Beginning around 1980, with the proliferation of threaded-message discussion forums on CompuServe covering a variety of hardware and software technology products and companies, to today’s multifaceted social media, the concept of tapping a customer base / community for customer support purposes has a long history. Some companies have been very successful, and others have seen the opposite outcome. Along the…
While the usage rate of the "Support 2.0" label has thankfully dropped, the assumptions and motivations that were underneath the hype are still active -- and need to be examined. The idea that social networking and technology can be united to produce a free powerhouse for customer support, available everywhere via the Internet's insistent Now, certainly seems compelling. But the enthusiasm of some vendors -- and support professionals who should know better -- needs to be tempered with a dose of reality. It's been tried before in the support world. Neither the social networking nor the technology for enabling and using it are new in either concept or practice. Further, let the user beware: free support is generally worth exactly what you paid for it.
Web 2.0 and Support 2.0, especially in the SaaS / Webware ecosystem are all about the power of community, an opportunity for Viral Marketing / Word of Mouth advertising. But it works both ways: companies that fail to deliver quality customer support will find their communities talking about exit strategies and going to the competition.
Instead of offshoring, try On-Campusing -- using American college and university students to staff your outsourced customer contact center. The voices are what the customer wants to hear, the price is right (and there are some interesting tax advantage), and it won't take much to turn the concept into reality. Add some huge potential PR benefits, and the result is a significant opportunity.