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