Lessons from iBurst’s blog

MyBroadband carried a post about a new blog set up by iBurst recently. The purpose of the iBurst blog, titled "Blog" is, ostensibly, to provide iBurst users with a forum to raise concerns and issues that they face when using the iBurst service. A problem arose when the blog received over 120 comments comprising a number of complaints and a couple spam comments and the blogger behind the blog, iBursts "head of customer service" Ed Hall, seemed to stop responding to the comments or remaining active on the blog (which still has only one post). This was a mistake. The idea with a blog is to engage in an ongoing conversation. The fact that so many people commented on the blog is a testament to the fact that iBurst users want to engage in a conversation with the company.

Another mistake was to delete the first batch of 127 or so comments. My understanding is that these comments were deleted wholesale without much of an effort to really deal with all the issues. Since that deletion, another 114 comments have been made and this time, Ed has been pretty active. He has been responding to a number of the comments and has embraced the idea of a market as a conversation. What is still a concern is that other members of the company, behind the scenes, don’t seem to share his interest in really engaging iBurst’s customers. If you want to have a truly effective blog, it has to be the expression of your whole company’s drive to really get into the trenches and talk to customers honestly and frankly. It doesn’t help if customers have the following experience (taken from the iBurst blog comments):

General Issues
Roger | Tuesday, November 28, 2006 | 16:52
Right, so I send Ed an e-mail today about my account, only to receive a VERY snotty call after 4:30pm from the accounts section saying my details are wrong on their system and insinuating it is my fault, yet some payments went through, and after each payment which did NOT go through I contacted the accounts section and NOTHING was done. Plus the outstanding amount is not divisable by my monthly payment!!! Seems the accounts department is still just as pathetic as ever!

Good customer service is a must whether it is from your sales people or your accounting people. Everyone must be in on the deal otherwise your blog will come across as a sham and that just destroys your credibility.

I took a look at the comments again and noticed that many of the comments were support related issues that apparently had Ed running to and from his support people for answers. That is really brave of him and must take up a huge amount of time. My suggestion is that Ed’s support guys get involved in responding directly to customers rather than having Ed as a go between. It also seems to me that a blog may not be the best platform for these support issues and that iBurst should run a forum for strictly support related queries and responses manned by iBurst support staff and Ed should refocus his blog on iBurst itself and consider himself as an iBurst evangelist. If I were in his position, I would blog about the company and about the people behind the scenes and really share what makes iBurst unique and a service that people would want to use.

As far as the blog itself is concerned, I really suggest that Ed publish feeds for his blogs so people can subscribe to the blog and receive updates without having to visit the blog itself and wade through tons of comments. Ideally, there should be feeds for entries and comments (WordPress does this).

I sent Ed an email with a couple suggestions and it really looks like he is working hard to use this relatively new medium the way it was meant to be used. iBurst has been criticised because of some of the mistakes it has made. I think it should be praised for making the effort. Corporate blogging is still a pretty new thing here in South Africa and requires a paradigm shift to make it work properly. That often isn’t easy and as users and customers we should support companies that venture into this space. At the same time we should point out where they make mistakes and do that constructively.

There are some really good examples of corporate blogs that have done wonders for their companies:

Blogging can be a very simple and effective way to create passionate users.

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Paul
Enthusiast, marketing strategist, writer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid

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