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What's NEXT for Customer Service? Peer-Driven Support

Where do we look when we seek help or advice? We could search the web, maybe seek out an expert, but more often than not we look to our peers for help. What do you think? How would you handle this? Have you done this before? The power of peer support is so strong and rooted in our nature that I strongly believe that this could be the evolution of the next great and powerful channel for customer service. We seek out our peers because they are like us. They have no hidden agenda, no personal stake in the situation, and we feel they will be open and honest when providing their help, direction, and feedback. We do it because they understand what we are going through and generally their empathy is heartfelt and comforting.

So how do we harness the power of peer support in our industries. We all have customer advocates. Customers who feel strongly about our brand, not only the product or service, but in the company behind it. It’s our job create, find, and foster those relationships and use our advocates to help us serve our customers. Not because we want them to, but because it’s what they want to do. Our Penn Foster student community is the perfect example of bringing our customers/students together and allowing them create a virtual network of friends and colleagues who are there whenever you need them. Most customers will engage in this because they care about their peers and again have a strong tie and desire to promote the things they love and believe in. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t acknowledge them and thank them for not only their loyalty but for so much more. Here are just a few ways to drive peer support and engagement:

1. Recognition –Make sure to acknowledge your customers behavior. They are as important as employees so pat them on the back and say thank you, well done….

2. Gamification – Provide badges, social status upgrades, and point systems to drive other customers/students towards those who are willing to help….

3. Swag – Let them rep your brand. Provide your advocates with branded merchandise and make them love you more….

There is no question that this does not remove the need for employees, it simply changes what they do for you. A peer driven service model shifts the internal employees focus towards more of a quality assurance role. They should be browsing your communities and social pages, safeguarding against information that may be incorrect and/or not truly aligned with company policy or procedure and interjecting when appropriate. It also gives them the opportunity to lifeguard for students/customers who are truly in need of a one to one interaction, as reaching out to a customer in need is so much more powerful than waiting for them to reach out to you. Allowing your employees this freedom also provides them with the opportunity to identify patterns of questions or concerns and curate the necessary content which will allow for future self-service opportunities (ie: a customer knowledgebase). Instituting a service model focused on peer support is a great way to re-energize and engage your employees in a way in which they are not often challenged. It keeps their day fresh and allows them to feel as if they are a larger part of what your organization is striving towards by helping to proactively find your companies pain points and create resolutions before many of your customers even realize they need them.

Peer support; creating more satisfied customers, improving brand loyalty, and improving employee engagement……sounds like a win, win, win to me.

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