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How have communities changed the nature of customer support and interaction, and do customers prefer a community forum to traditional channels like call centers?
Communities are standing bodies that offer insight and advice to vendors and to one another. Some communities bring together peer experts who help solve issues in a community forum, but it's strictly voluntary. Communities are becoming essential in providing product and service ideas that need analysis and support. They're popular because they're nearly free and provide information and feedback much more quickly than do older methods like focus groups.
In many cases, [customers prefer a community forum to a contact center]. What we're seeing is that the call center is evolving into a contact center with multiple different kinds of channels coming in. But the fact of the matter is that people like being asked for their input, and customers certainly are people. Many community approaches have been successful. But the more channels there are, the finer the distinction there is between them. You might go to a social channel for a quick question but be a member of a community forum because you want to steer a product's development. Call centers tend to be linear. You wait in a queue, you do your business, then you move on. Communities are easily re-entrant and multiform, which makes them more accessible; and typically there's no waiting.