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FICO offers real world example of why social networks might be your next customer service tool

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When it comes to matters of personal finances and credit, people can quite get emotional. So, why on earth would a company like Fair Isaac Corp. (bett...

When it comes to matters of personal finances and credit, people can quite get emotional. So, why on earth would a company like Fair Isaac Corp. (better known as FICO) entrust touchy customer service issues to an online social community? Precisely because these matters ARE so personal, says Barry Paperno, consumer operations manager for the credit risk management and analytics company.

The company counts heavily on the forums hosted on MyFico.com, which feature 10 volunteer moderators at any given time, to help educate consumers about topics such as how to influence their credit scores, automobile financing, student loans and so on. As you might imagine, the traffic is pretty substantial: an average of 15,000 posts is created per month, although that number has leveled off somewhat since the economy took a nose dive, according to Paperno. One moderator has created or responded to more than 20,000 posts.

The forums, which are hosted on a platform from software company Lithium, were created specifically to handle questions related to credit scoring. FICO had figured that approximately 12 percent of the company's customer service calls -- about particularly touchy issues such as damaged credit -- take up 80 percent of service personnel's time. The forums, which were introduced slightly more than two years ago, have done a great job of helping pick up the slack and helping ameliorate some of these issues without a phone call.

"The average posts is replied to within six minutes," Paperno says. What's more, the answer is generally from a non-FICO employee who can more easily put themselves in the shoes of the questioner, which saves the company money.

Another reason to look at social networking as a customer service aid: Paperno says that active MyFico.com users tend to buy more than other customers.

Of course, one case study does not a trend make. Which is why I'll direct you to the post published earlier today by my fellow blogger, Joe McKendrick, about the ROI associated with online customer service communities. FICO is actually one of the case studies used as the basis of the Forrester report he discusses: "The ROI of Online Customer Service Communities."

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure