Customer Experience News & Trends

Your best customer service doesn’t even come from you

If you want customers to ooh and ahh over your service, you might want to cut back on delivering it.

Turns out the best customer service ROI isn’t generated by the department charged with helping those who need it, a new study in the Journal of Service Research found.

In a growing number of cases, “Peer-to-peer problem solving” gets the job done just as well — if not better — than a devoted customer care team, according to researchers from Utah State University, Boston College and Northeastern University.

Before we go further, we should make this clear: We don’t advocate abolishing your customer service team, by any means. But this research gives some valuable insight on what’s working best for customers in need of help these days — and increasingly that’s becoming employee-guided, customer-fueled forums.

What the research found

When customers used forums and received help from each other, they made fewer service requests, said Utah State University researcher Kristal Ray. What’s more, if customers used a searchable database of commonly reported issues instead of the forums, they made even fewer requests to customer service.

“But this change was not as dramatic as when only ‘peer-to-peer’ resources were used,” Ray said. Ironically, “When customers used a combination of both peer-to-peer problem solving and the online knowledge database, the number of service requests to the official company help desk actually decreased.”

Too much is too much

While online forums and searchable databases are helpful in reducing the number of contacts to your customer service pros, too much information can be distracting, confusing and contradictory.

Here are some companies with the best online customer forums — and the unique things they do to make them work so well:

  • IKEA, the Swedish home goods store, hosts “IKEA Fans,” where customers can interact and share tips through different forums based on rooms or interests, such as green living. Customers can showcase their projects or assembled furniture with a personal decorating twist. It’s also where they discuss challenges that IKEA can address.
  • Virgin Mobile, uses its communities to get feedback and identify trends. Customers can also ask and answer questions, air grievances, share experiences and provide ideas on how to make Virgin better. Then customers can comment on those proposed ideas.
  • Apple’s products are vast and customers many. And it has a community where all those product and cultural differences come together through customers’ love of cutting edge technology and early adoption. While there customers can learn more about products from each other, and they can discuss their passions, too.

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