In the quest to save a few bucks, many companies turn towards customer powered support. These are the forums you see where customers help other customers with their questions and problems. Execs talk about how they’re “leveraging the power of your customer base”. I’ve even talked to one person who said their customers knew more about the product than the staff so the customers were perfect for providing support.
Customer powered support doesn’t work. At least, it doesn’t if you want to provide a great support experience for your customers. Here’s why.
It doesn’t work at a small scale.
Only a small percentage of people will answer questions in a community forum. That’ll lead to burnout with those volunteers and then you’ll have customers not getting answers at all.
I’ll make one exception on this reason. If you’ve got millions and millions of customers (especially free ones like Google forums), then you can consider it. But even then, do you hear anyone raving about how they had a great support experience using those forums?
It requires customers to work for free.
Customers aren’t even getting paid to answer those questions from other customers. That means they don’t have to worry about responding fast or in a clear way. They don’t even have to answer if they find the question too tough!
That cheapens the support. It’s even worse than outsourcing to the lowest costing call center.
You lose control of the support experience.
Two things here. First, you’ll lose the personal touch from interacting with the customer. That means you’ll lose that relationship with them. When customers are helping customers, there’s no room for you to be part of that interaction. And you want to be part of it.
You’ll also lose the quality of the support. The customer answering the question might get it right or might get it wrong. If they offer up the wrong answer or communicate poorly, the customer is going to blame you for not having a higher quality of support.
It causes confusion.
As a customer, are you contacting the support team? Or do you need to submit a ticket somewhere else? How soon will you get an answer? What if it’s an emergency and you need an answer right away?
With customer support forums, the entire support experience becomes cloudy. Remember, a great support experience is one that’s fast, clear, and concise.
Own your support experience.
You owe your customers more than a crappy customer powered support experience. They’re paying you. If you want to keep them paying you, give them the best support you possibly can.