Customer Experience News & Trends

Why you need an online community – and how to make it great

Here’s why you want to let some customers love you and then leave you (sort of).

Many customers want to get to your community of customers.

If they can bypass you, they would in many cases: More than 90% of customers expect a company to offer some kind of online self-service feature, and they’ll use it, a Parature study found.

Share passion, experience

While your advice is valuable, customers want to know they aren’t alone in the issues they face. Many prefer interacting with fellow customers over service professionals for a variety of reasons: similar backgrounds and experiences, shared passion for a product or company, potential partnering in business, common needs, etc.

Since 2012, customers using communities linked to the products they use or industries they follow has jumped from 31% to 56%, according to the study.

Here’s why communities are growing in importance and how you can create yours or make it better, according to Parature experts:

1. It builds trust

Communities allow you to give customers two things they value most — a technical expert (you) and someone like them (fellow customers). The Edelman Trust Barometer study showed that 67% of customers trust technical experts and 63% trust “a person like me.”

Key: Your community needs to be monitored like you would any social media platform. Post when your experts are available — and monitor activity so someone is available for immediate answers at your highest demand hours. Even if customers are on 24/7, you don’t have to be, as long as they know what to expect.

2. It builds availability

Communities make 24/7 customer support possible — or enhance what’s available. You might not be there at 2:30 a.m., but fellow customers may be online and able to help each other.

Of course, peer help isn’t the same as expert help. You can’t make your community a substitute for solid online tools. If customers need expert help after hours, give the best possible assistance with up-to-date FAQ pages, YouTube videos and online portal information that they can access around the clock.

3. It builds your knowledge base

Questions posed and answered correctly on a community page give you some timely and easy-to-obtain content with which to update your self-service knowledge base. You might see trends on issues that deserve an alert in social media or high priority on your self-service options.

You’ll also see language that customers use naturally that you’ll want to incorporate into your communications with them — to give you a more peer-to-peer feel.

One caveat: Monitor to make sure customers are answering each other correctly. You don’t want to tell customers, “You’re wrong” in the public forum, but you do need to correct any false information in a polite way, then get the accurate information posted in the community and your other online resources.

4. It builds awareness of issues

People who are active in a community will raise issues before anyone else. What they see and say can alert you to emerging problems and issues on the rise.

The key is to moderate the customer community to catch trending topics and conversations. An issue won’t pour in at the same time. It’ll trickle over time. Keep an open eye for similar problems that go unresolved.

When you spot a trend, be proactive. Let customers know you’re aware of a potential issue and what you’re doing to resolve it.

5. It builds ideas

Customers who are active in your community are often the best resource for candid feedback. They’re likely your most loyal customers. They love you, and they’re willing to tell you what they don’t like.

You can propose ideas on products and services to them and get lively feedback. It can reveal needs that aren’t being met and how you can fulfill them.

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