Virtual communities not only allow customers to share ideas and help each other, but also provide new venues for vendors to manage customer relationships. Two studies are presented showing how two companies, one in the software industry and one in the airline industry, have successfully enhanced their relationship with customers by strategically participating in virtual communities. Both companies have gained benefits in the forms of customer loyalty, increased customer satisfaction, and less support calls. Our research suggests that companies designate employees to spend a few hours each week to monitor relevant virtual communities. This enables the company to develop an intimate yet informal relationship with customers. Lessons learned from this type of informal support are: the vendor employees need to clearly identify their positions, the support should be unofficial, and the community should not be used as another marketing channel.
Merin, Yitshak and Wang, Wenli, "The Benefits of Unexpected Informal Customer Support from Vendors in Online Communities" (2008). AMCIS 2008 Proceedings. 141.