Rather than solely rely on its employees to answer customer support inquiries, Applegate, the successful purveyor of humanely raised and slaughtered meats, openly crowdsources commentary and advice from other customers to answer these questions honestly, making use of a community software platform called “Get Satisfaction.” By using the feedback from customers who have already explored these kinds of questions, Applegate is making transparency work in its favor, elevating the customer and its products at the same time. This is particularly useful to the company and to its customers, because Applegate regularly fields specific, detailed and emotionally charged questions about both the meat and the packaging in which it is conveyed.
Letting your customers be the experts–in support of other customers
JD Peterson, chief revenue officer at Scripted.com and well known as a force behind the popular Zendesk customer support platform, points out that the millennial need for recognition and feedback drives the push toward crowdsourcing: “Let your power users be the voice [of your brand]. Customers these days are more willing to do this kind of work for your brand, but they want recognition for doing it—they would like to be given that badge or stamp that says, ‘You’re the power expert in Applegate bacon.’ Giving power users that recognition, a badge, points [or] some sort of title, giving them something they can stamp on their resume or their LinkedIn profile that says they’re an expert or a power user, I think, is really important to customers today. It’s certainly a win for [the] business as well: You’re not having to take on all the burden of support costs because your users are able to do some of that for you—and your customers get closer to the brand at the same time by assisting you.”
The power of ratings and review transparency
Ratings and review transparency is likewise an important commercial trend: from voluntary transparency on sites like amazon.com that openly show customer ratings for all products (including sometimes mixed reviews for Amazon’s own Kindle tablets and Fire phone), to enforced transparency via TripAdvisor, Yelp and the like that post reviews of your services and products whether you want to be rated this way or not. Embrace this trend even though it can be uncomfortable, because it’s not going away. Reviews are now decentralized and user driven, and you can’t control product ratings, product discussions or much else in the way of reviews, except by providing the best customer experience possible and by being proactive in responding to negative trends that come to the surface in your reviews and ratings.
Emulate a company like Engine Yard, a San Francisco-based cloud application management platform that has taken the brave step of putting a real-time (not to mention cute and cuddly) indicator of its current customer satisfaction stats right on its support site. You’ll find 100 panda icons featured prominently on Engine Yard’s website with just a few “sad pandas” crossed out in red. Looking at the company’s site right now I see 97 happy pandas and three that are crossed out, indicating a current 97% customer satisfaction rating. How does Engine Yard arrive at the proportion of happy and sad pandas? Each time there’s a support interaction, Engine Yard asks the customer, “Are you satisfied with the response you got? Yes or no?” They then total that percentage on their website for anyone to see. This transparent approach goes a long way toward reassuring customers (and, perhaps as much to the point in the competitive arena in which Engine Yard plays), prospective customers that this company is, and will remain, on the ball throughout the life of the customer relationship.