In a recent Business Week article, Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks provides a site where die hard users can exchange useful information with an interesting twist.  It’s called QuickBooks  Live Community and is only available for QuickBooks 2009 users. The net effect of providing this website for only these users is that a ‘volunteer army’ has been responding to each others questions and  problems. Since introducing the site in October 2008, traffic on the site  has tripled. 70% of the questions posted on the website at any point in time  are answered by the volunteers of QuickBooks owners. The article quotes one volunteer who has answered 5,600 questions.

There seems to be a social aspect to this behavior. Intuit has noticed that its sales have increased. The software costs $200 US and  since the new version and its Live Community  became available, a million users have purchased it. QuickBooks’  market share has grown by 4% to reach 94%.

A similar program has been in effect with Intuit’s popular tax software: Turbo Tax. In this situation, customers were responding to each others questions 40% of the time.

There is another interesting by product of this ‘volunteer army’ program. Since many of the problems are answered by the volunteers, there is less need for Technicians.  Recently Intuit announced that it would reduce its organization of 8000 by 4%.  While Executives won’t confirm that the cuts stem directly from Live Community’s success,  since Intuit’s community outreach began, “the number of calls to our customer service lines has been reduced. We don’t give out numbers, but there have been cost savings.”  due to a lower volume of calls.””

Step back from this story and think about what this ‘social’ behavior implies.

1. Customers appear to like sharing their expertise. There is some personal satisfaction to helping out another customer.

2. Customers appear to like that companies offer the ‘forum’ for them to find other users and share their expertise.

3. Customer participation in resolving issues not only increases customer satisfaction with the product but  seems to  attract new customers to the product.

4. Customer participation in resolving issues allows companies to save the cost of some of the technical support resource.

Who would have thought of this opportunity to socialize and help other users as a marketing technique?  Who would have imagined that customers would provide this level of service to each other and help a company reduce its technical support costs. This  is another example of how social media is changing the customer satisfaction landscape.

I welcome your comments.

See the full Business Week article at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_28/b4139066365300.htm

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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.

2 Responses to “Volunteer ‘Customer Service’ improves Customer Satisfaction?”

  1. Customer Satisfaction included in Inc's 30 Social Media Tips | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    […] in the article. This is an interesting approach covered where users help out each other. I wrote a post about Quicken Quickbooks that highlighted customer help each other out reducing the effort needed […]

  2. More Comments about "Customer Service using Twitter?" Articles | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    […] I agree with the value of having product related forums where users can help each other. An example of that is a Quicken product… where the customers are helping teach other voluntarily and reducing the service costs for Quicken! See my post Volunteer Customer Service improves customer Satisfaction . […]

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