Supplier involvement in forums

  silverous 13:44 08 Feb 2008

Discussion on another thread prompted some debate on the topic of Suppliers having a presence in forums. I'm interested to know people's thoughts on this, with reference to this forum and elsewhere.

I'm trying to word this so as not to either get shot down for appearing to be critical (as I have nothing I wish to criticise) and also so that we don't get a barrage of references to one supplier or another as that isn't often healthy either.

My first thought is that Suppliers directly engaging with customers, existing customers in particular but new customers also, via this mechanism can only be a good thing for customers - if it yields results for them?

I know on other forums, perhaps with fewer suppliers in the field, you might find dedicated sub-forums for individual suppliers - I don't see that working here, but what a great mechanism to share questions, experiences etc. with others and see how a supplier responds to customers.

Where I can see this falling down is if suppliers begin to engage in "advice" questions - e.g. someone says "Which laptop should I buy" and a supplier says "We've got a great one, click here". The advice is then not impartial and it becomes a form of advertising. Forums often have rules against that (this one may do, in fact I'm sure it does).

If a supplier is very knowledgeable and is contributing to the solution to a problem without reference to their products or any kind of sale angle then I cannot see anything wrong with that, in fact quite the opposite, what a great contribution suppliers could make.

Can any supplier come along and contribute under their name, or do they need to liase and agree terms with PCAdvisor before doing so?

Please don't turn this into a supplier-bash as it isn't intended at all to be that, in fact the least specific we can be about any supplier the better - this is a general debate on the concepts not individual companies.

  silverous 13:46 08 Feb 2008

Oh, and please don't think I'm being naive - I know that companies exist to make returns, but thankfully good customer service (which a forum presence contributes towards) is a contributor towards profits (repeat business, recommendations etc.) and so I don't see them as being mutually exclusive.

  dagbladet 14:07 08 Feb 2008

It's not uncommon when in response to a consumer problem aired on these forums, a member of staff from that company comes on and says "give me your details and I'll sort it out". My initial reaction is "good, well done", but then I can't help thinking, why when the customer has emailed the company several times on it's own support page could this not have been resolved.

  silverous 14:19 08 Feb 2008

dagbladet - I'm with you on that. A private email is not high profile, but a public request for help is. It is often human nature, in the same way that sometimes when you get a consumer problem raised in newspapers suddenly the CEO is arranging for boxes of chocolates to be sent out and problems to be promptly resolved. Organisations, particularly large ones, have a potential to passing problems around departments and areas and sometimes you just need one individual to take ownership and get it resolved, an individual assigned to a forum can potentially do that.

  HondaMan 14:20 08 Feb 2008

ributes towards.....

  Stuartli 14:20 08 Feb 2008

There used to be a number of companies who maintained a presence in the forums to help with problems relating to forum members' purchases or queries.

  silverous 14:25 08 Feb 2008

I think so, but do say why you don't if you disagree - otherwise it will be a short debate!

  Totally-braindead 14:58 08 Feb 2008

If a supplier does engage with customers in the Forum I think its a good thing, it makes me think that at least they are trying to help their customers. Only problem I do have with it is that you only get one side of the story but theres no way round that unless you want to create a war zone.

I have no idea what the rules are regarding companies but I'm sure that blatant advertising is not allowed.

  harps1h 19:41 08 Feb 2008

it is not and there have been ocassions when the FE has pulled posts when it has been attempted. however this thread has stemmed from a comment made by a forum member with regards to cougar extreme. personally i think any forum presence by suppliers is to be acknowledged positively. some of the suppliers try to close the door when the horse has bolted; others look at it more positively and if someone is looking advice and personally mentions the supplier and their prospective specs from said supplier, i would have the opinion they are entitled to advise if they are making a mistake. in that instance they cannot be construed as touting for business. if more of the companys who are out there adopted a more customer centric approach to business, there is a better than even chance of their business expanding. if you set aside companys that use mass amrketing to cover up the cracks safe in the knowledge the marketing dept has pulled in more business than those disgruntled customers leaving, then companys such as cougar use customer service as an additional marketing tool. i know that as a web user which companys i would avoid and cougar is not one of them. anytime i have seen their threads on this forum they are informative not marketing.
if more companys employed these type of tactics this forum would have a lot less threads

  Forum Editor 22:21 08 Feb 2008

it an advantage to have suppliers here, in the forum, so they can address any specific problems related to their products. Any supplier who decides to join us usually gets an email from me at some point, pointing out that we prefer them to stick to specifics, rather than being tempted to push a commercial message. It usually works pretty well, and over the years we've had many suppliers making contributions.

Unfortunately most of them have fallen by the wayside after an initial display of interest - either because they lose the will to stay the course, or their companies cease to exist. That's happened on several occasions. There have been one or two notable exceptions, but most companies tend to drift away after a while.

It's a pity, because a regular presence here is an ideal opportunity for suppliers to enhance their reputation for customer service - it does no harm to be seen responding positively to complaints.

We'll continue to welcome direct forum contact with suppliers, but the ball is very much in their court - if they choose not to join us there's little we can do about it.

  Cougar Extreme 22:55 08 Feb 2008

This is firstly not intended to offend anyone but more so to add an opinion or insight into why a company may intervene in a thread to offer advice.

In a previous thread regarding our company a nice lady purchased a base unit from us to replace an out dated computer that had given up the ghost. On connecting her computer up to her monitor she received a NO SIGNAL INPUT on screen and didn’t know what to do next, she posted a new thread on the PC advisor website requesting help rather than ringing our customer service for advice.

Another member posted a response stating :-

Two options, depending on whether opening the case will void the warranty.

[1] Use your consumer rights to chuck it back at them.
[2] Delve in and see if the graphics card is still properly seated after transit. Check all connections inside and out.

In a situation such as these we would intervene to assist or explain that opening our cases up to check something out does not void our warranty, or to explain that we can have the unit picked up the following day should she want it to have it repaired or replaced free of charge, thus alleviating her from panicking about an internet purchase.

Later on in the thread she mentions how she rang our company and was assisted in plugging her monitor into the correct graphics port bringing the monitor to life.

In this particular case only the knowledge of our products could have helped her realise that the fault was not with the computer but the monitor being plugged into the incorrect port. The first recourse when a problem occurs should be to contact the vendor via the telephone as witnessed in this case because the fault was diagnosed immediately without having to open up the computer and the customer left happy to play with her new computer.

I personally believe that being able to help out in situations such as this is a good thing and should be encouraged as long as assistance is kept to that companies products only, and no active up selling is attempted.

The Cougar Gang.

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

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