How to reduce customer support costs the easy way: Brand Advocates

How to leverage brand advocates to reduce your customer support costs?

Customer Support

Within 48 hours of the Windows 10 launch, he provided about 712 answers regarding the launch and adoption of Windows 10 – he was not an employee of Microsoft, he was a passionate brand advocate part of Microsoft’s Brand Advocacy program. (Source).

It’s mind boggling when you think in terms of the customer support cost savings due to just one of these passionate brand advocates. Microsoft currently has approximately 3000 such brand advocates in just one of their advocacy programs. They have many such brand advocacy programs.

Customer Support

Traditionally it used to be the call center where people dial-in and ask their questions, that’s how customer support was provided. It is still the same way many organizations operate.

To reduce the cost of customer support one needs to really embrace the self-service era.

The Self-Service Era

In the Internet/Digital era, people access online support forums, read blogs, attend webcasts, chat with experts maybe over Twitter, raise questions on community sites or via Q&A sites like Quora etc.

Content to Support Customers

In order to meet the needs of this digital era audience one would need to do some or all of the below items:

  • Create tons of content in a variety of formats (Blogs, Presentations, Podcasts, Webcasts…)
  • Establish Support Forums, User Groups/ Communities
  • Enable interactions with Experts

The hard way

The difficult way of going about creating these interactions is by creating all the content yourself.

The easy way

The easy way is to leverage the power of already existing passionate brand advocates in addition to your corporate initiatives. In fact creating a brand advocacy program which fuels these brand advocates should be a corporate initiative.

Examples

When Microsoft was planning it’s Windows 10 product, it took the path of involving it’s most passionate customers. It publicly launched an advocacy program inviting thousands of it’s customers to participate –

With the Insider program, we’re inviting our most enthusiastic Windows customers to shape Windows 10 with us. We know they’re a vocal bunch – and we’re looking forward to hearing from them.

– Source blogs.windows.com

They were looking for people who’re vocal in terms of providing feedback to the company. In exchange they provided them early access, this ensured that they got a bunch of motivated experts on the product much before the actual product launch.

What would these experts do? (Besides providing feedback to Microsoft) They would share their expertise with others.

What were the steps they took:

  • Invited people to get early access
  • Took their feedback (Improved their product in the bargain)
  • Got a bunch of motivated experts who naturally evolved to helping solve customer queries

That’s exactly what happened with the person who provided about 712 answers regarding the launch and adoption of Windows 10. He was a passionate brand advocate who was involved with the program, partly due to his passion and interest and because Microsoft created a program and platform enabling him and others like him to participate.

Create a platform for brand advocates to engage with you and your customers

As an organization they provided a platform for brand advocates to actively engage and support other customers. http://answers.microsoft.com/

Here you will find that customer queries are answered by a whole host of enthused brand advocates.

The platform enables Microsoft to highlight the top brand advocates as well, based on other customer feedback.

(Badges are awarded for being an active contributor and awesome community member. Over time, good contributors earn a variety of badges.)

But…Will a third party individual know more about my products than my employed customer support personnel?

Surprisingly yes. More often than not I’ve seen brand advocates who’re passionate about a product sticking around to using that product for a much longer time than the employee sticking around in the company. Their passion and sticking around help them often gain far more mastery of the product than the typical customer support executive.

However, there is an easy fix to this problem, where the community itself helps in regulating inefficient responses which are a reality.

What if these brand advocates provide faulty or incorrect information?

One simple fix to this problem is to allow the customers to rate the responses.

For instance on the Microsoft Community Support site users can rate if they found a response helpful.

Community Indicates Usefulness

Start Small

If you’ve not yet started down this path i.e. you don’t have an advocacy program in place, start small.

Pick one activity which will help you go down the path to providing support to other customers.

Whether it’s inviting your brand advocates to contribute content(blogs, presentations etc.), or inviting them to test a product, or establish a support forum or a group on social media, and enable interactions with brand advocates. (Simultaneously work on creating your own brand advocacy program.)

The small wins will help you get the necessary corporate support to evolve a larger program resulting in much larger cost savings in customer support.

I would love to hear from you if you have stories on how Brand Advocates have helped other customers. Do share in the comments below.

3 core concepts for a successful Digital content strategy

Have you ever sat on a chair with 2 legs, it’s going to be a quick crash boom landing if anything. Three legs is a minimum and ideal is four.

Your successful digital content strategy similarly depends on 3 crucial concepts, four if you consider the business objective.

Concept 1: The Customer Journey

Customers go through three different journeys with you. Attraction, Conversion and Consumption. And your content needs to address the customer needs in these stages.

Customer Journey v2.1

Attraction

In the attraction stage the content helps to get them know a little about your product or service.

Conversion

In conversion they either purchase or sign up to a list or subscribe for more information, the content enables them to undertake some kind of transaction not necessarily monetary with you.

Consumption

The consumption content on the other hand is designed to help them consume your product or service better.

Each of these 3 kinds of content is very different and serves a very definite purpose. One to enable awareness, the other to aid a transaction and the last to aid consumption.

You need to make sure that your content enables the customer journey.

Concept 2: Content Stickiness

Content Stickiness

We’re faced with a deluge of content each day. Most of it is boring, exhaustive and at times difficult to consume and remember. We typically forget 80% of a presentation in less than 24 hours.

Making content stick, memorable is critical. Without this even though your content might be good, it’s not really going to stick around in people’s minds. Creating sticky content is a planned activity.

Content stickiness can be achieved in a number of ways. One of the common ways is by creating a unique mascot which provides a distinct voice to your content and enables it to stick in people’s minds. The other is to provide content which directly address people’s problems. There are 7 different ways in which content can be created to make it more effective. By far visual content is the most effective in terms of making it easy to consume and remember.

Concept 3: Network Effect

The challenge with content production is that everyone is doing it, and standing out in the midst of all that content with your content is difficult. More so customer belief in corporate content tends to be low compared to recommendations by friends, family, colleagues, co-workers, others customers and even strangers (e.g. book reviews which one reads on sites like Amazon).

Moreover, you can’t do it alone, not all businesses are designed to be content production factories, and you’re never going to have enough budgets to produce the kind and volume of content you need.

Leverage Influencer and Partner Networks

Leveraging Social Media and Digital networks the right way – Brand Advocates, Partners (and their networks) – User Generated Content.

You need to leverage your brand advocates to create content. Brand Advocates, your most vocal customers and partners can not only create content for you also help you promote that content across their social networks. User generated content is by far the most powerful content. You truly leverage social networks when you leverage content created by corporate teams, employees, partners and brand advocates.

Leveraging other networks also means repurposing content in different formats (text, audio, images) and across different social networks.

Summary

In today’s landscape it’s necessary to create content which targets the different customer journey, is sticky and at the same time leverages user generated content with brand advocates, partners and employees and uses their networks to promote the content.

Like the 3 legs which are needed for a chair these 3 core concepts along with a clear business objective provide the solid base for a successful content strategy.

3 core concepts for a successful content strategy

Have you ever sat on a chair with 2 legs, it’s going to be a quick crash boom landing if anything. Three legs is a minimum and ideal is four.

Your successful content strategy similarly depends on 3 crucial concepts, four if you consider the business objective.

Concept 1: The Customer Journey

Customers go through three different journeys with you. Attraction, Conversion and Consumption. And your content needs to address the customers needed in these stages.

Customer Journey v2.1

Attraction

In the attraction stage the content helps to get them know a little about your product or service.

Conversion

In conversion they either purchase or sign up to a list or subscribe for more information, the content enables them to undertake some kind of transaction not necessarily monetary with you.

Consumption

The consumption content on the other hand is designed to help them consume your product or service better.

Each of these 3 kinds of content is very different and serves a very definite purpose. One to enable awareness, the other to aid a transaction and the last to aid consumption.

You need to make sure that your content enables the customer journey.

Content StickinessConcept 2: Content Stickiness

We’re faced with a deluge of content each day. Most of it is boring, exhaustive and and at times difficult to consume and remember. We typically forget 80% of a presentation in less that 24 hours.

Making content stick, memorable is critical. Without this even though your content might be good, it’s not really going to stick around in peoples minds. Creating sticky content is a planned activity.

Content stickiness can be achieved in a number of ways. One of the common ways is by creating a unique mascot which provides a distinct voice to your content and enables it to stick in people’s minds. The other is to provide content which directly address people’s problems. There are 7 different ways in which content can be presented to make it more effective. By far visual content is the most effective in terms of making it easy to consume and remember.

Concept 3: Network Effect

The challenge with content production is that everyone is doing it, and standing out in the midst of all that content with your content is difficult. Moreso customers belief in corporate content tends to be low compared to recommendations by colleagues, co-workers and others customers.

Moreover, you can’t do it alone, not all businesses are designed to content production factories, and you’re never going to have enough budgets to produce the kind and volume of content.

Leverage Influencer and Partner Networks

Leveraging Social Media Networks the right way – Brand Advocates, Partners (and their networks) User Generated Content.

You need to leverage your brand advocates(your most vocal customers) and partners to not only create content for your but leverage their networks to promote your content. User Generated content is by far the most powerful content. You truly leverage social networks when you leverage content created by corporate teams, employees, partners and brand advocates. This also means repurposing content across different formats (text, audio, images) and across different social networks.

Summary

In summary, in today’s landscape it’s necessary to create content which targets the different stages, is sticky and at the same time leverages user generated content along with partners and employees. These 3 legs are necessary for a successful content strategy.

Resources:

The weak link in most content communication strategies