#19 – Support forums, survey software, CX is “Fluffy nonsense”, outsourcing mistakes
Welcome to the 19th edition of my customer strategy newsletter. The five topics this week are:
Customer support forums are a good idea only if you staff them
A good customer support forum is a valuable asset for most companies. Users can share their experiences and help each other. My observation is that this seems to work best for small, and indeed tiny companies. I use various WordPress plug-ins, and their support forums all work well. The person who wrote the code is usually the one answering user questions. I generally get answers quickly, and leave the forum satisfied with my experience. If I think of it in terms of Customer Effort Score, my effort is low, so the score is high. (The best way to learn about Customer Effort Score is to read The Effortless Experience.) Like most types of support, it is unlikely I would talk about it if I were going to recommend a plug-in to a friend. However, it can make me really angry and disloyal when a support forum does not function. Enter Apple.
The first reason many support forums fail to deliver results is that a company gets too many very similar queries and does not staff up correctly to be able to answer them. Apple has this problem. I think the problem is obvious in a company with millions of customers and very few products. I do all my writing on an iMac. I have not been able to print anything to my HP DeskJet Pro 8600 printer since a recent Mac OS update. My daughter has the same problem with her MacBook. I have no problem printing from my fancy HP Windows notebook. I have tried various things and posted six times to the Apple support forum over the last nine days. No replies. I realize their support community is overwhelmed by requests for help, and still consider this to be appalling service. If you are interested in this specific case, the thread is here.
The second reason support forums / communities fail is that large companies outsource their call centers and support operations. The companies supplying the service are paid based on the number of calls they handle and the number of ‘service events’ they close. Your query in a support forum does not count as a service event or support call. This means that not only does the vendor not care about it, the support provider does not care either. The product vendor indirectly communicates a message to all employees that post-sales customer support is not a company priority. After all, if it were really important, they would do it themselves. Any intelligent employee should then realize that helping customers in the forum in their spare time is pointless, career-wise.
So yes, I am negative about the support forums provided by many large companies. I think the best that many could do would be to be clear at the top of every single forum web page that they do not monitor the forums and that people should look elsewhere for good answers.
The multiplicity of survey software vendors
A Capterra link came up in my customer experience news feed earlier this week. It gave a list of 248 survey software products. Wow! I had no idea so many software companies had so many products, many with what seem to be identical features. Here are my views on the subject:
The Capterra site provides a useful list and has useful selection criteria. Use the ‘All Products’ tab to access the selection criteria and the ‘Most Popular’ tab to see a feature comparison for what they say are the 20 most popular products. The relevant Capterra page is here.
Our latest blog posts
The posts on the role of the customer experience leader or Chief Customer Officer have been very popular. This week’s post on business strategy has attracted comments on LinkedIn and elsewhere that come from a different audience than my usual one. Older posts are of course still available on the blog page.
Notable customer experience items from other sites
Forbes article: This is the worst customer service mistake you can make
Strongly related to what I wrote at the start of this newsletter, Brian Scudamore argues that outsourcing customer service is the worst mistake companies can make. He mentions that Microsoft, Apple and Disney all do so. I love what he has written about company culture in particular. He is realistic in that he recognizes that many companies cannot afford to ignore the cost-saving potential outsourcing can bring. It is a good read, especially if you are considering outsourcing. The article is here.
Ian Golding: Customer Experience – that’s all just fluffy nonsense, isn’t it?
I recognize a lot of Ian Golding writes about from my personal experience. In this article, he talks about professional reactions to customer experience discussions, customers and emotion, and the creation of ‘magical moments’ for customers. As many readers know, I regret not understanding behavioral economics much earlier in my career. Ian’s thoughts seem to align with this. The article is here.
I am thinking of doing some Podcasts and / or video clips. PowerPoint with audio commentary is another option. The subjects would continue to be related to customer experience. I don’t want to be boring, so the content, delivery and production all have to be good. Any advice you may have will be welcome.
Thanks to readers who have bought our books. The existing Amazon reviews have been fantastic. More are most welcome, no matter what you think about our books. And here is an idea: why not get them for your teams? That way you can establish a consistent language and way of thinking about customer strategy.
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