Let's take a look at my last few interactions as a customer ... seeking some customer service or support:
Last month the new 64 GB thumb drive I picked up at a local department store was having problems, copying data and file names would just turn to gibberish.
What did I do?
I did a Google search for the model number and manufacturers name. I found answers on a private technology discussion forum. It seems like a number of people had the same problem with this piece, and it didn't take me too long to find a working solution to my problem from those who managed to fix theirs.
We decided to do a long weekend getaway to Catalina Island about a month ago. A friend told me about a cool hotel that we should stay at, but I forgot the name.
I could have probably called friend and asked him, but instead I logged into a travel community site where some of the other members post their experiences on places they have visited and hotels they have stayed at. Sure enough, I found five or six good reviews on this hotel. These reviews convinced me to book the room for the weekend.
One of my laptops had a screen problem. Something I've never seen before ... it started with a single bad pixel and grew into a vertical line on the LCD display. And then the line kept multiplying.
I went to the manufacturers website and posted my problem on the support forum. Within an hour, someone from the community who had a similar problem got back to me through the thread explaining what to do.
I decided to check out a local band at a music venue we've frequented and grown to like. The problem is ... when a great band is in attendance, being a small place, it can get filled up quite quickly and we didn't want to risk having to turn around at the entrance or wait in line.
I logged into their community platform on their website and used the instant messaging system to have our names added to the attendee list to avoid any disappointment. Being a member of their online community has benefits!
The first, and perhaps most obvious conclusion, is that my first instinct as a customer, in all these cases, was to look online for the solutions to questions or issues I may have had.
I didn't bother looking for a phone number, calling someone, or trying to directly contact the business.
I went online.
In some cases, I found my solution on a website run by other consumers and general communities ... and in others, like in case of the laptop, a community run by the business.
Like myself, a lot of others just naturally prefer to "hop online" and look for support.
From the business perspective, websites like the laptop manufacturers support forum, or the music club's social networking enabled website shows that these businesses know their customers look for customer service online ... and that they need to be there when people are looking for answers.
Businesses that are not easily approachable online are missing out on being able to turn their customers into extremely happy customers ... or into raving fas.
What were your last customer service interactions online?
Did it make you feel better knowing that the business had a website where you could find your answers?
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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