Obsession with social forums is driving business leaders to look more closely for customer value.  Could social forums for the business community be the sweet spot for customer experience?

The impetus for social forums from a business point of view is focusing all of the seller’s organization on the customer.  More importantly, your company’s social forum will provide an ear to the ground to hear potential needs that are afoot.  Customer satisfaction, speed to market, and competition may be these necessary factors in fielding your customers’ questions. This information will yield new features, products and services.

In designing engaging and lively social forums, there is a delicate balance to achieve that right customer experience.  Customer Connections offers a framework where you may begin to review information gaps that reveal new insight. What your company delivers and what your customers are happy to tell you may be the gap between your core product, extended offer (and do you have one), and the total solution.

Surely you understand your core product as it relates to providing the right customer value. Let’s step back a moment to see this extended offer of a total integrated solution. Take for example, Kellog’s Rice Krispies, and the brand’s familiar and lovable characters – Snap, Crackle, and Pop.

I signed up on the RiceKrispies site to collect recipes in a recipe box, play fun games in the playground, and submit a Mom’s Review.  This customer experience is about interaction not only with the brand but fun things to do that engage parents and young children in developing new ideas.  I probably spent more time on the playground than most parents.

How do you design a social forum that inspires customer value and breakthrough ideas? Here are a few questions to ask of your team designing a social forum. Some questions may be tailored to ask of your customers, too.

Do we have customer feedback?

Do we need to showcase customer experiences?

Do we need to give users a forum to provide feedback or ask questions?

Does the forum need to be public or private?

With this last question, I’d like to provide another example of a public user forum at Pitney Bowes. I originally reviewed this customer experience through CMSWire’s recent review of social business communities.  The company’s forum has an easy to read page and collection of moderated topics. The multichannel platform strategy allows the company to nurture customer experience and is designed for people who depend on their equipment the most.

A few more words of wisdom:  be aggressive in reaching this balance goal, think outside the box, and recruit employees and customers on a committee to foster development of the forum.