Every business’s customers have something in common: they all use the products or services provided by that business. For example, I bought a bread machine a few years ago. When I lost the recipe book that came with it, I was happy to be able to download a new one from the company’s web site. But Internet groupware opens up new realms of possibility. Other owners of the same model of bread machine have doubtless come up with all sorts of recipes that aren’t in that book. And they’ve also, collectively, learned a lot about how to use and maintain the machine. Why not create a home online for that collective knowledge?
Think of online discussion as a resource. Managed properly, it delivers all sorts of benefits. A Net-savvy consumer, faced with a choice between two otherwise comparable products, will tend to prefer the one that’s supported by a vibrant online community. A Net-savvy company that successfully creates that community can enable customers to support one another, monitor customer satisfaction, solicit feedback on planned improvements, boost its web mindshare, and generate content that helps keep its web site lively.