Customer Support Through Communities

Providing quality support to customers plays a huge role in determining if an organization is going to be successful. Support is an expensive endeavour for companies but crucial for attracting and retaining employees. Companies approach support in two different dimensions. The first is “self-service revolution, in which companies put massive amounts of product and problem-solving information online and encourage customers to use it” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 158). This allows consumers to find the information on their own, saving the company large amounts of money. The second dimension is outsourcing, which is “moving support calls overseas” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 158). These two trends are proving to be something of the past as the groundswell has been able to widely assist organizations with their customer service.

Building a community for support has proven to be the successful way of reaching large amounts of consumers on the groundswell. Through this community people interact with one another and typically the company representatives to help them with their issues and concerns. There are five suggestions given in the text, groundswell that help an organization implement a community of support online. “Start small, but plan for a larger presence” for organizations who have large product lines it is best to choice one and move forward from there (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.174). This will allow them to learn what works best for their type of consumers before moving forward with other support products (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 174). The second suggestion is to “reach out to your most active customers” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 175). By getting your consumers involved in the planning phase you will have a better understanding of how they would want to participate in your online community. It encourages participation of others when you can create a core of reliable, loyal users.  The third suggestion is “plan to drive traffic to your community” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 175). When first opening it will people will be unfamiliar with your new community, utilize search engines and advertise online to create awareness. The fourth suggestion is to “build in a reputation system” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 175). By having a well-built reputation system participants will be more inclined to contribute in a positive manner. The fifth and final suggestion is to “let your customers lead you” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 176). Communities will always have a strong opinion and by listening and learning from them you will find ways to better serve your consumers. Buy building strong online communities you will “end up collaborating with your customers to create better products” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 176).

Shaw, a large technical service provider is an example of an organization that has utilizes the groundswell to provide customer service to consumers.  By logging onto Shaws online service called, Customer Chat,  you can have a conversation with a technician over the internet. That way there are no language barriers or waiting times.   They also have a Twitter page called Shaw Help, they answer customer’s questions, and inform them of the latest ways to use their Shaw devices. It also creates a window of opportunity for collaboration to happen; no one knows how to better improve products then your consumer base. These communities allow Shaw to connect with their customers on a personal level, and also create an environment where consumers can learn from one another by simply logging on.


Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, Massachusettes: Harvard Business Review Press.


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