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  Post #1 (permalink)   03-20-2010, 08:10 PM
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We are considering creating a forum for our users that would also serve as an additional method of support (users sharing solutions with other users).

Is this something anyone else currently has or tried? Was/is it beneficial to your customers?

Also, which forum software would you suggest? I think we'll probably use PHPBB or vBulletin.
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  Post #2 (permalink)   03-20-2010, 09:41 PM
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There's a lot of benefit to it as it can relieve the stress load on your employees by having a general comunity answering forum postings. There are a number of rather large hosting companies that do this.

The downside is that if you have an inactive forum, people tend not to bother posting at all. It's also an easy avenue for other hosting companies to try and poach your customer base.

Also, having a public forum gives your users the oportuntiy to speak their mind about your hosting company (good and bad), and if their site isn't working, you'll quickly find postings about it. This can lead to negative advertising directly on your own site.

So there's good and bad with it. We use a public forum and haven't had any issues with it, but then again, our forums are rarely used also!

As for PHPBB versus vBulletin, there's an active thread currently asking that same question.
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  Post #3 (permalink)   03-20-2010, 10:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by handsonhosting View Post
There's a lot of benefit to it as it can relieve the stress load on your employees by having a general comunity answering forum postings. There are a number of rather large hosting companies that do this.

The downside is that if you have an inactive forum, people tend not to bother posting at all. It's also an easy avenue for other hosting companies to try and poach your customer base.

Also, having a public forum gives your users the oportuntiy to speak their mind about your hosting company (good and bad), and if their site isn't working, you'll quickly find postings about it. This can lead to negative advertising directly on your own site.

So there's good and bad with it. We use a public forum and haven't had any issues with it, but then again, our forums are rarely used also!

As for PHPBB versus vBulletin, there's an active thread currently asking that same question.
Hmm. Is it worth implementing a forum if your customers rarely use it?
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  Post #4 (permalink)   03-21-2010, 07:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plexihost View Post
Hmm. Is it worth implementing a forum if your customers rarely use it?
In such case, no..
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  Post #5 (permalink)   03-21-2010, 09:19 AM
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I use public forums, though they aren't used much. I find it a great way to get feedback from people. Always seems to help a little on search engines.
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  Post #6 (permalink)   03-22-2010, 11:23 AM
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In most cases, NO. It's not worth implementing it. However since wehave a number of posts already in the forums over the past few years, the forum is ranked well in Google. It also allows us to post our newsletters and system information in the forum for our clients (who check it, but rarely post).

So it's a great informational outlet, but just not used by many of our clients. Again, having a public outlet means that other visitors to the site can see that there's nothing to hide and we are a transparent company when it comes to issues/events. This is important.
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  Post #7 (permalink)   03-22-2010, 01:02 PM
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I'd say if you don't get traffic on the forum then it is a detriment. Unless you have a way to generate traffic/posts I would look into other methods of support.
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  Post #8 (permalink)   03-22-2010, 09:00 PM
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Do not operate a forum that isn't being trafficked. People see 0 to single digit posts and assume that you're too small of a company and then you hurt both existing customers and prospects.

As others have said, support forums can really antagonize your users against your company as well (although usually for good reason). You want to be able to handle errors privately and gracefully rather than turning the issue into a public firestorm.
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  Post #9 (permalink)   03-23-2010, 05:14 PM
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I'll recommend you vBulletin. It is amazing, really.

About creating a forum, I don't know what to say. There are few people who really love speding time on them, so it might help. If you have a big amount a customers why not. You can also try to ask them, make a survey or something.
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  Post #10 (permalink)   03-29-2010, 01:48 PM
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I'd agree that it really depends on your customer base. If you have a few long-term customers who are willing to moderate the forum, it can work well. It's great to have a knowledge-base for troubleshooting, etc., but yeah, making your support infrastructure public can lead to big problems. Maintaining a positive company image gets really difficult when one disgruntled customer who got shut off for neglecting to pay his bill, starts talking. But if you have a positive base-- a solid, satisfied crowd-- the company name will be defended and it will lend your organization an air of transparency and open-ness.

Forums are also great for improving your SEO. Consistently updated content looks great to search engines.

So yeah, pluses and minuses, as I see it.
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  Post #11 (permalink)   03-29-2010, 02:52 PM
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Of course there's good and bad to maintaining a forum. Lots of great points made here. Getting traffic to your forum won't happen overnight though. It will take some time and commitment. I like what Conor said about forums adding transparency - having nothing to hide.
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  Post #12 (permalink)   03-29-2010, 10:54 PM
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It all depends on what type of customers you have, Sometimes a customer is too lazy to just take a min out and sign up and post a thread or unlike others that might stay and just post on the forum for fun and help out others. Also there are some good and bad things of maintaining a forum. Lots and lots of great points a made here.
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  Post #13 (permalink)   03-30-2010, 08:58 AM
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Thanks everyone for your ideas and suggestions. I'm still on the fence and no sure about whether or not we'll implement a support forum.

I think the suggestion to ask our customers (a poll of sorts) would probably be a good idea.

Thanks again everyone!
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  Post #14 (permalink)   03-30-2010, 10:47 AM
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Well, if you have lot's clients who want to talk with your support team and things like that.. then I guess a forum would be nice, but if you have quiet clients then your forum will be empty and then your company wouldn't look really attractive.. I don't know why but it is so..
 
 
 


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  Post #15 (permalink)   03-30-2010, 11:31 AM
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Look, Do it if you have a lot of clients, Create the forum configure it when its all done and ready for posting send out a email too all clients tell them about it, Have them sign up if it gets active and all then keep it if not, Then its a waist of time.
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