For progressive companies, customer support is now a critical element of an integrated marketing plan. When a customer has an amazing experience, he or she shares it. More and more people are turning to Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and other online channels to share their positive experiences with the world – including those with whom you hope to do business with in the future. However, this willingness to share also serves as a cautionary tale for today’s businesses. The only thing more powerful than a glowing customer review is a negative one – and the evidence can’t be ignored:

  • $41 billion is lost by U.S. companies alone each year due to poor customer service.
  • 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.
  • It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.
  • News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience.
  • 3 in 5 Americans (59%) would try a new brand or company for a better service experience.

No company wants a negative support experience tarnishing customer relationships. If an angry customer does share an experience online, how will you be notified? Do you know the “best practices” for handling frustrated customers? How can you resolve the issue and create a more efficient experience to meet the current (and future) needs of your customers? The answer lies with knowledge-driven support.

Knowledge-driven support (KDS) is a process that transforms traditional support into a painless experience by using collective, shared knowledge to meet customer needs. With traditional support, a customer may be on hold for hours or submit a support ticket only to hear back days later – or worse, never at all. With a support experience like this, negative customer feedback shouldn’t come as a shock. Customers want to be heard, they expect immediate action, and they want the ability to help themselves. In fact, 90% of consumers now expect a brand or organization to offer a self-service customer support portal.

Knowledge-driven support takes the self-service experience a step further. With KDS, customers help themselves through knowledge ecosystems – living, breathing online communities where customers come together to access, share, and use knowledge. Explicit and tacit knowledge are captured and organized to help customers easily find answers the moment they need them.

However, because this is an ecosystem, the support experience doesn’t end when the customer finds an answer. As in any ecosystem, each member of a knowledge ecosystem has a role to play. Some customers come with the need for knowledge. Others, reuse knowledge to eliminate duplicate questions, or contribute to the ecosystem by sharing their knowledge of and experience with your product or service. Some customers might even share viable ideas for your products that you and your team hadn’t even thought of.

There are also those customers that provide feedback – an essential, and often overlooked, element of a strong customer service strategy. Kristin Smaby, author of Being Human is Good Business, said it best, “When customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They’re actually teaching you how to make product, service, and business better.” When customers share feedback, businesses can use that knowledge to evolve products and services to remain competitive in the market while also maintaining customer satisfaction.

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. These online reviews are often the determining factor for consumers inundated with choices on what product or service is best for them. If one positive, or negative, review has that kind of power, think about the impression a knowledge-driven support community will give your customers and prospects. Not only will they have a rich support experience, they will have an entire knowledge ecosystem at their disposal – a space where they can access and share knowledge, connect with other customers, and have a voice in the evolution of your product and service.