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04/12/2010 by

Customers Are Your First Line Of Defence

If you could decrease your costs of customer service significantly, meanwhile  improving the quality of it and bonding with your (potential) clients; would you?

In this article I use Apple as an example of open leadership; they put their clients in the first line of defence. It shows how you can engage and learn from your clients, whilst investing less effort, time and money.

Knowledge is in the crowd
Have you got a question on Apple, about  its software, its hardware, or any other query/ topic? You can safely go to: This community is your safe-net for all your problems. The costs and input for Apple are at a bare minimum; it is you, the user, who makes this possible. So how does it work?

Apple has facilitated an open discussions platform where her followers/users can give feedback on a variety of topics. Apple users react on questions and queries from other users. The forte of this platform is that it is literally FOR the users and BY the users.

The platform is set-up in a logical, transparent and searchable manner so you can trace your question or answer in no time and that way eliminating duplication. Apple makes sure that the unanswered questions are answered and makes sure that the site stays clean; in the mean time Apple engages with her clients, learns from her clients, and builds a healthy long-term relationship.

What makes this work:
– the users are the first line of defence; they help each other and knowledge is in the crowd,
– users are being rewarded for their involvement and they earn status,
– if questions are unanswered the Apple Support team makes sure that they are,
of course there are many other benefits and fortes we can think of.

Cost Cutting
Another huge benefit lies in cost cutting;  let’s say every inbound customer call costs €5.00 and you can cut down with 500,000 calls a year (I believe Apple has more inbound calls they can cut down on, but let’s keep it at this): that means your company could cut costs with: € 2,500,000.- annually.
Mind you
these are just the costs you’d have for inbound calls,  just imagine what you can save.

So an open customer service can help you in a variety of ways and most of all following and facilitating your clients in their needs can have enormous leverage on all your activities:

Dialog: really engaging with your clients in real time; example DellOutlet drives Sales via Twitter
Support: really helping your clients, and letting them help themselves; example Apple Discussions
Innovation: all this feedback will give you tremendous insights which will benefit for example your R&D unparalleled; example; Dell’s IdeaStorm

This way your customers aren’t just another transaction; but they are someone who add value across the line.



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Neil Draper
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