Why online forums are the secret to a great call centre experience

Jan 1
Call centre experience

Why online forums are the secret to a great call centre experience

Fact: With 24-hour access to the internet and social media, it’s been reported that 9 out of 10 customers would prefer to self-service their problem rather than call your customer support centre. That’s a staggering number and one that should give anyone running a call centre a moment of pause. But could this drive for self service actually provide the secret to a great call centre experience?

With more people online, self-service options include member centres, social media and website FAQ pages. Today we’re going to look at one particular channel: online forums.

These workhorses of User Generated Content (UGC) may actually be the unsung hero of customer support… behind every great call centre experience is a strong online forum.

Online forums may:

1. Provide customer insights
2. Remove unwanted calls from your queue
3. Improve abandonment rates
4. Be used as training tools
5. Reduce call centre costs
6. Keep customer happy
7. Help identify high value customers


1. Online forums can provide insights into customer problems.

There are two types of online forums: review sites and problem solving sites.

Review sites are a good place to find the best and the worst of your products and services. They provide a good opportunity to address customers concerns and prepare your agents to answer similar concerns from potential customers.

Problem solving sites can be a fascinating space to find out the weird and wonderful ‘hacks’ people use to solve problems with your product. Not only will they highlight common issues, but also show creative solutions your team may not have considered.


2. Online forums remove calls from the queue.

Your customers don’t want to call you for support. They would rather search online for answers. In fact online forum use has jumped from 31% to 56% in just three years. Your call centre is now an escalation point. Online forums remove large numbers of ‘easy’ calls from your queues freeing up your lines for the more complex support calls. Less calls means more time for your agents to focus on the call centre experience they are providing.


3. Improve abandonment rates.

By a similar token your abandonment rate improves when your call centre is supported by online forums. Your caller are likely to have already tried to find an answer online and have decided they really need to talk to a human. When they call they have shorter queue times and are more likely to wait for their turn.


4. Online forums are an excellent training tool.

Much like monitoring your agents’ calls, forums are an excellent listening tool. They provide the pulse of what is concerning customers and show you in what areas you need to train your staff. Perhaps areas they need to upskill in or what information they will need access to. Picking and choosing forum questions can also be an excellent role playing tool – “This customer wants to know why the screen goes black every time she presses the green button. What would you tell her?”


5. Reduces call centre costs.

Why hire more staff when your customers will work for free? Well, almost. Customers giving advice on online forums won’t replace completely a good call centre experience, but they are a good support. These team of self-taught loyalists enjoy answering questions about common problems, or sharing clever product hacks. This UGC takes a load off your call centre, reducing call volume and possibly the number of agents you have scheduled at any one time.


6. A better call centre experience keeps customers happy.

Strong support from online channels such as forums means reduced calls so your agents can focus on quality of their service rather than churning through vast quantities of calls.

Plus, studies show that businesses experience higher customer satisfaction rates when they can self-service to find answers to their problems.


7. Identify your most loyal customers.

Yes, online forums help managers spy. While all customers deserve an excellent call centre experience there are some that require the full red carpet. Loyal customers who regularly spruik your product on forums deserve a big gold star next to their name (on your CRM). When they call your team they should be pushed to the front of the queue and given VIP treatment by your agents.

They can also be rewarded as part of your customer retention strategy. Heard them say they can’t wait until they see your new product? Get it priority shipped to them and watch them fawn, gloat and review it to the nth degree online.


Should you be wary of online forums?

Forums are not fool proof. As with anything that’s open to lots and lots of humans, lots and lots of mistakes or misinformation may go out. Luckily it’s easy enough to rectify errors.

If the forum is unowned (meaning you don’t control it) such as a review site, you should have the right of reply. If a customer has complained about your product you can choose to justify it, or apologise and rectify the issue.

If your forum is owned (run by your company) you have a lot more control to moderate the conversations. But be wary of intervening too much. Customers are a cynical bunch and a sniff that they are being edited or ignored to make your business look better will send them straight to Twitter to tell the world.

Rather thinking of online forums, especially unowned ones, as a competitor to your business, embrace the information it provides and use it to your advantage. After all, your customers are always right, right?


call centre experience