Supporting the groundswell.

Welcome to blog seven,

This week’s reading was on chapter eight of the book ‘groundswell’, which talked about how groundswell users can support themselves through the use of online support communities. As with any products or services, the final sale is not the last contact with your customers. Companies must continue to provide additional support post sale in case any issues arise related to the products or services provided. Prior to the spawn of the internet, this was mostly done through face-to-face customer service or over the phone. As a result of the internet, two major trends became prevalent throughout the last few years, the first began in the 1990s, when “…companies recognized they could send people to their Web site for information” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 157), and the second being outsourcing where companies moved support calls overseas. But with this it only continued the long wait times, automated voice interactive systems, and ‘hit-or-miss’ quality of information online. This eventually lead to the creation of online support communities (the topic of this chapter), where customers could interact with other customers to share and discuss information/experiences related to a certain product or service. This gives customers the ability to help each other thus making them happier and in return, leading to higher cost savings and increased insight into what customers are conversing about involving your products, services, and/or overall brand.

For companies looking to reap the benefits of these support communities, the groundswell suggests three things that organizations should examine: (1) what problem you will solve, (2) how will you participate, and (3) should you create a support community or join and existing one. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.171)

Once you have addressed the above three questions and/or determined that a support community is a benefit to be sought, Li and Bernoff (2011) further offers five suggestions to get you started:

  1. Start small, but plan for a larger presence – “Learn what works for your type of customers before expanding your presence to support other products” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, 174).
  2. Reach out to your most active customers – “…[F]ind your enthusiasts, and ask them how they’d prefer to participate. They will become important leaders in your online community” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 175).
  3. Plan to drive traffic to your community – “Nobody knows you exist… [so] advertise on sites where your customers shop… [and] buy paid search listings at Google, Yahoo!, and MSN Live Search” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 175).
  4. Build a reputation system – “Users will spend hours a day building their reputations in a community. A well-built reputation system encourages users to participate and behave in a right manner” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 175).
  5. Let your customers lead you – “Communities have opinions on everything. They’ll not only tell you what product features to add; they’ll also tell you how the community should run and what you are doing right and wrong” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.176).

Usually this is the part where I would contrast these ideas with an organization. Throughout my blogs I have continued to use the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) as the example but unfortunately, I was unable to find clear examples to apply this, as from my experience, RBC seems to be stuck in the 1990’s trend of relying mostly on their support call centers and referring clients to their website which most of the time just refers you back to their support call center. Maybe one day RBC will begin to utilize this type of support so clients can spend less time on a ‘wild goose chase’ being sent to their ‘hit-or-miss’ website for answers.


Until next week,

Jordan Fewer



Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell expanded and revised: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.



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