier to build a ROI model around a support community.

Content provided by the consumer can be collected and developed into a searchable knowledge base – an opportunity that is not only a great advantage, it also improves SEO. Better still, peer-to-peer assistance increases the level of customer satisfaction, ultimately resulting in stronger brand equity and repeat purchases.

Rob Howard is the founder/technology officer at customer engagement software firm Telligent.