Went I met Wendy at LiNC 2012, I knew immediately why everyone at Lithium speaks so highly of her. She's very passionate about community and helping customers. Both humble and inspiring, Wendy clearly relates to Lithium's #1 Value: Take Customer Success Personally. Wendy sees the person behind every support issue and is committed to going beyond a solution - she offers understanding. Below is the first of our three part interview series.
Tell us about your role as an HP online community manager?
I am the community manager for the French and German support forums for consumer customer. I work with other regions who manage other language forums.
I also execute and implement social media programs in the EMEA Region, so I actually wear a couple of different hats if you will. One is the community manager hat and the other is social media program manager, implementing a variety of projects for all of EMEA.
In what way has social media changed the way HP does business?
There is a lot of focus on social media - it is hot on everyone's minds. In my opinion, customers have always been talking about the HP brand - maybe about the product they bought, what they wanted to buy or the experience they've had. Now its out in the open but the needs didn't really change. Its an open platform to have an extra opportunity to hear the feedback. For example, we've made some design changes based on customer input. Customers sometimes say, "we really want this product" or "we need a product to give us this type of functionality" or "we think you should come out with a product that is designed like this." In the support organization, we want to make sure customers have a great experience, regardless of how they contact HP. We cannot change the whole world - for example, products that are 5 years old, we might not be able to support. But you can reach out, listen, show compassion - try to help them. There are more ways to help a customers then to just sending them to a repair center. Fixing a product might not be possible - not all the parts exist anymore - that's just a fact. But you can help them find answers to their issues, find a replacement product that does even more of what they need. Customers evolve as well so do their product needs.
What business objective motivated your investment in an online community?
Main objective is to solve problems and help customers get the best experience with HP. That's why I do what I do - I stand for a better experience with HP. I started on the phone as a support agent about 13 years ago and it was a great period of my life. I learned so much about the customer. Its not only about them being "difficult" or asking something from you, but they seriously have an issue to solve. Once, I had deaf person on the phone that I needed to help. Another time, I had a granddad that couldn't print out pictures of his grandchild - there are issues that make you realize that there are humans behind customers and their issues are valid, even if we could think its not that important sometimes. I have managed complaints with customers - it was difficult to handle but I had a moment of truth when I read the book, "A Complaint is a Gift." That is true - customer complaints and their experience is a gift to us because we have a chance to make a difference to them.
For communities, its not a 1:1 objective. But I can help make sure they get answers and solutions by having a great engagement with an expert community. We are harvesting feedback and sharing with internal product engineers, to drive changes there. Customers are influencing the products - that is what I feel passionate about.
Sometimes, the forums are the go-to destination when you've already had an experience with HP. Maybe the customer is out of out of warranty or they've had a call with HP support already. Its just a fact that there are millions software and peripherals combinations, hardware can be out of date and unsupported - there are boundaries to the level of phone support that HP can give. If you're the customer and are referred to a community, you might not be feeling so great about HP because the fact is that the original contact or previous experience didn't help. On the forum, there are a lot of other variables - even if we can't solve every problem, HP wants to understand every problem. Our French and German communities are very young and it takes a lot of time to harvest conversations, grow the expert community and building trust with experts. Its a constant challenge. In the end, the goal is to make sure the community is a place to go for everybody, no matter where they are in the customer life cycle. The vision is for all customers to get what they need.
Erin Korogodsky is Lithium's social media quarterback. Obsessed with social media, Erin has worked with Lithium clients to monitor their brands and brainstorm social strategy, with a focus on enlisting and engaging passionate fans. She is a frequent blogger on the Lithosphere (as ErinKoro) and you can follow her on twitter at @erinkoro and one of the team on @LithiumTech.