WOW. This post, titled “Customer Service is the New Marketing” by Brad at Union Square Ventures (and inspired by coffee with Craig Newmark of Craigslist), really hits home with me. In the web 2.0 environment, where companies are focusing on site users to spread word of mouth, I think customer service is critically important. Strong customer service leads to increased word of mouth- the chances are high that site users dedicated enough to seek customer support are those considered “mavens,” which are very valuable from a WOM perspective due to being deemed trusted experts in their field.

Here are the quotes that I really resonated with:

  • “A web service needs to be pulled into a market and promoted by its users – its co-creators”
  • “If you need to convince your contributors of the value of your service you have probably already lost”
  • “…if you put a simple rudimentary service out there, not only would your users – your co-creators – tell you what you needed to improve the service; if you let them, they would do the work themselves”
  • “First, it means that you need to get the service out there quickly. Designing a comprehensive feature set and spinning it a couple of times in a small closed beta is not going to work. If the service provides value in its initial rudimentary form, your users will take it and run with it. If you launch it fully formed , at best, you have robbed them of the pleasure of co-creating the service, at worst you have created something that nobody wants”

So- if you want to improve word of mouth for your web site (also known as FREE marketing), start building your customer support team, but keep it very small. Finding a passionate blogger or two that enjoy engaging on blogs with others should be a high priority. When you find one that “gets” how blogs can be used as a customer service tool (and how powerful the relationships with other bloggers are), they will be a great hire for your organization. You’d be amazed what one or two employees engaged in the blogosphere can do for your company.