Monday, June 9, 2008

Forums and Customer Service

Providing a discussion forum for your customers to answer each others issues is a good idea when it works but also provides an easy place for them to complain about you. So is this a good thing?

Well.... I definately think its a good thing for the customer due to recent personal experience. You see, I've had cause to use the customer service forums of BT, the UK's major Telco today, due to them cutting off my broadband connection suddenly lat night.
See my complaint here:
http://beta.bt.com/bta/forums/thread.jspa?threadID=4310

This site, apparently still in Beta (laughably, with postings I can quickly find dating back almost 2 years) even rewards users with 'points' and 'medals' for commenting. Looking at some of the conversation threads on this forum , here's my take on the pros and cons of what they provide:

Pros:
  • Customers can share fixes to know issues,( e.g. email account configurations, best practice advice, etc.) with no need for them to call Tech Support numbers
  • BT can hopefully view customers technical and customer service issues as they arise, possibly identifying reoccurring themes or traits.

Cons

  • Customers can share escalation-only UK call-centre numbers (when BT has done all it can to get them to call its lower-cost off-shore call-centre facilities in India)
    Note: Its apparently not just UK citizens that seem to have a particular dislike of Indian call-centres :
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/foreign/peterfoster/april2008/stopabusingindiancallcentres.htm
  • BT do not seem to participate much in their own forums (or more worryingly if I'm correct in my assumption that BT staff masquerade as normal users - which is now illegal surely? ). This leaves many issues unanswered and allows multiple-user resentment to build up around an issue

So come on BT.... by all means provide the means for your customers to communicate with each other, but be prepared to invest in its growth as well. You may not be able to reconnect my home broadband for 5 days, but lets see how long it takes you to respond to my issue posted to your forum.....

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