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Giffgaff entered the already crowded mobile market in June, but the O2-owned virtual network operator’s unique selling point rests on its community model, which operates as the company’s main customer service function.
Giffgaff head of member experience Robbie Hearn describes the set-up as “crowdsourcing customer service”, delivering the company savings, which it then passes on to its customers. “The community is at the heart of the business,” he says. “The majority of questions customers ask are answered within the community by members within five minutes. And if the answer they give isn’t correct it will get corrected by someone else in the community, or people will come back and say whether a tip they got worked or not.”
Technical or account-based queries are handled separately, Hearn adds: “Any network issues will be updated regularly by Giffgaff staff through the community and personal account queries are dealt with by the in-house team for privacy reasons.”
The other purpose of Giffgaff’s community is to generate ideas for how the business should be run and what new products should be developed. “Over 400 ideas have been submitted and we tell the community which ones we will go ahead with and which ones we won’t and why,” Hearn reveals, adding that Giffgaff’s latest pricing bundles have been designed largely by the community.
The next step for Giffgaff, says Hearn, is integrating the community’s support function with Facebook, which the company is carrying out through technology provider Lithium. “There are some people who would be happy to talk to us on Facebook but wouldn’t be comfortable talking to us in our forum,” Hearn explains.
Increased traffic to a brand’s website and owning the content are some of the other benefits of hosting a community. But, ultimately, the level of engagement achieved by the likes of Giffgaff makes these communities a powerful tool, says Lithium’s vice-president of product marketing Phil Soffer. “A branded community historically has a certain percentage of customers that become deeply engaged and contribute a lot – these become your brand advocates.”