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Customer Service on the Edge

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Companies that listen to bloggers have a unique opportunity to improve their reputations and win converts to their business models.

Listening, after all, is a critical element of communication, but one that most organizations employing traditional communication practices often ignore.

A case in point arises from an item I posted to this blog earlier this week. In that post, I complained that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7 flagged potential phishing sites, then made it difficult under some circumstances for sites that aren’t phishing to get excluded from the list. The site that generated the phising warning was a membership directory for a religious congregation. The database-diriven directory is password protected (as you might expect) and will provide far greater flexibility and currency than the paper directory distributed to congregants every other year. Among the directory features is a form members can use to update their own information in the database, such as a change of address. That’s the feature, I suspect, that brought up the phishing error. As my earlier post documented, my interaction with Microsoft to have the warning removed was frustrating.

I was surprised-but also delighted-to see the first comment on that post came from Dean, who listed his URL as the Microsoft IE developers blog. HIs comment: “Ouch. that surprises me. I’ll see what I can do. Thanks for writing up the feedback.”

The next day I received another email from Microsoft: “After further investigation, we have fixed the rating per your feedback. Due to client caching, you may continue to see warnings on the site for up to 24 hours. ”

In case you didn’t catch it, they fixed the rating per my feedback. I don’t think they revisited my original email. I believe it was Dean’s review of my post that led to the outcome I was looking for. Next time, rather than simply complain, I may take a somewhat different approach with a blog post, positioning it as a request for customer service.

This is consistent with a theme I’ve been hearing with increasing frequency: the notion of content on the “edge.” Most content is aggregated and controlled in a central place, from customer service (you have to call the company) to classified advertising (you place the ad in the newspaper or on eBay). New models, though, suggest that you keep control of your content on your own space and through tags and other identification techniques, the service providers identify it and respond. That’s the idea behind Edgeio, which lets you post your classifieds on your own blog with appropriate tags; the ad then is listed on Edgeio’s categorized ad listing site. BlogBurst syndicates content from participating bloggers on sites like the Houston Chronicle and the Washington Post. Corante’s hubs take existing content on specific topics (like marketing) from participating bloggers, offering access to it through the hub and commenting on it on its own blog.

So why not customer service? Rather than simply complain about a company, why couldn’t the company develop tags that designate the post a customer service request. You would blog the issue and tag it a customer service request; different tags could designate different types of issues…one for technical support, one for sales issues, and so on. You post and tag your problem and someone from the company responds via comment on your blog.

Of course, offering a service like this would be popintless if companies didn’t provide the resources to ensure customer issues are addressed and resolved. Most companies with reputation problems would be in much better shape if thei provided breathtaking service to their customers. But as way to handle customer service that puts the service request on the “edge” and takes advantage of the strengths of the Web 2.0 platform, it’s an idea I like. And, if the Microsoft is any example, it’s one that could work.

Anyway, I’m back to using IE7 virtually all the time and my esteem for Microsoft has been bumped up a notch.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.

Customer Service on the Edge
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