What’s Missing from the Web 2.0 ROI Story
In 2007 and 2008, companies made huge investments in Web 2.0 technology for online communities. Some were savvy, innovative early adopters, but many jumped on a bandwagon they didn’t quite understand yet. The situation mirrors the CRM mania of the late 90s and early 00s, when companies had an edict from above to implement CRM, so they did. Then a couple of years later they were left asking, “So what was the business value of this huge project?”
I think that is what 2009 is going to be for the service industry: a lot of Web 2.0 hangovers, and a renewed push to monetize the investments they’ve already made.
I’m gearing up on this topic to publish some research in 2009 on the best practice metrics and ROI story for communities, and I’ve run into a functional gap in Web 2.0 solutions that prevents some huge potential ROI: bridging internal and external communities. Here is a an example scenario:
Customer calls tech support with a system error. The tech support engineer (TSE) does an enterprise search and finds a discussion thread in the customer forum about the same problem. In the discussion thread, a customer ‘expert,’ a PS employee, and a development employee all collaborated and solved the problem. Using IP presence awareness, the TSE can see that the customer expert, PS and development people are all online, so he invites them all into a real-time collaboration with the customer. With all the experts in one desktop sharing/web chat session, the problem is resolved in minutes.
The stumbling blocks here are in two areas: Internal vs. external discussion forums, and universal Web chat/collaboration:
- Internal vs. external discussion forums. The leading providers of customer community platforms are currently not interested in launching internal communities. And I can understand that–if your revenue model is based on page views, you want the largest possible communities, and internal communites (of employees) do not have nearly the size/page view potential of a consumer/customer community.
- Web collaboration. In their most recent release, Cisco WebEx included an incredible step forward in desktop sharing and web collaboration: using IP, they can see which users are online/available from a list of users or experts and invite them into a real-time chat/collab. The real kicker is that the chat is universal–WebEx supports the collaboration with the user’s choice of chat tools (AIM, Yahoo, whatever). Unfortunately, these capabilities are not available with any community platform (at least not any I’m aware of).
The current ROI for story for communities is centered on deflecting live agent interactions. I’m certainly a fan of this, and hope companies continue to embrace this emerging self-service channel. But we also need to look at how Web 2.0 can be leveraged to cut resolution time on complex problems by engaging experts from internal AND external communities in real time. For enterprise hardware and software support, this model could deliver incredible cost savings, as well as have a major impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty. I don’t think anyone will offer a ‘soup to nuts’ solution for a while yet, but I sincerely hope to see, at the very least, some strategic partnerships that could enable this vision technically.
For service management creating a Web 2.0 vision, keep in mind that you aren’t just creating ‘customer communities,’ you are creating ‘communities of interest’ for your products, and that community should contain customers, employees, former customers, industry experts, maybe even us annoying analysts. Perhaps everyone doesn’t have the same access rights, but we all have a voice and can make meaningful contributions. And, when you introduce web collaboration capabilities, think how much larger your pool of potential experts will be!
What do you think? What internal processes/training need to change to enable this more collaborative approach to support? Is anyone seeing examples of this happening already? If you have any thoughts, please add a comment or shoot me an email. And as always, thanks for reading!