Customer communities have become a popular way for businesses and customers to handle certain interactions. Small business owners may even be under the mistaken belief that these communities can replace inbound call centers. While a customer community may play a role in serving your customer, don’t misunderstand the importance of contact centers.
A customer community is an online forum where employees, experts and customers can communicate with one another about the products and services of a specific company. It is a great place to find answers to frequently asked questions, learn tips and tricks for getting the most out of the product, and even find answers to simple tech support questions.
Many customers prefer this method of customer service. They are technologically inclined and want to solve their own problems; they just need to be pointed in the right direction. Other consumers may visit this community to determine if their tech support issue is one they can fix on their own or will require parts or service by the manufacturer.
Benefits to Businesses
Small businesses can receive multiple benefits from creating an online community. First, it can reduce the costs of running an inbound call center. Many helpdesks and tech support departments field calls for low level customer service issues. With a community alternative, the number of simple service calls is reduced, allowing contact center agents to deal with possible recalls and high-level tech support calls.
In addition to increasing the efficiency and reducing call volume of your call center, a customer community can also be a place where a company can gather information regarding product improvements, possible new products and get a heads up on product defects that could hurt the company’s reputation. The amount of data an organization can gather when mining an online community is so valuable that some experts say companies are taking advantage of customers and industry experts by leveraging this free information.
Disadvantage of Customer Communities
There are however disadvantages to customer communities if they aren’t handled properly. The first disadvantage is the idea that they are a low-cost alternative to an inbound call center. While an online community may reduce the number of what could be considered “nuisance calls”, they can’t replace an organizations need for a contact center. There are still going to be individuals who prefer speaking with a live agent as opposed to posting a question online and waiting for a response. Moreover, these communities can’t offer the high-level tech support that may be necessary in certain situations.
Another disadvantage of an online customer community is that it doesn’t offer the type of quality service your call center agents can offer on the phone. Yes, experts may be able to resolve the technical issue, but customers like the feeling that they have been heard and their patronage is appreciated. An online community can be seen as impersonal, even unfeeling attempt at dealing with customer service.
Implementing Multiple Strategies
You may not be able to eliminate the need for a call center, but you can lower the cost of maintaining one for your business. If there are simple service issues and advice that can be handled by an online customer community, then you should create one and encourage your customers to make use of it. This will reduce the call volume and increase the efficiency of an inbound call center. You can reduce costs further by outsourcing your call center. Call center service companies charge by the amount of calls they handle so your costs will be low and you can reduce overhead by eliminating the need to hire and train call center agents.
By using alternative customer service methods such as online communities, your small business can meet the needs of your customers while creating a way to grow your company.