Wanna Save on Customer Support Costs? Outsource it to Your Customers!

In these tough economic times, when companies often cut costs at the expense of product quality or customer service (or both!), what if I told you that there is a way marketers can reduce customer support costs AND improve customer satisfaction and loyalty at the same time. Better still, this can done quickly and in a cost effective manner. Sounds too good to be true. Isn’t it? Read on for how this can be done …

Here’s how – set up a branded and moderated customer community focusing not only on product usage but also underlying passions surrounding usage of your product(s) and let product enthusiasts and brand advocates help other customers out in resolving any issues. Community Moderators (company appointed representatives similar to customer support agents) need to step in only when required and provide necessary info or resolve an issue. For example, if you are marketing cameras, have a customer community on photography and travel (underlying passions) and not on cameras, where customers can share pics and tips, and help each other out on how to take great pics, which SLR lens to use or what should be the shutter timing/ISO setting etc. Who better to assist customers than other customers who use the product on a daily basis. Company representatives (moderators) can chip in where required.

This will not only reduce call volumes (and costs associated with it) to other support channels like phone and email, but will also empower customers share their expertise and experience and be recognized in their “community” of like minded individuals – something that is at the heart of Social Media revolution.

Besides setting up a branded and managed community, marketers should also integrate their CRM system to the community platform, so that activities of customers on the community can be monitored and individual customer can be recognized/rewarded on the basis of their contribution to the community.

Customer Support communities deliver ROI not only through reduction of call volume (and associated costs) to other support channels, but also can be a great source of new product or marketing ideas and drive customer loyalty through empowerment. You can’t go wrong with that one. Can you?

What do you think? Please do share your thoughts on the subject:

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12 responses to “Wanna Save on Customer Support Costs? Outsource it to Your Customers!

  1. Intuit can provide the case study for this. Check out community.intuit.com, which has been up and running since 2004. It provides user generated customer support and has higher resolution rates than any other support channel.
    Scott Wilder
    (Godfather of Community.Intuit.com)

  2. Thomas Wieberneit

    Harish, I would agree and it is not exactly latest news. Some companies are building their business model on this idea and looking into thriving communities like the one of Intuit (mentioned by Scott, below) or Microsoft MSDN, SAP’s SDN, to name but a few are a great example for this. Actually I am thinking that branded customer communities for support are close to being mainstream already.

    Not to forget Giffgaff in the UK – they actually make it part of their own business model to have support nearly totally done by their customers.
    Cheers
    Thomas

    • @twieberneit:twitter  Thanks Thomas for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated!
      Yes, this is not the latest developments, but I see a lot of interests among marketers in having community based support with the aim of reducing their support costs. A vast majority of marketers out there (large and medium cos.) can benefit if they go with this approach.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts,

      Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.

      • Thomas Wieberneit

        Hi Harish, just for my own curiosity: Do you see this interest among marketers as something that matures from the early adopter stage only now?
        Rgds
        Thomas

      • @twieberneit:disqus  I see this interest more as a way to engage customers on a ‘social platform’ that marketers can ‘control’ and ‘manage’ unlike Facebook or Twitter that they have no control over and are always changing or evolving rapidly. 
        Thanks,

        Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.

  3. This is a nice overview of how your  existing customer base can be
    leveraged to crowd-source customer support. As Thomas has commented,
    this has been out there for some time and there are providers such
    GetSatisfaction, UserVoice etc. that can help organizations put this
    idea into action. Getting set up for this is easy but getting the
    critical mass to make it self sustaining (at least to some extent) is
    the tricky part.

  4. This is a nice overview of how your  existing customer base can be
    leveraged to crowd-source customer support. As Thomas has commented,
    this has been out there for some time and there are providers such
    GetSatisfaction, UserVoice etc. that can help organizations put this
    idea into action. Getting set up for this is easy but getting the
    critical mass to make it self sustaining (at least to some extent) is
    the tricky part.

  5. This is a nice overview of how your  existing customer base can be
    leveraged to crowd-source customer support. As Thomas has commented,
    this has been out there for some time and there are providers such
    GetSatisfaction, UserVoice etc. that can help organizations put this
    idea into action. Getting set up for this is easy but getting the
    critical mass to make it self sustaining (at least to some extent) is
    the tricky part.

    • Thanks Sameer for sharing your thoughts:

      You are right, creating a self sustaining mass of customers to help each other out is an issue. This calls for rewarding/recognizing customers for their participation and contribution to the community.

      Thanks again for your comment,

      Harish Kotadia, Ph.D.

  6. Reducing customer support and improving customer satisfaction is really a great strategy i seen a lot call centers using that strategy.

  7. Every call center has their strategy. With the presence of social media sites and a wide range of call center services offered, it is now easier to reach out to customers.

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