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Leveraging Customer Facing Communities

Guest Author

Guest Blogger: Aphrodite Brinsmead, Senior Analyst at Ovum

Businesses need to
play a greater role in influencing information on communities

Alongside Facebook and Twitter, communities are becoming a valuable
alternative for customers to find answers to their support queries. Businesses
need to ensure that posts on these sites are accurate and consistent with information
available through other contact center channels. The advantage of communities
over other social media sites is that they are focused on support issues around
specific products, brands or services. Two main types of communities are:

  • Business-managed
    and -supported.
    These are set up by the business itself to provide a place
    for customers to discuss issues relating to their own product or services. Customers have to
    be authenticated before posting, which means that it is possible to match users
    with existing records and track queries.

  • Topic-specific
    forums.
    These are often managed by a group of people independent of the
    specific brands and businesses that are discussed. The aim is to share
    knowledge and experience about general industry trends rather than focus on one
    product or organization. Examples include forums about smartphones, flight
    information, or healthcare services.

Although businesses don’t have as much control over general
topic-specific forums, they still need to monitor them to discover what customers
are saying about the company and its competitors. Whenever possible, they
should respond to questions, offer help, and provide a link to official support
channels within these forums.

Businesses should take care to manage their own forums with a
view to improving service resolution rates. While these communities rely on
customers providing advice to each other, businesses should play a greater role
in providing information that influences the customers’ buying and usage
decisions. It is important to keep the momentum of answers going in order to
create a lively forum with expert users that are available to respond.
Businesses should make communities easy to use, and should provide some
incentive for customers to answer each other’s questions. Customers appreciate
well-designed portals and fast access to relevant articles that are optimized
for web or mobile devices. As real-time analytics tools become more prevalent,
businesses should push useful information from communities directly to
customers, based on previous search terms, purchases, and the actions of
customers with similar historical behavior.

It is important to keep track of what customers are posting
in order to check that information is accurate and to provide expert agents to
offer additional advice. This also applies to general forums that aren’t
necessarily managed by the company itself. As with other types of social media,
community-driven information should be pulled back into the contact center to
educate agents and managers about customer issues. Agents may even
be able to use customers’ own solutions to technical issues to help customers
that ask similar questions via phone, email or chat. They can link to these
crowd-sourced solutions from within Twitter and Facebook to provide a more
detailed explanation of a resolution and connect the different channels.

Communities should be part of a
broader web customer service strategy that encourages customers to connect and
share information. By providing better peer-to-peer service options for
customers, contact centers can reduce pressure on agents and make it easier for
customers to find resolutions, thereby improving satisfaction. But as with Facebook
and Twitter, customers still need the option to connect to live agents for queries
that can’t be answered in a public forum. Community-driven data should
therefore be used alongside other service channels as discussed in my last blog
post, Understanding When Social Interactions Should Be Resolved in Another
Channel
.

Follow me on Twitter @diteb.

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