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Three Ways Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) Companies Can Use Customer Communities to Improve Customer Service

Posted @ 4:00 pm by Tim Ross | Category: Community & Social Media, Strategy | 0 Comments

This is part three of our series on how Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies can leverage web and mobile technologies to drive business results. View other articles in the series here: part one on increasing sales, part two on driving research and development, part four on mobile innovations, part five on connecting with shoppers through video, part six on utilizing web content management tools, and part seven on video analytics.

In discussions of how companies can use social media, the unsexy but completely crucial component of customer service is often forgotten in favor of more exciting topics like ideation and driving sales. In today’s social media landscape, companies ignore customer service at their peril. A recent study from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School of Business found that not only are consumers more likely to use social media for a customer service complaint than to voice any other opinion about a product, but also that negative customer service feedback carries more influence on social networks than other types of feedback.

Other research has shown that consumers are tending to use third-party sites, from Facebook and Twitter to lesser-known sites like ComplaintCommunity, Cofacio, GetSatisfaction, Amplicate, Vark, and Plebble to lodge product and service complaints, rather than going directly to the company. And yet, the majority of companies still tend to ignore the social component of customer service and rely on old models of customer service that require customers to come to them. The latest RightNow Customer Experience Impact report showed that 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience, while 50 percent of consumers give a brand only one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them. Despite the risks posed by ignoring complaints and customer service requests, the RightNow survey shows that four out of five consumer complaints about a poor customer experience are ignored. Moreover, the survey found that a whopping 86 percent of consumers were willing to pay more for a product or service if it came with a better customer service experience.

Following are three ways CPG companies can use customer communities to improve customer service and make their customers feel heard:

1. Embrace Your Brand Experts

Most brands will have one or two loyalists who are not only capable of, but excited about, fielding other customer questions. Let them! In the tech industry, Microsoft has done an excellent job of empowering folks like “Mr. Excel” whose Excel help page routinely gets more hits than Microsoft’s own Excel help page. Rather than ignoring or trying to silence Mr. Excel, the company has embraced him, asking his opinion about support documents and having him beta test updates to their software. In the CPG realm, Nestlé’s community is a great example of social customer service done right. The company’s message boards feature discussions on a wide range of baking topics, and consumers who are uncertain about how to prepare a particular on-pack cookie recipe can tap into the wisdom of other visitors to the message board. Active board members love getting to share their expertise, and newbies appreciate the quick response, which they associate with the company, even though the person responding is another consumer.

2. Create Digital Tools

Digital tools like live chat can be useful in improving the customer service experience and don’t require a huge investment of resources to implement. Live chat enables companies to respond to customer questions directly, before, during, and after purchase. By placing live chat links on every page, companies make it as easy as possible for consumers to reach them, limiting the need to go outside the branded website for help or to complain. visitors, for example, can access CoverGirl’s Live Chat Beauty Consultants from every page of the site to get advice about how to apply the products they have purchased. These sessions present an opportunity to promote additional products as well.

3. Encourage Questions and Feedback on Your Own Site

While every company needs a “Twelpforce” these days fielding Twitter questions and responding to complaints, the more effective way for companies to use social media to improve customer service is to encourage feedback through their own social communities. Top UK baby site Kiddicare, for example, integrated customer service into its online community and almost immediately saw a 30% reduction in customer calls and a 98% increase in the number of issues that were resolved during a customer’s first contact with the company. Kiddicare doesn’t just provide a message board for questions and complaints, it enables—and encourages—customer feedback of all sorts, and its community is set up so that community members can easily interact with each other, promote comments and answers that they like, and so forth.


Authors: Tim Ross, President of SolutionSet and Joe Robinson, President of CatapultRPM.

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