“Over 60 percent of large U.S. companies already have their own branded community in place. But size is no barrier to building a customer-driven forum,” explains Gordon White, General Manager for TSC Americas, Sitel Group’s digital CX agency. “Smaller companies, especially those that understand the importance of putting the customer at the center of their business, are quickly catching up. Size is no barrier to reaping the benefits that a community can offer.”
Online communities address many core business needs. When organized properly, they are customer-driven forums that evangelize a brand’s positive aspects, provide constant feedback for improving products and services and even offer a self-service alternative to calling a contact center.
No one knows more about your products or services than your customers. An online community is your way of giving them a space to discuss and share their opinions but also to harness their combined knowledge.
“The online community’s understanding is used to help support other customers with a problem or potential customers that need guidance or a respected opinion before deciding to buy,” says White. “For example, community members who have needed to seek out your contact center to resolve an issue usually post about that experience. Thus, the solution is shared within the community so others experiencing the same issue can benefit without having to pick up the phone themselves.”
As your community grows this ability to offer solutions or answers – that would otherwise have required a call to the contact center or the use of another channel – will only grow.
“As a community matures the amount of content grows and diversifies until it becomes a living, breathing user manual, but one written in plain language,” White states. “But best of all, if something important is missing, you can guide the community’s members to create new content, either directly via your moderators and community managers or through other members who will be growing more and more comfortable with asking the community for help.”
As this process continues, the community’s status as a trusted source of knowledge will grow to the point where Googling a query related to an issue or problem with a brand’s product or service will result in a community posted question and answer coming top or near the top of the first page of search results.
“If people are using the community and it continues to grow, as the number of times pieces of content are accessed and verified, i.e., the user upvotes it or marks it as useful, the higher that content will rise in search rankings,” White explains. “The point will arrive when the community posts outperform other sources in terms of SEO. This is a crucial tipping point, most people with a problem will try and solve it with a Google search. If the top result (and therefore the best result) is from your community, then you’re delivering in terms of customer service and customer experience.”
Over time the community will become a powerful tool for call deflection meaning your agents will be free to deal with those matters that really add value to the customer relationship.
“It takes time to reach this point in terms of members and available content,” White points out. “However, unless the community is easy to find via your website or links from other channels, your work will be in vain. Make sure there’s a clear, uncluttered path to the community and be certain that along that path you’re clear about what people can expect when they arrive – what types of problems it can help you with, for example.”
In addition to a friction-free journey to self-help content, a community needs managers and moderators to help members feel wanted and appreciated, to encourage users to generate content on particular topics and to keep the peace.
“All community users need to feel welcome so its tone has to be inviting,” says White. “Moderators and managers play a key role in achieving all of this and it’s more than likely that the ideal candidates for such positions are already working in your organization. Your existing CX professionals understand the business and understand how to engage with your customers. With the right training, they can not only bring your community to life, but ensure that it’s integrated into your other channels.”
Communities are no longer a question of a company’s size or marketing budget. Today they’re a question of strong customer base, well-liked products and services and a motivation to engage further with your brand’s biggest fans.
“The chances are that there is already a discussion happening around your organization in a WhatsApp group or on Facebook,” warns White. “By building a community, you can be part of that discussion, and as the conversation grows you can leverage those insights to improve customer care, refine your products and services and gain a greater understanding of your customer base.”
From establishing online branded communities and training community managers and moderators, to optimizing content for call deflection, TSC helps your brand build a self-help portal that boosts customer engagement and satisfaction and that can help inform every aspect of your business from marketing to product development.