In has long been proven that it takes more time, resources, and capital to earn new customers than it does to keep your existing customers. I want to take a minute to outline what an online customer community is and where they fit into the world view of most marketing, product management, and customer service executives.
Companies use online community software to solve an array of business problems. Some larger organizations implement social intranet-type collaboration platforms to improve employee communication and increase efficiency. Others create online communities to better engage their supply chain or developer networks.
Online customer communities bring customers, employees, and partners together for the success of the customer. While these audiences have diverse agendas, the purpose of the social technology, community management, and collaboration that occurs in the community are all focused on helping customers become more successful with a product and service.
Online customer communities are part customer relationship strategy and part social media strategy. They most often touch the sales, marketing, customer services, partner relations, and product management departments.
The following illustrates where an online customer community fits among the diverse systems, technologies, and audiences at larger businesses.
Since the tools, resources, and discussions are a benefit of doing business with a company, online customer communities are gated communities or private social networking platforms where customers must login to access the community. Most often online customer communities are accessed through a single sign-on with the organization's existing customer-facing systems, such as a SaaS (software as a service) login, customer portal, or extranet.
Many businesses integrate their online community for customers with backend databases, support systems, or CRM software so that the company and customers get the benefits of the software utilizing existing customer information.
Use the comments section below to tell me about your experiences with online customer communities.