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Customer Forums, Crowdsourcing, and Complaining

GetSatisfaction buttons Online customer forums aren't a new idea, but in the past week I've joined two of them (a record number, for me): I've signed up at GetSatisfaction and UserVoice to report complaints and suggestions for two products I use frequently, TypePad and FormAssembly.

What sets these communities apart from traditional customer forums? What made me sign up so readily? In a traditional customer forum, you just post new messages and other folks comment on them (or not). That's handy—but what drew me into GetSatisfaction and UserVoice were the one-click-to-lend support buttons. In GetSatisfaction each idea has a button to say "I like this idea too!" In UserVoice it's a "Vote" button to cast a vote in favor of a particular feature request. Both sites make it easy to see how much support there is for an idea within the community. Real, live crowdsourcing.

What's the take-away for libraries? When complaints need to be made, a company's official customer service website/phone number is the place to start, but don't forget to look for any customer forums that may exist. Or on the other hand, maybe libraries could use customer forums to gather feedback on their own services.

Coincidentally, Seth Godin just posted another variation on the "use honey, not vinegar" strategy for making effective complaints. Happy complaining, everybody!

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