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Shireen Qudosi

Fan-Sourced Customer Service with Needle

Aug 01 2012, 10:54 AM by

Suppose you have a question about a brand. Who would you rather hear from, a brand’s customer service representative or a brand enthusiast?

If you’re stumped, consider the two types of people. The first is a paid employee with a strong likelihood of a personal disinterest or ambivalence about the brand. They may know the “right” or brand-sanctioned answer to your question but there’s no dimension, voice or possibly even 100% truth in what’s being said.

On the other hand, the brand enthusiast is a knowledgeable fan of a given brand. They’re likely to know everything you’d want to know, and then some. They’d be able to direct consumers in the right direction, point out considerations and possibly even pitfalls. But above all, they’d be speaking from a personal standpoint. Sure, they may have a bias, but they’re uncommissioned, informed opinionators who will give you well-rounded answers to your brand questions.

Recall the last time you spoke with a customer service rep. Now recall the last time you spoke with someone who used or was a fan of a given product. Which encounter offered an engaged conversation that provided a more robust understanding?

Needle understands this and more. They know the simple answer to the above question, and they understand the clout of a brand’s customer base. Pairing the two, Needle connects real-time queries with fans who then provide support or help customers make the best purchase decisions. Needle sources brand fans through social media, and upon accepting an invitation to become a “Needler,” they offer fans training and management.

Brand enthusiasts initiated into Needle get more than just the joy of talking about their favorite brands. Needlers get to earn points through their designated brand, redeemable for goods by that brand. The arrangement favors brands that now don’t need to maintain or rely upon a tiresome and costly call center.
Why Customers Matter More than Ever
Aside from pointing the way in the future of customer engagement and CRM, Needle emphasizes the greater importance of understanding and connecting with your customers. Customers demand engagement, with recent studies showing that over 60% of consumers expect brands to engage socially. That means a real person, a real answer in a social context and not a dull dried out sales rep. Customers expect brands to engage them in the watering holes they frequent – social media – rather than requiring customers to reach out as directed by the brand.

Customers call the shots, and for better or worse they now possess strong clout in a brand’s fan base. It’s not about the customer always being right; that tired old statement can kick its feet up. The 21st century customer expects information and engagement. With the advent of brands and the direction of marketing transforming a brand into a persona of its own, the 21st century customer has (for better or worse) fallen into the cult of the brand. And people are noticing.

Consider the changes Klout made only this year. Making room for the development of brand pages, Klout also made it a point to showcase a brand’s top set of influencers. The information is not only incredibly valuable to brands, who are now reaching out to set up brand ambassadors, but it also allows facilitated transparent exchanges between customers, fans and top influencers.

Stalemate opinions are rare; instead, brands find customers either for or against a brand. With social media and the web being what it is, customers are able to securely and easily express their contempt or enthusiasm for any given business. Any customer can blast your brand across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube – or more significantly, across Yelp. More adamant customers can ping off a brand’s domain by setting up similar ones as digital testaments of their pleasure or dissatisfaction; however, these extreme measures are usually only taken up by disgruntled customers.

The point is that customers can no longer be ignored. The voice of the customer is as important as ever, shadowed only by the voice of an enthusiastic and devout fan.

Posted in Tips & Resources, Social Media, Online Branding, Growing Your Business

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