The ROI of online communities: A well-managed online self-help community can reduce pressure on your contact center, build your brand image, cut R&D time for new products and services, boost customer care – all while saving money, too.

An online community unites your brand’s biggest fans by harnessing their knowledge to provide constant feedback on your products and to help existing and potential customers with their questions. As it grows it becomes a business gift that keeps on giving and one whose ROI is only going to increase in time.

Gift No. 1 contact deflection

An online community could permanently eradicate certain types of calls to your contact center, but it won’t happen overnight. You need to have clear understanding of current call drivers, taxonomy and volumes and be able to overlay that data on your community.

With call drivers and customer-generated answers identified, you will make it simple for people who would otherwise reach for the phone to discover that content. Think of it as part of the customer journey and take comfort from the fact that it’s one most are prepared to go on, if the answer’s at the end.

With everything in place it’s time to start tracking the changes, beginning with the number of new threads published on the community. Each one is a new question asked that could have been asked of a contact center agent instead or result in a solution can be counted as a call deflected.

Each interaction that resulted in escalation to another digital (and therefore cheaper) channel can be counted as a 50 percent deflection. And finally, the number of times a solution has been viewed or tagged as useful by a user should also add towards your call deflection count.

Gift No. 2: improved CSAT and NPS

By successfully deflecting calls, you could also be successfully building your brand in your customers’ eyes. 

If your community is easy to navigate and is active in terms of content posted by in-house teams as well as community members, and if moderators ensure the tone across the various forums is friendly and inclusive and crucially, contributors are recognized and rewarded, community can boost customer satisfaction and brand perception, even when its members have been unable to solve a visitor’s particular problem.

Measuring customer satisfaction

If your community meets these criteria, it’s time to start requesting customer feedback. The easiest way to monitor CSAT and NPS is with a survey, but, if you’re too eager to track these metrics, you could accidently force them downwards. Therefore we recommend sending a community user a survey immediately after his or her first community experience and then follow up once every six-to-12 months in order to identify and track trends.

Once they’re part of the community, other than the biannual survey, you should reach out after a direct interaction – if they are directly asking the community for help – as this is a moment when they’re invested in an outcome and therefore they’re most likely to want to help you improve the service.

Gift #3: Realizing revenue

Forrester research into the business impact of well-run communities found that 59 percent of businesses with a community believe that customers reference community-generated content when making purchasing decisions and that of that group, 77 percent agree this content accelerates buying decisions.

But as well as boosting sales of existing products, a community can help your company decided what the next product or service should be and even how to promote it to the public.

Power tools company DeWalt has saved $6 million in research costs by engaging its community instead and ESPN’s FANography community has enabled the broadcaster to bring its market research in-house, saving $650,000 in its first year alone.

The gift that keeps on giving

From call deflection to product development, a community offers more potential business uses than a Swiss Army Knife. Therefore it’s no wonder that three-in-four large corporations already have one in place and that smaller companies – particularly fast-growth start-ups – are also realizing the benefits of having a unique way of engaging directly with their customers.

It’s a way of taking your customers with you as your organization develops, of rewarding and recognizing their loyalty, and of bringing a genuinely human and authentic element to your brand. In an era where trust is a valuable of business commodity, a community could be worth its weight in gold, whether used to deliver self-service solutions or canvas for R&D input.

Build it right and a community will do more than simply deliver a return on investment, it will become the business gift that keeps on giving.


Sitel Group