The current service-delivery era, driven by the emergence of the social web, brings significant changes to the basic service model. The social web is about much more than access to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn — it’s a phenomenon where virtually anyone can create content and share ideas or opinions. Knowledge is ubiquitous and service providers are no longer the only source for information and knowledge about their products.
From a services standpoint, this phenomenon has manifested itself in an explosion of communities where customers discuss product- and service-related topics on community platforms and in public communities and on social sites. This activity is generating an extensive amount of high-quality information specific to questions customers have about the products they use.
With the social web we see that for the first time customers have viable alternative sources for knowledge and expertise from across the web. The result? The vendor is no longer the exclusive or even the primary source of knowledge and expertise on its own products. Because customers have a broad range of service and support options, vendors are losing exclusive control over the service experience.
Efforts to develop self-help capabilities and to capture and share knowledge have helped customers to become more self-sufficient. This increased self-sufficiency has unintended consequences that may be putting customer relationships at risk. Today, with the social web growing exponentially, more customers seek help from sources other than the manufacturer, publisher or distributor of the products they use. The upshot? Crowd-sourced support is loosening the once iron-clad grip that vendors had on the entire customer experience, diminishing their ability to directly and positively impact the product ownership and service experience.
A Study in Customer Behavior
To better understand the social web’s impact on supplier-customer relationships, ServiceXRG conducted a two-phased study to gain a 360° perspective on how companies create and share knowledge and how customers search for and consume it. The study’s objective was to answer the following questions:
- Where do customers go for help and why?
- What impact does this have on vendor-customer relationships?
- How can vendors stay engaged with customers?
- What role will knowledge have in creating and sustaining customer relationships?
- Customers are willing to help themselves to address service issues.
- If vendors can’t provide the information customers seek, they’ll look for it elsewhere.
- Today, each service need raises the possibility that a vendor will lose a customer.
- Producing and distributing quality knowledge is the engine that will drive continued successful customer engagements.