When executed with proper planning and resources, a customer community can have a tangible impact on key business performance indicators, including ticket deflection, revenue generation, and customer satisfaction.
According to Aberdeen Research, firms with online communities:
- Enjoy 5.4x greater annual increase in customer satisfaction rates
- Achieve 41% greater average customer profit margin
- Are 2x more likely to have a formal strategy to encourage loyal customers to become brand advocates
- Improve (decrease) support costs by 32.9% year-over-year
- Grow customer retention rates by 15% year-over-year
When your online community also integrates with key tools, like your CRM, ticketing system, and federated search (such as Salesforce, Zendesk, and Coveo), your customer community can become a one-stop shop for your customers.
Check out seven situations where an online customer community can be used as a primary tool to improve the customer experience at your company.
1. When a Customer Has a Problem with Your Product or Service
Previously, the first thing your customers did when they had a question or problem with your product or service was call customer support or open a support ticket online. Now, with your online customer community, customers use the search engine to look for product answers in the community’s discussion forums, knowledge base, and blogs.
If they don’t get the answer they’re looking for, they can post a question in the forum, sending out notifications via email and via mobile app, increasing the likelihood they’ll get an answer quickly. Each answer becomes part of your searchable knowledge base that grows in value as more questions are answered, videos are added, and content is written.
While not all your customers’ questions can be answered through your community, many can. This can help you deflect support tickets by 28%, making a significant difference in your bottom line.
2. When You Need a Good Customer Reference
Maintaining strong customer references for your sales team is a big undertaking — you have to keep customers happy, keep them educated on your product, and stay current with their success as well as how they are using your solution. These components are difficult to manage using traditional customer relationship tools.
Online communities bookend your customer reference program by allowing you to both identify and recruit strong customer advocates, as well as connect prospects and customers in the community for a positive and authentic reference experience.
Did you know? An online community platform helps firms improve return on marketing investment by 33% (Aberdeen).
3. When Your Product Team Needs to Validate an Idea or Prioritize New Features
Companies used to reinvent the wheel every development cycle, rounding up customers and prospects to give them feedback on their product roadmap. Now, online customer communities give product management teams consistent product feedback so they can test concepts, validate the roadmap, and prioritize the product backlog at every stage of the product planning lifecycle.
Tip: Higher Logic’s Ideation feature allows product managers to collect new ideas from customers and manage their development.
4. When It’s Time for Renewals, Upsells, Or Add-Ons
We’ve all experienced companies that sweep us off our feet during the sales process and then ignore us until we have a problem or they want something from us. These companies often wonder why customers aren’t as excited about a new product or initiative as the company is.
By keeping customers engaged with your organization as well as with each other, your company shifts from being a vendor to a being a trusted resource that customers rely on daily to get the most out of your products or services. When customers use your products and rely on your community for advice, renewing or expanding their relationship with your business is a no-brainer.
5. When a Customer is Looking for Strategic Advice
Education is one of the most effective ways to market to your audience. Traditionally, companies sent monthly newsletters full of tips and offered advice to customers at tradeshows or customer events. You can keep doing that, but when you have an online customer community, you have the opportunity to position yourself as the industry leader. Make your online customer community a one-stop shop for thought leadership and advice.
6. When Your Company Makes a Mistake
Let’s face it: Companies make mistakes that impact their customers. And while online communities can’t undo these actions, they can help shape the response you receive from your customers. How customers react to your mistakes relies on the relationship you’ve built with them. It’s easier to remain in your customers’ good graces when you have an ongoing relationship with them.
Rather than being seen as a faceless vendor who only talks to their customers at renewal time or when customers have a problem, you can use your online community to build a positive, lasting relationship that softens the blow of future missteps.
7. When You Hold a Customer or Industry Event
With customer communities, you can engage your customers all year, not just when live events happen. You can help attendees get more out of your events by producing content, answering questions, and starting discussions between prospective attendees, presenters, and registrants. Uploading event discussions and content after your event ends can even maintain your event’s momentum for weeks or months after your conference finishes.
Develop Your Customer Community Strategy
Developing an online customer community that improves the customer experience and solves key business problems isn’t always straightforward. It’s rare for a company to get all the decisions correct on their first try. And that’s fine. Community building is an iterative process where listening, measuring, and adjusting are more important that getting everything right immediately.
Your online customer community is an extension of your customer experience strategy. Use and adoption will be closely aligned with how well the solution solves problems for your customers and company.
Elizabeth Bell is a Content Specialist 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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