As most of you know, we recently locked up our forums and started a new community discussion space here. A number of you emailed me directly asking for more insight into how we made our decision here at PBwiki. So, rather than send out a mass email, here’s the answer:
The problems with classic forums are well known, particularly in the context of mainstream customer service. The best answers get buried in long conversations, they breed endless duplicate topics, they’re hard to search, they tend to be either under-populated or clubby. They generally aren’t friendly or inviting to casual use. We’re using Satisfaction to harness open conversation without falling into these traps. One example of how we’re doing this so far is the “talk box” at the top of the page-by merging the process of actually asking a question and searching. The result is very few duplicate topics, and more focused engagement around the issues. The pages are designed to be more like blog posts, with each topic creating a focused conversation piece that makes sense even when entered from a Google search. The conversation threads themselves are more personal.
From the standpoint of customer service, traditional forums are too general purpose to be that useful. We’re building tools that support the distinct activities that dominate conversations between our customers and the PBwiki team – questions, problems and ideas. There are outcomes and interactions in these activities that forums just are not suited to support. Satisfaction provides us the ability to mark certain answers as “official responses,” and our community to vote best answers to the top. This has the surprising effect of auto-generating FAQs based on the real interactions with and between our customers.The result is a more trusting, valuable conversation space. The value of this approach for providing a higher level of support will become apparent over time -or so we’re betting.
Feel free to join me (and the rest of the PBwiki Team) here as we talk more about why we made the switch – we’d love to hear any feedback you’ve got for us.