Evan Carmichael & Associates

Giving Business a Break

How Customer Support Can Become Customers Supporting Each Other


Toronto, Ontario -- (ReleaseWire) -- 09/20/2007 -- Would a doctor be willing to hand over the stethoscope to his patients and let them diagnose each other? If he did, few of them would likely ever return. How about a pilot who trades his cockpit chair for a seat in coach and lets a passenger fly? There would undoubtedly be a public uproar. But when it comes to small business owners, entrepreneurship expert Evan Carmichael believes they are in a class all their own.

There are few entrepreneurs left who have yet to venture online and discover the vast possibilities that exist therein. But are they really grasping the power of the Internet to its fullest potential? Carmichael says no.

“Nowadays, every businessman and his dog have a website,” he says, “but most are failing to take advantage of their greatest resource –their customers.”

Carmichael points to Flickr, one of the world’s most popular online photo management sites, as an example of what he means.

“Flickr has a very active user forum in which members will often answer each other’s questions,” he says. “They’re saving Flickr staff time in not having to research and respond to all of the questions themselves, and by and large, their answers are exactly what the users wanted to know.”

Letting customers help themselves is one of the latest trends being embraced by online businesses, and there are a variety of ways to do it.

“First, like I said, websites need to have forums where customers can post any questions they have or answer others they might know,” says Carmichael. “Not only does this save time, but it also helps build trust and loyalty among your customers and keeps them engaged in your company.” To that end, he suggests using product giveaways to encourage user support and reward those members who are the most active online.

Carmichael also finds the use of a FAQs page (Frequently Asked Questions) helpful, but with a twist: “FAQ pages are often the first page people go to for help. To really engage your customers, make it a wiki and give them the power to edit the page themselves.”

Finally, with the massive growth of all things instant messaging, Carmichael suggests the incorporation of an instant chat application on websites. “Make it possible for customers to see who else is online at the same time and send instant messages,” he says. “That way, you can make customer service something both fun and convenient.”

But just how ready and willing are customers to spend their time online helping each other? And what if the answers they give are actually wrong?

“Obviously, there still needs to be some moderating of your site to make sure every question gets answered, and answered correctly,” says Carmichael. “But for the most part, customers like to share their own experiences and there is never anything wrong about that.”

So, while a doctor or pilot might get sued for taking a step back and giving up control to the customer, entrepreneurs face a different fate. “It’s not an easy thing for us to do,” says Carmichael, “but give up the reins and watch your customers rule!”

Evan Carmichael is available for an interview. Please contact him at evan@evancarmichael.com.

Evan is an entrepreneur and international speaker. Evan's website, http://www.evancarmichael.com/ is the world's #1 website for small business motivation and strategies. With over 160,000 monthly visitors, 1,350 contributing authors, and 25,500 pages of content no website shares more profiles of famous entrepreneurs and inspires more small business owners than http://www.EvanCarmichael.com. Evan has been interviewed by newspapers, radio stations, and television stations including The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, Metro, CHUM FM, CityTV, Global TV, OMNI TV, Enterprise, and the Toronto Sun.