How Complete Strangers Can Become a Community

John Krautzel
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Customer service ideals continually evolve, much like the fast-changing world of retail sales and technology. Gone are the days when consumers tolerate holding for 30 minutes to reach a live person on the phone. Instead of potentially aggravating your revenue base, try crowdsourcing customer service to see how an online community reacts to finding answers about your products or services. relates how consumers can use each other to help solve problems by expounding on similar experiences to others. An online community involved in crowdsourcing customer service produces people who feel engaged with the company that produces the product, and this concept helps reach more customers than before. The trick is to point people in the right direction. Instead of a toll-free number, make it a priority to have a smartphone app that directly links to an online forum or Q&A section where troubleshooting tips are discussed.

For instance, someone posts a message to an online forum that an iron seems to shut off in the middle of the steaming process. A company rep discusses potential fixes, such as setting the iron's timer, keeping it upright to allow water to fall back into the reservoir or turning the temperature down a few notches. Other customers chime in with what steps worked and what steps didn't. Posting relevant answers and feedback received from people who bought the product in full view of the public is where crowdsourcing customer service comes into play. Everyone can see and benefit from the interaction, which is the complete opposite of one-on-one phone calls or chat sessions.

Despite the impersonality of crowdsourcing customer service, the process saves staff time and money while keeping people engaged. A recent survey notes 82 percent of customers believe a quick response time to someone's issues is a major key to maintaining a business relationship to a company. A customer who can look online to find a specific answer in five minutes can have a satisfactory experience in less time than it takes to get an operator on the phone.

A perfect example of crowdsourcing customer service includes the Apple Support Communities, an online presence that helps troubleshoot, navigate and explain the use of iPads, iPods and laptop computers. Many times, customers themselves with technological know-how can answer another person's question without burdening Apple's staff. This type of interaction does not obviate the need for a customer support team, but forums can reduce response times, keep costs down and maintain a happier client base.

One thing to keep in mind is that younger people tend to find this type of interaction more beneficial. Online review websites and online reviewers can help determine the opinion of a product or service quickly. Younger people and those in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic tend to embrace technological advances more readily than older consumers.

Finding new ways to keep customers happy is a major goal of every business, because repeat customers make a steady revenue base. Crowdsourcing customer service creates one way to appeal to younger people, troubleshoots problems in a public forum and involves new methods to satisfy clients.


Photo courtesy of Ron at



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