If you've got a problem and you need an answer fast, maybe it's time you got better acquainted with our buzzing online eForum?

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Got a problem? Who you gonna call? More often than not, Vodafone’s crack customer care squad will be able to sort you out. But there is another avenue to explore for mobile help – our thriving eForum. It’s a place where bugs get fixed, newbies become heroes, and rewards come thick and fast.

In the first of a series of looks behind the virtual help desk, we’ve been talking to the eForum community manager Gareth Cooper about its rise from humble beginnings.

Early beginnings to bigger things

“Back in 2006 we started to see that some customers were posting on external forums,” Gareth tells us. Forums are a great place to get mobile help because you’ll often find yourself talking to an expert on your particular phone, and responses can be almost instantaneous – not to mention the fact that they can provide help with problems that companies like us might not be officially able to comment on.

“We’ve got 190,000 registered users, and on average we get 2,700 more per month.”

And if that’s the case, then it made perfect sense for Vodafone to get in on the action. As Gareth puts it: “We launched a project to go and look at these external sites, saw that customers were posting there, and then it clicked: if we were dealing with customers on external forums, why not just build our own?”

After much planning, the eForum launched in 2008. It’s gone through a few iterations since then, and has grown hugely in number.

“In terms of membership, we’ve got 190,000 registered users, and on average we get 2,700 new registrations per month,” says Gareth. “The beauty of the forum, though, is that you don’t need to be a member to go on, see the information and look to see if there’s already been a fix to your problem. So on top of those members, we get 770,000 unique visitors each month.”

Kudos to you

Everyone likes to feel appreciated; that’s a simple fact of life. Things aren’t any different on the eForum, which is why we have the ‘Kudos’ system. “When we’ve got customers on the eForum who we clearly see are helping others, the Kudos system allows us to reward them – we can thank them by giving them a Kudos point,” says Gareth.

“The good thing about that is that it allows us to thank our most active users,” he adds. “Our moderators watch every post on the forum, and can reward people for good advice, and the customers can do it too.”

Kudos is one of those funny things: it’s not worth anything in the real world, but even so they become a pretty addictive thing to collect. And with the Kudos count in place, the eForum moderators can create a leader board to identify who’s working overtime to solve people’s problems:

“What it’s allowed us to do is put some solid metrics behind who our super users are,” says Gareth. And that’s where the Community experts come in…

Expert advice

Post and help enough, and you’ll make the rank of ‘Community Expert’ – a badge that means you’ll stand out from the pack as a guru in your field. “The person with the most kudos points obviously goes at the top, so it allows us to create almost mini league tables,” says Gareth. “We’ve got about 20 regular posters on the forum, and of those there’s a clear top ten Community Experts.”

“We’ve taken to rewarding by experience.”

Thing is, those jostling for the top spot aren’t just in it for the satisfaction of being the Kudos King; there are actual rewards on offer, too.

“It’s never been monetised,” Gareth says, “but we’ve taken to rewarding by experience.” Typically, that’s meant putting our top Community Experts on the exclusive Device Loan Program, where we’ve been able to give them new phones for an extended period of time. “That’s great because some of our Community Experts have gone away and made user-generated content for the eForum such as YouTube video guides,” Gareth adds.

“The great thing about the Kudos system is it allows us to say ‘thank you’.”

Keen to join? Now you know the facts, click here to get stuck into the Vodafone eForum. Over the next few weeks we’ll be interviewing some of the eForum’s most notable Community Experts, bringing you their stories, insider tips and most notable forum moments along the way. So keep it locked to Vodafone Social.