This blog is a response to chapter 8 of the groundswell textbook called “helping the groundswell support itself” for my MARK4474 course.
Customers cost companies money – technical support calls cost money and add up over time. Of course, companies want to reduce their costs, and they can thanks to a combination of the wonderful world of the internet and outsourcing their call centers. I’m sure many people have Googled problems before calling companies to see if they can resolve the problem first.
When I bought my first Dell laptop and had a driver problem, I scoured the internet for a solution. Eventually, I found one! Someone else had posted the same problem I was having and I read every solution that other Dell owners had suggested to try and fix the problem. I fixed it, and never had to call Dell! People commenting on tech forums and Dell’s community support forums saved the day! I was happy that I solved the problem myself, and Dell was happy that I didn’t cost them money by calling them. It was a win-win situation. That’s not to say all problems can be resolved by Googling, but it can reduce the number significantly.
Some tactics companies can try and use to reduce the number of calls they get include:
- Creating a forum where customers can ask questions and get answered by other customers and topic experts
- Wikis where companies can share a collection of information and customers can edit and keep it active (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 163, 168)
Currently, the Alberta Motor Association has a knowledge base (aka FAQs) on their website. Members can type a question in the search bar and it will pull articles that were made by AMA, answering the customers question. Of course AMA can’t predict every question a customer will ask and write a webpage on it. Also, if members want to find opinions and ask questions to other AMA members before contacting AMA, there really isn’t a place to do so. I think it would be great for AMA to create a forum or community where members could talk to each other and ask questions like, “Has anyone been on the Riviera Cruise Trip? How was it, and what was your experience like?” or “I am looking for car insurance, but am having a hard time choosing what level to go with. Help?”
Having a forum would open it up for members to discuss their experiences with AMA Travel and the trips they’ve taken, and what to prepare for (like tips, etc.). This would help members in their decision making process, so when they talk to a travel agent they take up less time on the phone, or choose to book online because they are confident they have all the information they need. Or, if they have a question about how their membership works, where they can get discounts in their area, they can also find that information in the forum or ask it instead of calling AMA. This helps members that have questions feel more engaged with AMA (although not directly engaged), and will also make members who are answering others questions feel engaged in the community and with AMA.
Some things that AMA (or any company) should consider before creating a community include:
- Start small, but plan for a larger presence (at AMA this may include just having the forum for one line of business, like travel, and then expanding it for others)
- Reach out to your most active customers (they have insight on how they want to participate)
- Plan to drive traffic to your community (advertise it, and use SEO to make sure it’s one of the top searches)
- Build a reputation (people like feeling rewarded for their participation)
- Let your customers lead you (listen to customers and users, and adapt accordingly) (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 174 – 176)
Of course, AMA can also have a presence on the forums and step in when needed, like if a question can’t be answered by a member. I believe that having a forum where members could talk and ask questions would be very beneficial. In a forum, AMA can both listen and participate, and act based on insights they’ve learned from the conversations that are happening. 🙂
Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.