Linksys Gets Shaken, a Community Is Stirred

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Credit Lithium Technologies' online community-based CRM solution for saving some users' holiday seasons: When an earthquake struck the South Pacific on Christmas Eve 2006 and brought down contact centers for Linksys (a Cisco Systems unit), customers turned to the new online support community for answers. Linksys soon saw the benefit of customers helping customers.

Philip Soffer, Lithium's vice president of product development, says that community-site "super users" provide serious customer service value. Friendly Web surfers--employed neither by Lithium nor Linksys--serve as knowledge sources, answering questions about Linksys products on message boards and forums. "There's this whole world of people who are doing this stuff for free," Soffer says. "If you know how to engage them and make them feel rewarded, everyone wins." Users got continual, live, peer-based support; Linksys improved CRM with an inexpensive solution; and Lithium got named one of Beagle Research's WizKids of 2008, an award given to innovative CRM upstarts.

The support during the Christmas crunch was as real as any hard-number ROI. And, thanks to the community response, Linksys could discontinue email support. The site now has about 100,000 registered users and more than 7 million views a month, according to Beagle.

Soffer says the two most important aspects of successful communities are generating traffic and rewarding users. Recognizing contributions and "super user" status are often all it takes to make users happy and keep the posts coming. "It's really interesting to see what these people will do," Soffer says. "Some of these people are saving customers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year."

--Lauren McKay

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