marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Monday, July 20, 2009

Who is supporting your customers?

There are three truisms about supporting customers, regardless of your product or service:
  • A customer's primary goal is to have what they bought, or even are using for 'free', work the way that they expect
  • Huge numbers of people feel ill-served or ignored by the companies they've patronized
  • You can't control the conversation about your products - and you may not even know the conversation is taking place
Even consumers who aren't technology mavens are likely to start trying to solve their problems with a basic internet search. Do you know - have you ever looked? - what two or three top search results they're going to see? Does a company-sponsored site show up? Do you know about the sites that do?

As a simple test, I did a Google search on 'Canon S2 Camera Problems'. The top search returns?,,,and No Canon sites showed up in the first 4 pages of results. In fairness to Canon, if the search was 'Canon S2 Camera Support' then a Canon USA site was on the top of the list. But the point remains valid - you have to know what your customers are seeing and where they're seeing it.

One example from two of those sites ( and a 'stuck shutter' reported by an seemingly large number of people. The fixes suggested including 'jogging the shutter open by tapping the camera against a wooden surface'. This was not from a Canon representative, so it 's hard to know if this is a recommended solution (seems unlikely), or if Canon is aware of a problem with this particular model. But it might give a consumer pause - and the lack of a response from Canon doesn't help the perceptions.

The simple fact is that most of the entries in discussion/tech support forums are going to be negative by their nature - after all, not too many people post a lack of a problem. There are more and more independent support sites like that actively solicit participation by vendors - and implicitly set customer expectations around that participation.

Shopping and review oriented sites may be somewhat less negative since many consumers feel compelled to defend their purchase choices, but there is still plenty of 'dirty laundry' hanging out there. All of these sources are having an influence on future purchase decisions for everyone who visits.

So some things to ponder until my next post:
  • Do you really know what people are saying about your products?
  • Are the customer support resources you've invested in, like FAQs and knowledge bases, doing the job based on the questions being addressed elsewhere like FixYa and GetSatisfaction?
  • Is there something you can do to reach out to customers with a problem, rather than hoping that they find you?

No comments :

Post a Comment