Helping the Groundswell Support Itself

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.

A screenshot of a few topics on the Dell laptop forum.

A screenshot of a few topics on the Dell laptop forum.

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.  🙂

-B.


Bibliography

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Hey, listen!

This blog is a response to chapter 5 of the groundswell textbook called “listening to the groundswell” for my MARK4474 course.

A wise fairy once told me, “Hey, listen!” This fairy was Navi of course from the Legend of Zelda series. I did not hear this once, but multiple times. The shrill piercing voice of Navi can easily be recalled from memory.

What wise words of wisdom they were! Listening is an important talent to have. Yes, I’m calling it a talent, as many people don’t know how to listen – most people just know how to talk.

Many people can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? Many companies may think that they can and currently are. But are they really?

A really interesting point from the textbook that caught my attention was,

Marketers tell us they define and manage brands. Some spend millions, or hundred of millions, of dollars on advertising… We bought this brand, they say. We spent on it. We own it.

Bull.

Your brand it whatever your customer says it is” (Li & Bernoff, 2008, pp. 78).

Companies can spend as much money as they want trying to shape who they are, but when it comes down to it, what people think of a company’s brand is what is really is. A brand can be really convincing, but if the company doesn’t hold up their end of the deal, then that vision shatters.

The Alberta Motor Associations brand is “practically family”. AMA is there for your when you need them – they “save the day” rescuing when you’re stranded on the side of the road because your car broke down, or slid into a ditch in the winter time. And they’re also there for you for a lot of other things – from insurance to travel, and rewards to driver education.

I did some listening of my own for AMA, and here is what I found:

  • Googling “Alberta Motor Association sucks” revealed a blog from a couple years ago that had a chart comparing the different roadside assistance options. The blog itself was fair, but in the comments there was a disgruntled customer. However there were also many positive comments about AMA. The second listing on Google was a comment on the AMARewards portal sucked, as the member wanted to be able to take advantage of it in-store and not online.
  • Googling “Alberta Motor Association is great” showed multiple happy customer reviews on Yelp.
  • Taking a quick peak at the Alberta Motor Association Facebook page showed there are many positive wall posts made by people, and very few negative.
  • Searching for the Alberta Motor Association on Twitter didn’t pull up much besides some new articles and posts from the AMA twitter account.

Do people think that AMA is practically family? Well, a lot of people are thankful that AMA was there for them when they need it – especially for roadside assistance. AMA definitely has the opportunity to work with vendors that provide professional tools to help them listen, and set up private communities so they can gain more insight onto what their members are thinking. AMA can use this information to help change and adapt so they are viewed in the light they desire.

Listening is great skill that everyone needs to use and practice. Any relationship – whether it be husband and wife, friends, or a company and their customers, requires listening so they understand one another. Check out the video below to learn about how Ford uses social media to listen to their customers.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

-B.


Bibliography

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2008). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Press