Tomorrow I plan to attend the “Customer Service is the New Marketing” conference that the folks from Get Satisfaction are holding at the Presidio. This doesn’t sound like my normal field but it’s actually a topic close to my heart.
At Salon I was a big believer in customer support as an ambassadorial function for the company. At the site’s launch in 1995, I manned the e-mail barricades, responding personally to most of what came in. (In those days, getting a few hundred messages for a Web site launch was a sign of runaway success.) When we launched Salon Premium in 2001, I handled the customer support myself for the first two weeks. If you’re an executive in charge of a Web launch, there is no better way to get a handle on what’s working and what’s not. And while it’s good to keep developers in the feedback loop as well, you can’t expect them to handle all the response — they’re likely to be busy fixing any of the problems users are uncovering.
Way back in the Pleistocene Andrew Leonard wrote a piece for Salon that I edited, describing a future in which more and more tech support problems could and would be solved by a quick Web search. Today, I don’t even bother attempting to communicate directly with most companies; who wants to navigate phone-tree hell? If I have a problem, I poke around on the Web until I find an answer. If I don’t, I’ll post a question on the likeliest Web forum.
So there’s interesting stuff happening in this area. I’ll see what’s worth reporting on tomorrow.
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