People used to pick up the phone to call “the experts” in customer service. The major innovations there have been about using technology to make knowledge accessible to these experts and to cut costs. The latter effort has been the most effective part and the cost savings have been far greater than the improvements in customer satisfaction.
The result is that people now try Google before picking up the phone. Communities spring up around products and services and often answer questions better than the experts. That’s because customers have more experience using products than customer service does. And, this fits well with my belief that communities own brands, not companies.
Now that communities are helping themselves, how can companies add value and help out? They have to listen to the conversations in the cloud (i.e. all the communities), harvest the insights, and report them back to the community so they’re easy to find using tools like Google. The problem has been that the call centers and internal customer service operations have been siloed from the communities. That’s changing.
I hate to sound like poster boy from Salesforce, but they’ve figured out how to connect internal knowledge bases to communities through cloud services. That’s what my previous post was about here. Now that they’re well on their way to cracking that nut, they’re gotten better at explaining why the Saas (software as a service) model is uniquely suited to this environment. Here’s a great video they put together that explains it better than I can: