What if we build an online community and customers just use it to say bad things about us?
Any company adopting an online community has had this fear. Opening your community to your customers, and even prospects, can feel like you’re handing them pitchforks to use against you. It’s scary to think they might be right outside your digital door ready to attack.
However, I’m here to give you a different perspective. In today’s digital world, hiding from feedback doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that you won’t hear about it. Customers will find other ways to be heard, whether through social media, third-party review sites like Capterra or G2 Crowd, or angry calls and emails.
If you create a space for customers to connect with each other and with you, you’re giving them the opportunity to offer direct feedback, positive or negative. As you would on social channels, you have a chance to respond and show them how you’re meeting their needs in an online community.
Don’t fear the feedback you may receive, see it as an opportunity to build customer loyalty and deepen trust.
Resource: What is an Online Community?
Creating a Space for Customer Feedback Drives Loyalty
1. You can build trust through transparency.
Communicating with customers and actively seeking their feedback on processes and product roadmaps are key to transparency. While a strategy like this may require you to tear down walls and address concerns in your company, the positive results are real.
Simply put, transparency builds trust. If your customers know you’re listening, being open, and working with their feedback, it will go a long way. In today’s digital world, your end users are seeking clear communication and hiding is no longer the solution.
2. You own the conversation.
When customers provide feedback in a digital space that you own, you can position and represent your company in a positive way. You have an opportunity to frame the conversation and use their feedback to benefit their customer experience.
If they take their conversations elsewhere (and they will), you have no control over that. More importantly, you lose the opportunity to get insight.
Tip: If you’re worried about the outside world seeing your problems, you can make your community private for customers. Consider that customer complaints on social media are already public. The more you can direct the conversation, the better.
3. You know how to grow.
Your community creates (and fosters) direct communication between you and your customer base. This is essential to understand their needs, how they talk about your offerings, and identify pain points so you can be proactive in delivering the best customer experience.
Harvard Business Review points out that disruption is not caused by new technology – it’s caused by unhappy customers. If you can understand and harness that disruption before they turn to another channel, you’ll be closer to surviving the disruption.
Let’s count the ways this helps you grow:
- Improve your product offerings. Your customers are telling you what they want. Realistically, you may not always be able to make every item happen, but you have a deeper understanding of their real business needs, which can guide your product roadmap.
- Improve how customers feel about you. You can improve the customer experience in different ways but being open to feedback and transparent communication is going to build genuine relationships between you and your customers.
- Improve market placement. Your customers’ feedback is golden. As you improve your product and build a loyal customer base, you’re fortifying yourself against the competition.
Create an Action Plan
These are empty words unless you have a plan to address customer feedback. If negative feedback goes unaddressed by your staff in the community, it reflects poorly on your company. By creating a communication flow to address feedback of any type, within a certain timeframe, you start to build that trust with your customers.
If possible, have a system in place they can use to suggest improvements to your product and where others can upvote. Ensure that your company follows up and lets them know if improvements are being implemented or not, and, if possible, why.
Resource: 3 Lessons from a Unicorn [How to Harness Brand Feedback to Drive Brand Growth + Success]
It’s Your Chance to Shine
At the end of the day, remember you aren’t just responding to one complaint or one person, you’re creating a response for all the other customers reading and engaging in your community. Take that opportunity to shine instead of lurking in the shadows. A community allows you to build trust in a big way with larger impacts than that one vocal customer.
Don’t let the pitchforks prevent you from building a community. Put on your armor, open the gate, and head out into the world. The pitchforks will always be there, it’s all about how you react.
Shannon is the former Higher Logic User Group (HUG) Community Manager. With almost five years of community management experience in SaaS-based software, Shannon has seen it all and still loves her job. You’ll often find her with a smile on her face and geeking out about community management. During non-working hours, you’ll find Shannon planning her next big adventure, trying new foods, and hanging out with her partner and their beloved pup, Hermione.
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