Jul 092012
does the telephone matter in the age of social media and the web?

Ever tried to call an online company about a problem? As the New York Times explains, it’s often hard to find the telephone number, let alone someone to answer your call.

The NY Times article worries a new type of digital divide is appearing between those happy to do business using email or social media and those who who demand to speak to someone.

In reality, the truth is more subtle than just generational differences – it’s about the web2.0 service-free business model where few, if any, resources are spent on customer support. The idea is the an assistance can be given out on “self service” basis through a website or, better still, crowdsourced on a user forum where the customers work together to figure out solutions themselves.

For many of the web based cloud computing and social media businesses, this model is essential to their survival. If you were to add a customer support department answering telephones, the viability of the business would collapse.

While it’s uncertain if that business model is sustainable for many of these web based companies, it’s interesting to ponder how many phone calls most businesses could avoid by having relevant information on their website.

It’s worthwhile looking at call logs and asking your staff what are the most common questions to your business. Answering those on the company web site might mean happier customers and fewer staff distractions.

For some businesses, letting customers discuss issues in an online company forum might be a way of crowdsourcing support and giving ideas for future products or service improvements.

Rather than leaving customers and staff hanging on the phone, having relevant and helpful information on the website saves everybody time and money.

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