Customer Help Thyself
A few days ago Google launched Knol (units of knowledge), where experts from different fields will be invited to write on specific subjects. There have been varying kinds of reactions to the effort. From Wikipedia killer, to copy cat. Read Seth Godin post on the subject.
Google’s aim, as always is lofty. “There are millions of people who possess useful knowledge that they would love to share, and there are billions of people who can benefit from it. We believe that many do not share that knowledge today simply because it is not easy enough to do that. The challenge posed to us by Larry, Sergey and Eric was to find a way to help people share their knowledge” writes Uli Manber Google’s VP of engineering.
Wish CEOs and brand managers are listening. There is a lot of useful knowledge that people possess about brands and products, but very few companies are actually using this knowledge to help customers solve their problems.
One of the biggest problems/opportunities of the networked age is that ordinary people often know as much or more about the company and its products as do these companies. Yet very few companies, specially companies that were set up in the pre-networked era have actively harnessed this knowledge.
Technology companies are probably leading this revolution, but why can’t financial institutions, white goods manufacturers, well, just about any company use the power of knowledge that resides with consumers, former employees and ordinary people for their own good?
Many of us look up search engines and forums trying to find little things – local telephone number of the company that can help service the washing machine, for instance. Sometimes the service centre has moved on and the listed numbers are old or outdated. Imagine setting up a knol, even a mini wikipedia where people who have used a service can become willing participants in knowledge sharing? Once consumers see such services they will start using them willy-nilly, to soon build up critical mass. If we were to let go of short-term thinking, company managed wikis could become the perfect place to spread word of mouth about the brand and its products. Enable a few web 2.0 tools and soon a fertile, ever updated repository of valuable knowledge, will help companies and brands rank high up in search listing.
Interesting links. Usenet. The original help desk, set up in the late 70s. About.com one of the earliest attempts to set up a network of experts, today About results are among the first ones to show up on Google. Yahoo Answers, one of the more successful services from Yahoo. Seth Godin’s Squidoo, because everyone is an expert on something. Wired wiki. a journalist experiments with crowdsourcing. Suggestions on My Yahoo is powered by a Digg rating engine, wow!
Update: Services like GetSatisfaction (people powered customer service) and GetHuman (a people created service that helps others reach human service executives on phone based IVRs) will force companies to set up similar services.