Today’s consumers are more connected to social channels to support their daily lives than ever and they are no longer just looking to brands’ Facebook or Twitter sites directly for service. They are seeking help from their peers for quick and easy answers. Modern consumers are looking for ways to self-serve more often than using any assisted service channel according to Forrester Research. Companies are recognizing this social service trend and are using customer communities as another platform to enable customers to self-serve. In a December 2014 Gartner Research note, Nine CRM Projects to Do Right Now for Customer Service, Michael Maoz, Vice President, Distinguished Analyst writes, “Gartner clients who are successful in this space are still seeing on average a 20% reduction in the creation of support tickets following the introduction of peer-to-peer communities.”
Consumers are increasingly drawn to the customer community support channel because it provides insights and perspectives that add to the information they’re able to gather from company-provided content. By participating in peer-to-peer forums, customers feel empowered to share their experiences, helping others solve problems and make better purchasing decisions. As a channel, Community has become too important to consider separately from the rest of the web service experience.
In looking at social service trends and benefits, it’s important to strategically think about the customer community implementation and planning process. While launching a community can seem daunting, it can be easier if you think about your customer community as a core part of the web self-service experience and build your strategy from that viewpoint. We also recommend that as you get started, you gather internal teams to talk through these top questions that arise when planning for a new or revamped community:
- How can we ensure that our community look and feel resonates with customers?
One of the top reasons we revamped our Community product in August 2015 was to make it easier for companies to quickly stand up a community that shares the same look and feel and uses the same tools as well as resources across the entire Web Service experience. This way, the experience looks the same across all elements of the customer service journey.
- How will our customers know about our new community?
As a first step towards creating an active community, you’ll need an internal champion. Many companies define a new role of ‘Community Manager’ to take on the responsibility of owning the strategy, promotion and moderation oversight. Once you’ve given ownership of this channel to a champion or team, seed the community with early activity from key customers, industry leaders, expert employees, etc. Promote the community across your web properties as well as organize social media and email marketing campaigns to advertise to your customer base.
- How do we approach moderation and agent participation?
It’s a difficult balance to allow for honest, authentic customer conversations, while still maintaining the ability to guide and moderate that content. Some things that help companies do this well include the creation (and publication) of clear community guidelines so visitors know what type of content is and is not appropriate to post. Moderation strategies work best when the goal is maintaining a safe, friendly and productive environment.
- How can we ensure our customers looking for help have easy access to this great peer-generated content?
This is one area where companies have historically struggled because communities typically exist as a standalone, separate experience. With this approach, customers would need to navigate away from the company’s content in order to access information posted in the community. By thinking of communities differently, combining the community and web self-service experience, companies like Oracle Service Cloud are changing the way customers access community answers from anywhere in their service journey.
- How can we use community data and insights to make our customer service experience even better?
When companies approach communities as an integrated part of a connected, cross-channel service experience, a wealth of new analytics become available. Think about the types of insights you’d like to get from the ways your customers utilize the community as compared to, or in addition to, other channels. This type of data can provide powerful insights about potential knowledge or information gaps as well as customer preferences.
These days, support communities and web self-service really are two sides of the same coin. It no longer makes sense to maintain these customer engagement platforms separately, as the real benefits emerge from the combination of both experiences being available to customers in a seamless fashion. Customer communities will only continue to grow in popularity as the trend of greater reliance on self-service channels continues. If you’re not providing a platform to support the conversations customers want to have with each other, you’ll miss a huge opportunity to guide and participate as well as utilize your customer community as a self-service channel or knowledge source.
Click here to download the full Expert Guide to Powering Modern Customer Communities.