Optus has launched an online community to act as a customer service forum for its customers’ product and service related queries.

My Optus Community’, is, “designed to empower Optus customers to interact online, provide feedback and share experiences,” allowing users to troubleshoot and provide advice for each other.

The move follows the launch of Telstra’s online forum, ‘CrowdSupport’, in July last year. According to Telstra, the forum has attracted 10 million visits since launch, but only 200 members have been active in the past six months, with around 40 of these having made five or more contributions to the forum.

Director of Optus Digital Media, Austin Bryan, says the initiative encourages community members to help each other solve problems while at the same time acting as a source of feedback for the company.

“One of the best ways to measure the satisfaction of our customers is through feedback. With the introduction of a community forum we hope to build rapport with our customers and provide them with more choice and control in how they interact with us,” Bryan says.

The community, which will include a dedicated small and medium business forum, is supported by a team of 13 social media specialists who will moderate and manage the forum.

In the coming months, My Optus Community will also introduce an ideation crowd sourcing capability, allowing customers to submit concepts and ideas for potential products and services.

According to Telstra spokesperson Karina Keisler, the telco’s customer service team use the CrowdSupport forum as well as live chat, Facebook and Twitter to engage with customers when and where they like.

“Around 80% of customer questions are answered by other community members within 24 hours, however if a question has been posted and not answered for a period of time, our 24×7 moderated service team are there to help,” Keisler says.

On negative comments posted on the forum, Telstra’s approach is to remove offensive contributions but not posts that are critical of their products or services.

When Marketing asked whether the introduction of My Optus Community would mean cuts to existing customer service roles, an Optus spokesperson issued the following statement: “Customer service is our primary focus and Optus is committed to providing our customers with a superior experience. My Optus Community will work in tandem with our traditional customer service channels to maintain the high quality service our existing customers have come to expect.”