Expanding to Customer Service 2.0

From Lane Becker at "Get Satisfaction" on the emergence of Customer Service 2.0 opportunities:

When “customer service” goes two-way, it becomes about a whole lot more than just support. It becomes:

  • Community. Customers have a lot to say not just to companies but also to each other, and when companies pay attention they can learn a lot from what gets said. There’s a whole range of conversations people have about the things they use and love, and it’s much bigger than just the subset that’s directed to the company. Or to put it a little differently: you wouldn’t call up Levi’s to ask if you look good in a pair of their jeans, but you probably wouldn’t hesitate to ask your friend the same question. The Web can make everybody that friend.

    Companies create community when they encourage customers to interact with each other, facilitiating those conversations and participating where it makes sense. If you run a company that wants to connect with your customers in this way, recognize that your products and your customers have a life beyond their interactions with you and find ways to make that part of the culture of your organization.

  • Evangelism. When a company pays attention to the conversations its customers are having online, it quickly becomes clear which customers stand out as the most knowledgeable, the most helpful, the most committed, and the most passionate. Companies, these are your best customers. They care about what you make and do and have made you a part of their identity. Reach out to them! Find ways to connect with them and reward them for their participation — in other words, harness that enthusiasm to the benefit of all concerned. This really is the new marketing, because these customers are ground zero for genuine word-of-mouth promotion of your stuff.
  • Co-creation. Questions and problems are the standard currency of customer support, and there’s no doubt those are important, but there’s more to two-way customer service than just providing answers. People have ideas, too — ways that they use products that most companies could never have imagined. They mold them, change them, bend them, occasionally break them — in other words, use them as the basis for every kind of unpredictable invention.

    Seeing what customers do with their products freaks some companies out, but it shouldn’t, because this is customers telling companies what they want the company’s products to become. If you’re a company into the new marketing, you know that the more you embrace this approach, the better your business. Give customers the opportunity, and they’ll tell you what they want you to sell them! Find ways to bake customer co-creation into the development process for all or part of your product, as Jones Soda has done with the labels on its soda bottles, Fluevog has done with the design of some of its shoes, and Threadless has done with its entire business model. You’ll find that your customers become that much more communicative, evangelical, and committed to seeing you succeed, because now your success is their success, too.

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