This article from CRM Magazine both makes fun of the current “Customer Experience” bandwagon and provides a solid suggestion (I think) about how to properly use an online community. Though it’s not spelled out in detail, I’d assume creating a “democratic online forum where between 300 and 500 customers get to know each other” implies you first understand your customers from a segment or profile perspective, and then intentionally select a representative group or an intentionally skewed group to join the community. Reason? When you know who you have making suggestions and comments, you can put these comments in context, try to take action, and measure the results, which I think is something Ron is looking for in the Customer Experience Management debate. This as opposed to simply hanging a “community” off the side of your web site and taking comments and suggestions from all comers.
If you can’t put the comments in context (how long have they been a customer, what products do they use, what customer service experiences have they had, etc.) all the comments are barely worth a scan. I mean really, what if you took an action based on the comments of unprofitable customers that destroyed the value of your business to your most profitable customers? That would not be a very prudent use of “Community”, would it? Don’t laugh, I have seen it happen – both online and offline.
Check out the article here.