Cover by Sean Power, Alistair Croll

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Support Communities: Help Those Who Help Themselves

One of the most compelling reasons to create and engage communities is that customers love helping one another. They’re good at it. It’s also much cheaper for customers to service themselves than it is for you to handle their support calls.

We’ve known for many years that online service is cheaper than the in-person alternative. A 1997 study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton showed that a web banking transaction cost a bank just $0.01, compared to $0.27 for an ATM transaction and $1.07 for a transaction carried out in person. Dell Financial Services estimates that it saves $1.41 for every transaction completed online versus a transaction completed by an employee.

It’s not just about cost savings. Communities often provide better support more quickly than the manufacturer itself. To harness the power of better, faster answers that cost less, you need to create a platform for discussion and moderate it. Because support communities benefit both end users and companies, they are one of the fastest-growing community initiatives within businesses.

Consider Adobe’s community help site, shown in Figure 12-15, for example. It’s run by the company itself on systems that it controls, staffed by subject matter experts, moderators, and editors. In fact, the company often promotes its online community rather than its support sites.

Adobe’s support community

Figure 12-15. Adobe’s ...

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