How many times have you bought a product you really need, took it home, or back to the office, and it did not work as expected. Or, there were no set up instructions written in a manor that did not result in total confusion?
Yes, that happens a lot. For me and my staff, it happens over 80% of the time.
As a result I end up spending a lot of time searching the product documentation for a support contact number to call to get help with answering my initial question only to find a reference to an URL I need to key into my browser which takes me to the brand’s online Support Community Forum.
I have yet to find where anyone has defined what a Support Community Forum is intended to do or what benefit a customer is to get out of using an online support forum. Nor, is there much written on if online communities are solving consumer issues.
From what I can find, an online support community forum is suppose to be a more efficient way for a business to support their customers. I am not sure I have experience any improved to getting the answer to any of my questions from the now hundreds of support forums I have visited over the years. So, where do they come up with their feeling they are working?
I know I am not alone with being forced into wading through all the unrelated conversations going on in these community forums to find the answer to my question. Over 90% of the near matches I find to my question about a product in all of the support forums I have traipse through go unanswered by anyone employed by the brand.
In a recent study I did during the last three incidences where I was forced to use a support forum I found the answer to the question I, and a large number of other people, had was being answered by people with no qualification to knowing what they were talking about.
What kind of support is that?
I know there are going to be business owners and executives who are going to make all kind of claims their forum is working..or saving..or is doing something they want us to believe.
From my professional experience online support forums are doing a high level of damage to the business world.
On the surface it is clear the support forums were developed as a way for businesses to cut the huge overhead coming from the need to hire humans to talk to customers. Granted, human resources are the number one cost of doing business.
Some of the more obvious reasons business are pushing customers to online support forums has to do with their attempt to improve upon:
- Time Management
- Data Gathering
- Customer Loyalty
However, what online community support forums really are doing is:
- Wasting Consumer’s Time
- Provoking untruths, outlandish rants and spam
- Deteriorating consumer’s confidence in the brand
Why are brands still using online community support forums?
In a recent incident we had in the studio with updating our video editing program we ran into huge issues with the upload. The companies online forum offered up a large number of solutions from dozens of people who were not employed by the company. None of which were exactly offering the solution to our specific problem. After five days of sending emails to their support group I resorted to using my Google+ account to attempt to reach out to the company’s Google+ Business Page.
BINGO…one of their sales executive immediately called our studio to offer us assistance. Naturally, my first question to him was..Why did you have me waste five days before you called? The Answer, “We use to get ten’s of thousands of call from people out to waste our customer support staff time, so we had to do something to cut down on the redundancy. “
This was confirmed from a conversation I had this past year with one of my colleagues (who for obvious reasons would not give me permission to use his name or company) who is COO of a big brand.
I was told they… “saw within a few months after launching their online community forum it was not meeting their standards for customer service”. The online community seemed to be… “making things worse with irate customers storing back into the stores to pitch a fit with the store manager or start a small riot on Google+ by posting a 3000 word blog factually outlining their negative experience.”
Unfortunately, they were… stuck with having to use the online community because of the high costs of the initial implementation of the forum. Plus, the cost of correcting the mistake by rehiring all of the customer service staff they laid off or contracting an outsourced call center would have been too much of a hit to the company’s bottomline during the continuing weak economy.
Enough is Enough
I’m sure this brand is not alone with their support forum not doing what they were told it would do. There are a large number of other businesses who seemingly have drank a lot of the ‘improve efficiencies of customers service with outsourcing’ Koolaid .
As I have said a number times over the past 41 years, customers are humans and humans build trust in things instinctively. Pushing a human into doing something that instinctively does not feel right will not make for a positive experience.
If your business is looking for ways to improve efficiencies in handling customer service issues, then make improvement on the front end by:
- Producing Only a Quality Product
- Hire operationally minded product development staffs to make sure consumers have a positive experience upon delivery of the product
- Provide visual compelling high quality videos on the company website that go into detail with what a consumer can expect
Cutting costs on the back end by forcing a concerned consumer into the black hole of an online support community forum will never get a ROI.
Let me know how I can help.