Harrow is the chief operating officer of Kiddicare, the United Kingdom's largest baby products retailer, which operates primarily online but also maintains a 47,000 square foot retail outlet. When Kiddicare signed up for the customer feedback service from Get Satisfaction two years ago, it developed its own applications integrated with that service that allowed it to solicit feedback and offer customer reviews on every product page. In other words, it developed its own equivalent of the embeddable widgets now offered through Get Satisfaction Engage, a product update introduced in May. Get Satisfaction has built a popular service for hosting customer feedback communities, but Engage allows other websites to host more of that interaction on their own domains.
Kiddicare has not yet switched to Engage but plans to do so in September as part of the introduction of a new site design, Harrow said. But while he can't specifically comment on that version, he is happy to endorse the concept of having feedback mechanisms embedded in an e-commerce site, particularly on specific product pages.
"Our customers are moms, and they want to know what other moms are thinking," Harrow said. "Our moms want to talk about products they own. They've often done a lot of research to pick the best product for their child, and they want other moms to buy the product they thought was good." Kiddicare encourages that behavior by asking customers who've given a product a rating of four stars or higher to join a product advocate program, he said.
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The customer community has also lowered support costs for Kiddicare, which saw the volume of phone and email requests drop by about 30%. When customers have questions or complaints, they often get answers from other customers as well as Kiddicare staff, Harrow said. But by hosting these discussions on its own turf, Kiddicare gets to play a part, where appropriate, he said. In contrast, when Kiddicare made occasional forays into public forums and discussion boards where its products and services were being discussed, the reaction was often very negative, Harrow said. "The attitude was, 'This space is ours, and we're talking about you, not to you.' "
Harrow said he has also seen negative responses to the common social CRM tactic of trying to get people who air a complaint on Twitter or another social site to switch to a private channel such as email to resolve the issue. When people air their issues publicly, they don't want a private conversation--they want to see their questions or complaints answered in front of the community, he said. However, when an issue is too complex to resolve easily in 140-character messages on Twitter, Kiddicare has had some success asking consumers to move the conversation into its support forums, which are still a public medium, he said.
"The benefits are not all quantifiable. We think the perception of the brand within the social sphere has definitely gotten better. This way of interacting is far more open, far more transparent than just a closed site with an email address," he said.
While Kiddicare already enjoys many of the benefits offered by the Engage product, Harrow said its wizard-based administrative tools will simplify the setup of new products in the system and their integration with the site's ecommerce platform (IBM's WebSphere Commerce). Also, Kiddicare wants to expand the program so product manufacturers can also get in on the conversation, for example allowing Graco to respond to questions or complaints about one of its car seats, Harrow said, and Engage offers that flexibility.
One of the early implementations of the Engage product proper is at Blackbaud, which offers fundraising and accounting software for non-profit organizations. "We just got the widgets," said Anthony Tomaino, a support manager at Blackbaud. "They put out a preview release about four weeks ago, and we were able to implement it in less than a week."
One of the benefits has turned out to be that customers of Blackbaud's Altru software can help each other with tips on how to use the system most effectively. For example, museum directors at different institutions might share tactics for sending fundraising emails through the system, and they tend to be motivated to do so because theirs is a community that is more collaborative than competitive. "Outside of our services team, sometimes they know what's best for them, what works for them," Tomaino said.
That is particularly true of the arts, but it's true in general of non-profit organizations that they look for opportunities to help each other, he said.
The Get Satisfaction widgets also provide a convenient way of publishing updates and having them appear on the relevant sections of the website, Tomaino said. While he can't point to any quantifiable results yet, he said he sees good engagement with that content, for example to promote training on a new release.
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