Customers Helping Customers
It’s not unusual for gyms to post motivational quotations and ideas on their walls and notice boards. And the smart gyms are doing the same thing online now – with things like an e-mail newsletter, blog, or Facebook page. But I particularly like what Stadium Fitness, one of my local gyms, has done. Instead of only posting their own motivational posters, they have a “Favourite Quotes” board, where any member can share their inspirational ideas with other members:
It might seem like only a small difference (and might even seem messier and less professional than hanging beautiful posters on the walls). But it’s not! The difference is small but profound: It’s about customers helping other customers.
In fact, this is one of the best and easiest ways to test how well you’re embracing the “I”s in your team of customers. Simply ask yourself:
How easily can customers engage with each other when you’re not around?
You might be making it easier for them to engage with you (e.g. 24/7 customer support, fast response times, monitoring Twitter), and that’s a good start. Two-way engagement is good, but it’s still one-to-one engagement.
The real power comes when you allow them to engage with each other. It gives new customers a way to feel like part of the community, passionate customers a platform to share ideas (and rave about you), and everybody in between the chance to feel a stronger connection with your brand and organisation.
One of the best examples of this is Amazon.com’s feature where customers can write reviews of books and other products they buy from the site. They even allow negative reviews. Imagine that – a company that allows its customers to bad-mouth their products on the sales page itself! But Amazon.com knows it’s smart, because those reviews – good and bad – carry much more credibility than the company’s own marketing.
Even if you don’t have pockets as deep as Amazon.com (and hardly anybody does!), you can use the same principle in your business, especially with your online facilities. For example:
- Your online product catalogue could allow customers to comment on each product.
- You could host an online customer forum on your Web site.
- You could create a Facebook page for customers to interact with each other (and resist the temptation to delete negative reviews of your products and services).
- Your online documentation could be in the form of a wiki (like Wikipedia), where customers can update the documentation to make it clearer and more useful for other customers.
Are you opening up the need for extra work because of malicious or mischievous comments from angry customers or disgruntled past employees? Of course! But that’s a small price to pay, compared to the benefit of having your customers actively helping each other.
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