For MySpace, with 25 million active users, creating a vibrant and active community around customer service would not seem to be too difficult.
And it wasn't, but the social networking site has still brought in outside help as it revamps its customer service community.
MySpace is overhauling its customer service support forum, and it's turned to Bozeman, Mont.-based RightNow Technologies to provide the platform. Of course, MySpace does have a few advantages over other businesses in that it was already running customer support communities on its own platform -- and because of its customer base.
"We had a little bit of a head start because our users are social to begin with and they share with each other," said Tish Whitcraft, senior vice president of customer experience and operations at MySpace. "They've been on the peer-to-peer support program within that environment three or four years already."
Yet integrating social networking programs with the core CRM system was still a challenge, even for a titan of social networking like MySpace.
"It's one thing to have disparate components out there already, but we wanted to have an integrated experience and connect the dots on how users are using our site and for users to connect the dots with each other," Whitcraft said.
MySpace chose RightNow CX, RightNow’s recently released customer experience suite of software that combines contact center software and self-service software along with branded customer communities and the social web. RightNow extended its footprint into customer communities and social networking with its acquisition of HiveLive.
Many organizations are struggling with how to combine the massive surge of customer communications -- and the underlying data -- from social networks with their core CRM systems, which have traditionally housed transactional data. Many end customers have come to expect the real-time interactions they see on things like Facebook and Twitter from the companies they do business with. That includes MySpace.
With the new customer service communities, MySpace users will be able to rate and rank answers as well as connect with people they might otherwise not have met on the network -- for example, "friending" people who have helped them with customer support from the community site.
The new forums will integrate search across forums, blogs and profiles. They are also getting a revamped look and feel.
"What we do is highly customized," Whitcraft said. "You can make [RightNow's platform] look and feel like MySpace. It doesn’t have to look like an out-of-the-box app. We're changing the navigation, creating a more personalized page where users are going to have more of a dashboard of capabilities and help."
Whitcraft expects the project to be fully implemented by October of this year. Again, being MySpace has its advantages when it comes to transitioning platforms.
"Because our base is so large, when we turn the forums on, it won't take them long to populate," she said. "Within the first month, I would expect you'd have millions of articles. If this was a different type of business, I would sift through and pre-populate the community area with legacy content."
MySpace monitoring the competition as well
Even with a massive social network of its own, MySpace is making an effort to monitor outside sites as well and is beta testing RightNow's Cloud Monitor.
"It used to be that you used to say if a customer has one bad experience, [he’ll] tell 10 friends," Whitcraft said. "In the new social media world, they have the ability to send it out to millions, and they don't always come to us. When a user is irritated, [he’ll] go off our network to Twitter or Facebook or Yahoo."
But one need not have a massive social networking site to take advantage of the new developments in social media, she said, particularly when launching customer support communities.
"One of the most important pieces they need to do is, if they're using the knowledge base -- it's only as good as the content in it," Whitcraft advised. "If it's not kept accurate and up to date and the organization doesn't keep that search engine tuned, it can't learn the vernacular for your users and products. The advice I always give is if you can't do anything else to improve the experience online, just ensure that all the content you have is complete and accurate and easy to get to."
And, as any good social networking site would, MySpace is turning to its community to help build its future.
"Our ultimate vision is to have a highly personalized experience for the users when they come into help," Whitcraft said. "They're going to determine what that looks like. I'm counting on the users to configure what they want their MySpace Help to look like."