Proactive customer relations

I’m participating in the beta test of a pretty cool product that helps marketers track the blogosphere buzz about their brand. Everyone and their brother was freaked by Jeff Jarvis’ Dell Hell last summer, rushing to identify the dissatisfied before they convert from a complaint to a veritable s%$t storm of negative sentiment. Enter the vendors to fill the need.
All this monitoring of commentary leads to inevitable question of what to do about it. You’ve identified the squawks, seen the pain, but how do you engage in the conversation? Rick Klau at Feedburner had a couple hard disk failures, so I phoned him — didn’t post a comment to his blog post — and told him, based on our pre-existing relationship that harks back to IDG, that I’d like to help him, should he need any. Well … what about people I don’t have a personal relationship with? What about Joe Consumer who is beefing on a blog or forum about what a terrible experience he is having with the product? Do I phone him? There isn’t enough hours in the day. But ….
Which leads me to the notion of “pre-emptive support.” What if the service and support model was changed from an inbound, you-call-us system to the reverse? That if a customer complains in the wilderness, the monitoring tools alert an outbound customer support person of the issue, who in turn reaches out and solves it. The question is whether or not a person posts after they’ve struggled with phone support, or before.
Seems simple enough, but having no experience in support, I can’t predict how it would drive costs or impact margins.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Proactive customer relations”

  1. David –

    We have a formal support process (both our forums and inbound email), but there’s no question that the support that generates the most goodwill is via Technorati. About a half dozen of us monitor anyone talking about FeedBurner on blogs, message boards, etc., and in almost all cases, we’ll post something when questions are asked (or feedback is sought). People never expect to hear from us, they’re almost always stunned when we’ve taken the time to comment, and they always turn into a FeedBurner advocate from that point forward.

    I always wonder whether this will scale – but we’re already at a point when we have nearly 200,000 customers (many of whom are bloggers, so our ration of customers to bloggers is unusually high), and this has never felt like a burden to any of us. It’s such a simple thing to do – and as you saw with your outreach to me, the benefits have interesting second- and third- level effects (in my case, prompting one blogger who read my write-up of our conversation to write, “This makes me want to buy a ThinkPad.”)

    In my opinion, proactive support not only helps customers solve their immediate problems, it gives you the unique opportunity to get them to help evangelize your service… and whatever the marginal costs are, they’re far outweighed by the significant upside.

    –Rick

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  2. This is a very interesting notion. I hope you don’t mind that I linked it to a posting I did at school. We were discussing in a IT business class I am taking the response times of this fictitious company’s support service team. I recalled this post and thought it was pretty innovative and could spark some conversation. I’ll let you know how that plays out.

    Christopher

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