The web has made possible the creation of sites where customers help out other customers, answering each others questions, without the direct involvement of the product owner. Is this a good thing? What are the pros and cons of this kind of support for customers?

Drawbacks:

1. The other customers may mislead the customer causing more harm than good and possibly making it harder or impossible for the customer to fix their problem.

2. If this is a mechanical issue (or hardware) the customer, following someone else’s advice might even void a valid warranty.

3. If your product has serious defects, customers experiencing the problem will find out from others how bad it is and you may get more refund requests. (this may happen without customer to customer support).

4. You lose the contact with the customer to upsell or cross sell other products or services they might need.

5. You lose the direct contact with the customer, losing some brand awareness and good will.

6. You may lose the opportunity to learn of special things the customer is interested in, which could be new features in your product or a new product completely. This comes in the form of the question..can your product do ….this..where ‘this. is the new feature or product needed.

Positives:

1. You may find out some solutions you didn’t know about.

2. Customers may get their responses faster.

3. Happy customers may upsell or cross sell your other products for you (positive word of mouth).

4. If you monitor what customers are saying in the public you may expose new opportunities for products, features or services that you had not considered and that they might not have told you directly.

Strategies for Companies to Adopt:

1. If customers have already formed a peer to peer support group or forum, don’t be a passive listener.

2. Consider if you want to encourage this process. Create the ‘forum’ rather than waiting for someone else to do it.

3. Don’t try to eliminate bad comments, if you own the forum. Allow them to flow. Sometimes users will counter argue on your behalf. If it is a valid concern, you can show that you have heard and are taking action or explaining your position. At minimum, it shows that you are listening and care about what customers say.

For some real life examples of Customer to Customer support at Quickbooks and Microsoft XBox, see an earlier blog post called Crowdsourcing and Customer Service.

Share your comments, experiences or thoughts on this topic below in the comments section.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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