Friday, July 18, 2008

Rule 1 for Community Engagement: Responsiveness

I stood in line at Apple last week for over 5 hours to get a new G3 iPhone. Apparently lots of people stood in line as Apple somehow managed to sell over a million iPhones in the first weekend.

How they sold a million phones I'm not exactly sure. By the time I got to the front of the line at around 10:30p Eastern I would say that 80% of the customers were walking away empty handed. The transactions were failing at the point where Apple connected to the AT&T database. Apple was doing their best to provide service to their customers at 10:30 on a Friday night. Their partner, the entity that could have sent most of the customers home fat and happy was not. AT&T customer support was closed. They were still working industrial era "office hours". Not only were they closed on Friday night, they were closed for the entire weekend. A dramatic example of two partners with very different DNA.

I've been thinking about this a lot. Somewhere I heard, and I wish I could remember where, that the average time for a person to get their first response via Yahoo Answers in Korea is 45 seconds. That's a remarkable response time when you realize that the answer is most likely being typed on a mobile phone. Now, that answer is most probably crap, but the point remains-- in this new world people have an expectation of an almost instantaneous response. If you aren't prepared to offer instantaneous service then you shouldn't attempt to offer the service at all as you are most likely going to disappoint.

The first rule of community engagement: You have to respond. A real person has to respond, and you need to do it lightning fast. Anything less and you've disappointed. It's okay if you respond and say, "We hear you, and we're working on it." But it's not okay to answer with dead silence, or to say "Well get back to you first thing Monday morning. Have a nice weekend." Burst beats busyness.

PHOTO: @zobskiwicz celebrates when he makes it to the front of the line.

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