How An Online Community Can Improve Your Customer Care
Thanks to the buzz around companies like Airbnb and their sharing economy approach to doing business, there is renewed talk of online communities and how these customer-driven platforms evangelize a brand’s positive aspects and provide constant feedback for improving products and services.
However, an online community is not unique to this new business breed. What’s more, their benefits aren’t confined to marketing. A peer-to-peer community boosts customer satisfaction, deflects easy calls and empowers your customers.
It’s why a host of successful companies with a digital presence have been reaping the customer care rewards of having a dedicated online platform for years and why there’s nothing to stop your business from benefiting too; whether you’re a startup or stalwart.
POWER TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
No one knows more about your products or services – past and present – than your customers. As such theyre a hugely valuable resource. An online community is your way of harnessing all of that combined knowledge and using it to deliver tailored help, support, and guidance to anyone with virtually any question or problem relating to your wares. Of course, a traditional FAQ section is still helpful but offering a one-size-fits-all list of questions and answers as the only way of helping your customers help themselves is becoming dated. The context of your customers inquiries matters a lot too.
By adding and nurturing a community, where your most passionate and informed fans share their experience and expertise, your FAQs take on a new life. Together they become part of an ecosystem of self-care and customer support generating useful content and expert guidance on a host of topics. For example, engaged members that have had to turn to your brand’s contact center or help desk to resolve an issue will then share that knowledge with the community, meaning that any other customer with the same problem can be directed to the forum, rather than having to speak to one of your agents.
Traffic to your contact center has been deflected and your customers are not only happy but feel empowered because they were able to help themselves, in their own time, rather than waiting on hold.
Consider the huge difference a community makes in fast-moving, highly competitive sectors such as telecommunication. Companies like Verizon and AT&T constantly change their subscription deals to match those of rivals. Offers and packages are updated or phased out every single month. If someone on an older agreement has a question or issue, community members are more likely to be able to help than an agent (who’s primed for promoting and answering questions on the latest deals). And of course, that same forum is the perfect starting point for any potential customer trying to find the package that best suits their needs.
According to Lithium, 38 percent of people who visit a community do so to research a product or service before making a purchase. And if a potential customer visits Verizon’s community for advice, there are over 90,000 active members ready and willing to help.
WHY COMMUNITIES IMPROVE YOUR SELF-CARE CONTENT
Today, Wikipedia is an all-encompassing front of digital knowledge and the web’s biggest and best example of an online community working together for the benefit of all users. But even it started with one member and with just two words hello world. Over the past 18 years, its ever-growing community, via moderation and community management, has added and verified over 3 million articles and counting.
Whether you’re Googling an obscure rock band or a significant figure in world history, chances are the top result is from Wikipedia. This is because the community’s growth has attracted users with the most diverse and obscure interests and knowledge that have been looking for a platform for sharing their passion and helping others to understand it.
This will also be true of your brand’s community. As it grows so will the amount of self-care content and, crucially, its diversity. Here comes the long-tail effect! When an answer isn’t already in the community, its members can be engaged to generate new information. Posting questions and then collaborating with the community’s members until a new problem is solved for an individual customer not only strengthens the sense of belonging within the community and around your brand, it will also eventually lead the development of a truly comprehensive self-service catalog.
However, if your brand is serious in using a community to deflect contacts or encourage customers to help themselves while increasing customer service and customer care, that community content has to be trustworthy and easy to find.
If you’re searching for the best way to manually reconfigure your HP router or Lenovo hard drive, the top hit is going to be a link to those brands communities where that question has been asked and the solution posted, and accessed hundreds of times.
And this is key. The amount of times that content has been accessed and verified is what boosts its page ranking. The quality and trustworthiness of content on your platform are what Google’s search algorithms evaluate and are ultimately why a community thread will outperform other sources when it comes to SEO.
And it’s the combination of quantity and quality of content that’s enabled HP to achieve a 41 percent YOY improvement in minutes to first call resolution since its community went live.
A COMMUNITY FOR CONTACT DEFLECTION
However, deflecting contacts to a community and in doing so, freeing up your agents to handle the most important customer engagements won’t happen overnight. And, if your community isn’t easy for customers to access and navigate be it via desktop or mobile or to locate via a Google search, you’ll never fully realize your return on investment (ROI). The same goes for visitors to your website or help page. If a community button isn’t clearly visible, you’re missing a golden opportunity.
That’s why you also need to view the community as you do the other channels, feeding into and out of your organization. There is a customer journey and it needs to be as friction-free as possible. In this respect, people who start down the path to the community need to know in advance that the help and advice they’re seeking will be there when they arrive. For instance, anyone who has a question about why their cable bill is so expensive this month or why their account has been suspended needs reassurance that any query involving personal data is exclusively dealt with by your agents.
Therefore your organization needs to be clear on the types of contact drivers the community is best suited to process, settings, product walk-throughs, etc. and make sure that self-help content is robust and front and center.
Get all of that right, and call deflection will increase, first call resolution times will drop and the ROI will be plain to see. Within 12 months of launching, AT&T’s community resolved 12,000 customer issues. While TV, mobile and internet services provider, StarHub, slashed its customer support costs by $500,000 and Canadian telco Rogers deflected over 160,000 calls in 2015 alone.
And of course, your contact center agents will be more engaged as they get to apply their real expertise in dealing with those moments of truth that really matter.
COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT IS KEY TO MONETIZATION
Anything is good with moderation, and the adage is true of your community. Without a manager to get conversations and discussion threads going and to keep members engaged and on topic, your community won’t reach its full potential. In that sense, one needs to see the community manager as the editor and publisher throwing out ideas and leads for a pack of hungry journalists to follow up on and then stepping in once the content creation begins to make sure it’s sharp, fresh and aimed squarely at a target audience.
These might seem at first to be new and challenging roles to fill at your enterprise but look at things this way. The best editors and publishers started as journalists. The best managers are going to be among your CX professionals. They already understand your company’s touch points, its moments of truth and crucially, how to interact with your customers, making them the ideal candidates to become a new breed of social agent.
So don’t panic, the raw talent is available in house, and turning to an expert partner such as TSC, will ensure they have the necessary training and development to put their talent to the best use. Looking to your existing teams will pay dividends in terms of a community manager. As the community begins to grow, he or she can start building it out and across so that it integrates with digital and social media channels.
Your goal, as a customer-centric company is to build a Social Hub, encompassing all your social channels (online community, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and where your community managers will have a macro and micro view of your customers conversations. These daily interactions will feed back into your organization to boost customer care and also improve marketing and product and service development and all while achieving lower costs and greater efficiencies.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME
If your company has a strong customer base and well-received products and services, your community already exists. Its members are discussing you at this very moment across a host of social media channels. While that’s great for creating attention, you can’t convert that attention into bucks, unless you can bring all of those voices, discussions, and insights together in one place your own online community.
An online community empowers your customers, generates self-care content, deflects calls, and elevates your brand.
Without a social place to call your own, you’ll never unlock the value of those voices in terms of CX. Nor will you reap the benefits that come as the community evolves and becomes a resource for the research and development of new or improved services, for better targeting your marketing efforts and driving stronger customer loyalty. Build trust, develop your relationship with your customers/community members and unlock new opportunities for your company.