A great customer experience is all about delighting your customer by making them successful. After your customers complete the buyer’s journey and become customers, they enter the post-sale customer journey, or the “delight” phase.
For many software as a service (SaaS) companies, the delight phase is shared across multiple teams. For example, your customer success, support, product management, implementation, and customer marketing teams may all have a hand in influencing the customer journey.
You may have a customer journey map – an agreed-on, cross-departmental plan for how you will support customers throughout their experience with you, with the goal of delighting them and creating loyal brand advocates.
So where do online communities come in?
An online community, besides being the next wave of customer engagement, is the cross-functional tool or Swiss Army knife you need to support each step of your customer journey.
Learn how to build your customer journey map with these seven online community touchpoints.
1. Streamline Customer Onboarding
For many software products in the business-to-business (B2B) SaaS world, getting started can take months. You may need to provide training and multiple steps to get your customers through onboarding and implementation. Your online community can be the hub for all relevant documentation, content and videos, and peer groups to start new customers off on the right foot in this first phase of the customer journey.
Tip: Set up a personalized dashboard for new customers in the community so they can track their progress through onboarding.
2. Create a Product Training Hub
Customers usually don’t take full advantage of products and services they’ve purchased. To improve product adoption, tech companies will often provide live and online training materials for their customers. Where do your resources currently live? Are they all over the place? If you can combine and integrate these tools in one central hub, you can reduce customer effort and make it easier for customers to be successful. (And it’s easier for your support and success team to pull resources to answer customer questions.)
One of our B2B software customers put it this way:
“The community helps us reach the customers we don’t have a lot of bandwidth to reach personally. We provide self-service options through the community so they can still find the information they need.”
Plus, your customers can use your products better by learning best practices and workarounds from each other in the community.
3. Improve Your Customer Support
Your customers will interact with customer support more than probably any other touchpoint along the customer journey. So it pays to have a great support system.
With an online community, customers have a network of customers, partners, and staff they can turn to get their questions answered before turning to your support team. One company employing this strategy is Jama Software. They use their community as a knowledge base for customers to consult before submitting a ticket. This has led to a 28% reduction in support tickets.
Plus, Jama knows this is working, because many of the tickets they receive begin with, “I searched in the community, but couldn’t find the answer.”
Jama’s Manager of Technical Support, Kristina King, noted that this implies “an untold number of tickets that are never submitted because customers are trained so well to search the community first. Additionally, it provides them a place to converse with each other, and you can peruse the discussions to find examples of customers assisting each other more quickly than we’d get to it, and often, more creatively.”
4. Make Your Product Better
If you already have an online community, you know that it can be a wealth of product feedback – some good, some bad. Either way, this customer feedback is pure gold. You’re hearing straight from product users that something is or isn’t working, helping you craft or revise your product roadmap in a way that makes sense for your current customers.
In addition, it’s much easier to find members for your Customer Advisory Board through your community. You have a ready-made list of active, happy, and unhappy customers at your fingertips, and a reason to recruit them.
5. Proactively Address Problems
Your community manager and customer success team can tell a lot about your customers from their community interactions. When customers ask questions or make comments where you can sense a bit of frustration, it’s an opportunity to jump in and improve their experience with some special attention.
Customers’ online community behavior gives your business the opportunity to address issues before they become major problems. Systematically doing this can help to efficiently reduce customer churn and grow the lifetime value of each customers. Think of this negative feedback as a huge community benefit.
6. Identify Sales-Ready Opportunities
Your community generates valuable data for your customer success and sales teams about potential sales-ready opportunities. Customer conversations can reveal where a customer is in the customer journey. For example, if a customer asks other customers to share their opinion on a certain add-on product or service you have, you know they’re in the consideration stage. Your team can use this data for any number of account growth strategies (cross-sell, upsell, seat expansion, resource expansion).
7. Find Customer Advocates
We all know customer or brand advocates play a big role in growing awareness of your company and shortening your sales cycle, but it can be so hard to find them.
Fortunately, it’s easier to spot your top customer advocates through community activity. They’re the customers who consistently jump into answer questions and back up your company’s decisions, acting as references even when you don’t formally ask them. They’re in the customer evangelist stage of their customer journey.
Once you recruit your customer to become an advocate, use the communication tools in your online community platform to keep them engaged and informed, so they’ll be able to continue spreading your message. Examples include empowering them to lead a discussion or group, contribute blog content, and participate in discussions to help other customers solve problems. An engaged advocate is an active advocate.
Make the Customer Journey Delightful with Online Community
Because online community creates a centralized approach to the customer journey, you can lay out a straightforward path with online community touchpoints for every stage. Your community becomes a hub that every team in your company can rely on, improving and standardizing the customer experience.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published by Joshua Paul in March 2015 and has since been refreshed to make sure we’re bringing you the latest and greatest.
Content Marketing Manager
Elizabeth Bell is the Content Marketing Manager at Higher Logic. She’s passionate about communities, tech, and communicating about both effectively. When she’s not writing, you’ll probably find her cooking, reading, gardening, or playing volleyball.
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