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Is Facebook a good platform for providing customer support?

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Is Facebook a good platform for providing customer support?

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As regular readers of this blog will know, I like my communities to have a clear purpose.  It’s not good enough simply to use social media to push out your content.  If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, you won’t be able to measure it, and therefore won’t be able to tell if you’re doing it well or not.

Customer service is the kind of thing that social media can greatly assist with.  MetroTwit provide a good example of a company that is using Facebook well for customer service purposes.  In 2010 they launched a Facebook group whereby customers could post problems and share tips on how to use the Twitter tool more effectively.

As many start-ups will no doubt attest, in those early days you want a nice and low cost way of doing as much as possible.  Social media therefore offered up an attractive platform for providing customer support.

Product manager Long Zheng said that its Facebook help group started out as a low-cost forum for the firm’s software beta testers. “From the very beginning we saw the power of users helping other users,” says Zheng. “It was a natural transition to bringing this functionality to the rest of our user community. Whether discussing a problem or making a feature suggestion, it was usually other users who were first to respond before anyone from the official team did.”

Now obviously one major difference between a Facebook based support community and traditional discussion forum based communities is in the level of disclosure each user provides.  Most forum users for instance use anonymous aliases, whereas on Facebook you post very much as yourself.  This however was something they found was positive.

Zheng said, “Having an identifiable face and name attached with each user made it feel more friendly and approachable than a traditional support forum.”

MetroTwit use the Facebook group to not only provide customer support, but to also judge the reaction of users to new features and to be proactive in providing users with features that they tell them they want.
Of course there are some drawbacks to using Facebook for this kind of function. For instance it’s very hard to pin or highlight frequently asked questions, so they found that these questions would end up being asked on a regular basis.  It’s also much harder to moderate discussions on a Facebook group than it is on most discussion forum platforms.
One clear flaw in their move to Facebook has been a lack of clear metrics.  They don’t at the moment have any kind of measurement in place to see how many customer queries are being answered or how many are answered by the community vs staff or how many new product features arrive from the group.  Without this in place it will always be difficult to see how effective the facility is and whether another way of doing things could be even more effective.
What are your thoughts on using Facebook for customer support?  Does it have advantages over other platforms?  If you use it for support, how do you measure it?

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