At this year’s EmpowerCX Europe, Geoffrey Boulakia, Managing Director EMEA for TSC, Sitel Group’s digital experts, took the audience on a step-by-step journey into the world of online branded communities, highlighting the benefits they can bring to any company focused on getting closer to their customers and making a more transparent connection.
Today, everyone has the tools at their fingertips to immediately analyze any claim an individual or organization makes and see if it stands up to scrutiny.
It’s why, even for something as seemingly straightforward as making a purchase, on average a consumer will search 10 online reviews before doing business with a company for the first time (BrightLocal). And it’s also why businesses have to start to rethink how they engage and communicate with their customers and their potential customers with an emphasis on transparency and inclusion.
“We have entered a trust economy. An economy where businesses have to use ecosystems to create trust and extend their influence,” begins Boulakia. “But to do so is a huge challenge.”
It’s a challenge because organizations need to demonstrate they respect their customers’ data privacy, that they’re transparent in how they operate and that they don’t simply listen to what customers have to say, but play an active role in furthering the conversation. This is why Boulakia believes creating an online brand community is the ideal tool for navigating the trust economy.
“A community’s bedrock is trust,” Boulakia points out. “A well-run community lets you build and enhance trust by building new types of relationships with your customers. What’s more, your community already exists across different channels for different people. The conversation about your brand is happening with or without you.”
However, creating a community doesn’t happen overnight. You need to be clear as to what specific purpose it will serve or promise it will make – for example, will it exist to help your customers help themselves with product and service issues, or will it be an aspirational community that inspires people with ideas and how-to content? You also need to decide where within the customer journey the community will sit and what type of return on investment it will deliver.
“Is the goal to give more transparency; to boost branding; gather greater consumer insights; deflect low-value calls to the contact center; prove you’re cool? They’re all possible,” explains Boulakia. “But you need to know before you build and launch and then you have to articulate that promise to its users.”
Obviously, Sitel’s digital experts can guide a company through each of the steps needed to go to market with the right type of community and the right KPIs in place, but companies also need to keep in mind that even with everything perfectly in place a community is not a quick fix.
“It’s a marathon not a sprint,” warns Boulakia. “Too many companies make the mistake of thinking they’ll get results overnight and so pull the plug after the initial six months. You need patience. It can take up to three years before you can experience a community’s maximum benefits.”
However, there is one way to accelerate the community’s rate of development and to really test its performance, and that’s to initially launch as an internal community with your employees as its members. They can post content and media relative to your brand and reflective of their understanding of the company. If the goal of the community is to offer help and support to customers, then working closely with your customer experience team and in particular contact center agents will generate the FAQs, tips, tricks and quick fixes that are most often requested.
Then, once the community has developed sufficiently it can be opened up to the public and the conversation can begin.