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How Online Communities Ease the Pain of Tech Support

Written by Molly Talbert | on August 24, 2016 at 8:30 AM

How online communities ease the pain of tech support

What do you do when you’re on hold with a company’s tech support? Clean? Watch TV? Just sit on the couch waiting for the day it’ll all be over?

We all have bad memories of waiting on hold for hours, being transferred from one representative to another, and still not resolving the problem. Although some companies are better than others, it’s frustratingly common. And, according to the International Customer Management Institute, those companies know it’s a problem -- 92 percent of customer service managers said their agents could be more effective.

Which somehow makes the whole situation seem worse -- they know how horrible it is, but are they doing anything about it?

Often, it’s not their fault. Most service representatives really do want to help, but they don’t have the tools they need to do the best job possible -- especially when they’re bombarded by so many daily queries and don’t have time to really dig into a tough problem. The system is at fault, and that’s what we -- and they -- get stuck in. Something drastic needs to change in order for customer support to be easy and to work. And that change will have an enormous positive impact on your bottom line -- according to Jay Baer’s recent book, Hug Your Haters, for B2B companies customer experience will be more important than price by 2020.

That’s where community fits in.

Tech Support Needs Communities

Introducing community to your support system makes a world of difference. It’s part of the drastic overhaul that tech support needs -- but, in the end, it’s really not that drastic.

No, it’s not about eliminating your customer support team by replacing it with community. The two should work hand in hand. By giving customers a go-to place to ask questions, help each other and learn, your company can create a support environment that will compliment your pre-existing  teams, giving them much needed relief.

How does community fit so well and solve this age-old tech problem?

Faster Responses, Better Answers

The dreaded tech support loop (on hold, talk to rep, on hold, talk to new rep, repeat…) is something we all get stuck in, and it usually yields a sub-par answer in the end.

By and large, community fixes this problem by bringing better, more thorough answers to customers at any time of the day.

Rather than calling, waiting, explaining the problem and waiting more, customers can first search the community to see if anyone else has had a similar issue. Instead of your customer support team robotically answering questions, customers can learn from each other and past experience through discussions and resource-sharing.

Not only that, but customers learn from other customers -- who else knows the product so well from their perspective? Your support team is definitely knowledgeable, but they don’t always have an  on-the-ground, user perspective.

Unlike your support team, the community never sleeps, especially if you have customers across time zones. If no one has asked a similar question, customers can post on the community day or night, weekend or weekday. People like being able to answer questions and solve problems using the internet -- according to Jay Baer, 72 percent of customers prefer using a company’s website to answer questions.

And if they’re still left hanging? Many customer support communities integrate with ticketing systems, so with one click of the button, the entire discussion can be sent to your customer support team. They get the entire back story and can dive right into problem solving mode. Streamlining the process giving customers a space to help each other out saves your support team time and reduces your support costs over all.

Crowdsource Your Manual

Most questions can be solved through crowdsourcing on the community -- because many of your customers’ questions are pretty simple, in the end. As customers help each other by posting questions, answers, ideas and hacks, they build an owner’s manual for your product. It’s ever evolving and constantly updated, taking away the burden of rewriting support material every time your company makes a minor product adjustment.

Still not convinced by the power of crowdsourcing and micro actions? Wikipedia, one of the most used websites in the world, is a perfect example. Members of their community -- from occasional contributors to super users -- contribute, one word at a time. And from millions of people’s simple contributions, a vast, dynamic encyclopedia is created and constantly updated.

Sure, your community probably isn’t going to become the next Wikipedia -- but it could become the Wiki-manual for your product and services.

Learn What to Fix and Where to Expand

As this user generated encyclopedia grows over time, it helps in other ways, too.

First, depending on how open your community is, it has the potential to greatly increase your SEO, improving search and bringing in new people. Rather than hiding hiccups and troubles, a community demonstrates transparency and allows existing customers unknowingly sell your product through enthusiasm -- if they weren’t enthusiastic, they wouldn’t take the time to help fellow customers solve their problems.

Second, you can learn an incredible amount about your product and your users by watching their discussions. How do they solve problems? Is there a process that continually stumps people, or a feature that’s constantly being requested? Communities help your customers solve problems and connect with one another. They also teach you how to read their minds and predict their needs, creating a better product.

Topics: Engagement, Customer Support, Online Community

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