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Dear Online Sales and Service Businesses
The new red flag

 11:58 am on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

There's a new requirement for selling products and providing services on the web:

No support forum? No sale.

Any software or service company on the web today that does not feel confident enough about their product to host a discussion forum, should be considered suspect.

When a concern doesn't have a forum on their site to support their products, we must assume that they have been so flamed by their own users that they can't risk open discussion.

No forum = no sale.


troels nybo nielsen

 12:19 pm on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

Very important point. I completely agree.


 12:22 pm on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

Is this a wind up?



 12:25 pm on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

I agree with the need for a support forum, but:

we must assume that they have been so flamed by their own users that they can't risk open discussion.


  • They are too "web-illiterate" to 'get it'.
  • Their web design team are 'numpties'.
  • It is planned and 'work in progress' but not live yet.

    ....and a load of other similar options.

    However, now is the time for all us web developers to skill-up on support forums.

    Brett, when is BestBBs going on sale?;)

  • amznVibe

     12:36 pm on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

    ahem, because there is no such thing as an instant community... right? ;)

    seriously though, you've got a great point - I bet by the end of 2003 we will either see
    google.com/blogs or google.com/forums (as filters against other content)

    Lately I've noticed that I find most of my support
    information from other users and not directly from
    the people who make the products!


    [edited by: amznVibe at 12:56 pm (utc) on Dec. 29, 2002]


     12:44 pm on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

    I suppose you are referring to only big companies or do you want to say that even smaller ones should have a support forum? I do agree it is important but it does not seem necessary to the point No forum = no sale


     12:58 pm on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

    Brett, Any evidence to support this?

    There are clearly many service sales sites where a forum is clearly not useful. These include sites with a non-forum-savvy audience (older people, people unfomfortable with online discussion and chat, and people who do not visit enough to get "involved".) Also our site provides services which for clients involves highly conficential information. The style is always to build a pesonal relationship with a lead, build a project with them, and gradually provide more info such as costing. Every client is different.
    Those of our staff who work with them are highly experienced and trained. We cannot possibly pay them to respond on public forums for cost effectiveness, possible litigation and knowing how to deal with "stooges" from competitive companies. Been there, done that, and we have stopped a couple of forum type sections after most posters were competitors posting under assumed names. IP and other checks suggested strongly the same people were posting under different id's, and agreeing with each other, sometimes from the anonymizer services.

    To many sites, is is just not worth the investment of all the security measures. All costs together make it prohibitive for small specialist organizations.

    We do not want to provide "trade secrets" for all. We do that for leads who after a while have proved they are genuine. Every client is high up in their organizations. They prefer a personal approach, not the forum style chit chat approach. They see that as more for their sons and daughters.

    Whether you have forums depends very much on the aims of your site. For some consumer goods and services, that sell in bulk, software, hosts, etc, I do get more comfortable if i see a well moderated forum where problems can be aired and solved. But it should never be seen as a general requirement. Does the CIA or FBI have a forum for their customers?

    I understand what you are saying, and agree in the cases of some b-to-c sites, but the scope is far too broad.


     1:09 pm on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

    Brett (and gang)

    I agree with the statement in a rather general way, but in the end, I don't think a forum is the end-all, be-all answer. In fact, I doubt that many shoppers (myself included) even look for a "forum" when looking for support/help/feedback. People look for online manuals, a FAQ, and, most often and for most reasons, an e-mail address or phone number.

    That being said, I believe a forum IS an important part of just about any online venture. It inspires community, can take some of the load off of the customer service department if other visitors take initiative to try to answer a question, or help, and generally makes it all sticky.

    Yup. Forums = Good. Though I do see lots of sites who sell lots of things that don't have a forum.



     1:31 pm on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

    I feel a forum makes sense only for certain categories of products - like a software product.


     2:44 pm on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

    >Is this a wind up?

    Nick, I'll bet you lunch that a certain contact management software company does NOT have a support forum.


     4:24 pm on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

    >wind up

    Scout's honor - completely innocent - it didn't even occur to me. Just a bit of frustration over the following:

    >Brett, Any evidence to support this?

    I purchased $3500 in software the last week. A thousand worth of that was highly recommended by friends and has turned out to be something I won't use and nonrefundable. In a perfect 1-to-1 relationship, those were the only 3 packages that *didn't* have forums.


     9:47 pm on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

    Wow, this goes back to the "Cluetrain Manifesto" (Great Read) which basically says if you fear your market, your market will fear you and go elsewhere.

    Without URL dropping, here it is in its entirety:


    [edited by: lawman at 10:07 pm (utc) on Dec. 29, 2002]


     6:25 am on Dec 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

    Well I will be implementing product manuals for download in pdf format as a nice jesture, but forums, nah. Then you get people typing in someone who is cheaper and taking your business away. Cant be having any of that chit chat going on in a ecommerce site.


     7:39 am on Dec 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

    Cant be having any of that chit chat going on in a ecommerce site.

    Nonsense... and you'd better hope that your primary competitors are just as uninformed.

    According to a Jupiter Media Metrix report cited in this article [newsfactor.com]:

    Users who contribute product reviews or post messages on a site will visit the site nine times more often than noncontributors - and will make purchases nearly twice as often, according to a new report.


     4:07 pm on Dec 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

    >Cant be having any of that chit chat
    >going on in a ecommerce site.

    You HAVE to have that going on your site. Look at all the biggies - they are doing it. From ebay, palm, dell, and even amazon. You have to have support going on in public.

    I'd rather buy from a site that has a forum where users are upset about something, than buy from a site that doesn't allow such discussions.


     4:17 pm on Dec 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

    >Cant be having any of that chit chat
    >going on in a ecommerce site.

    That's what the administrator edit functions are for. If you don't like what somebody says (against your forum's terms of service), delete/edit it. Temper that with even-handedness, though, or your forum will get a reputation for only being a mouthpiece of the management.

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