Going External: Social Business and Customer Service

Andrew Kratz

Have you been thinking about using an online external community to reach your customers in a truly helpful and "sticky" way? It's a fast-growing trend with which many large companies are exploring and experimenting.


It makes sense when companies like McAfeeWells Fargo, and Verizon Wireless are experiencing measurable successes with their external communities. McAfee, for example, reduced call volume by 26% and increased customer satisfaction by a whopping 25% (Source).


Recently, I spoke about this topic at an event with Jive Software and Verizon Wireless. Some of the key use cases we discussed included:


  • Transparent Customer Service. Customer service via phone is costly and hard to scale. Email and chat offer some benefits but don't take advantage of a key resource in customer service: answered questions. In an external community, all posted answers are transparent to other customers. This allows support agents to focus on entirely new questions and requests, or attend to sensitive or inappropriate posts. In addition, there are often "super fans" who are passionate and knowledgeable about the various product lines who can also help customers.


  • 24/7/365 Customer Feedback. Most companies still interact with their customers in the form of focus and advisory groups. While this type of feedback has some value, it is limited by the number of participants at a particular point in time. By contrast, in an external community clients are able to post questions and comments throughout the year. The most innovative companies even take a velvet rope approach, giving certain customers virtual access to key resources at the company in order to better understand products and services.


  • New Fan, New Buyer. Not only does customer service in an external community save a company money through smaller call centers, it can be a money maker, too. Customers who enter the external community with a question or problem often leave with an answer, plus an interest in purchasing additional products. Quick, useful responses turn the customer into a fan, and access to positive reviews by other customers can make the sale.



Does your team use an external online community to enhance outreach to your customers? Feel free to comment below why or why not - we'd love to chat!