The basic premise behind enterprise online communities has two parts:
- People have knowledge that can benefit each other and the company.
- Companies excel when that information is findable, sharable, and expandable.
Online customer communities bring customers, employees, and partners together to make customers more successful with a set of products or services. This, in turn, makes the company more successful.
People are often the #1 expense in an organization. Their efficiency in helping customers, partners, and each other is critical to streamlined operations and profitability.
Socious' podcast, ProCommunity, recently featured Jacob Morgan, author of the new book, The Collaborative Organization. He discussed why collaboration within and across stakeholder groups is important and how to implement online communities at your organization.
Just as organizations that implement internal online communities are not capitalizing on the customer satisfaction, innovation, and brand advocacy opportunities presented by customer communities, companies that implement online customer communities without enabling employees to collaborate are missing the mark.
Why Should Executives Care About Employee Collaboration in Online Customer Communities?
Here are 8 reasons to build areas for employees to collaborate into your online customer community:
Reason #1) Your Organization Can Solve Customer Problems Faster
If your teams are able to search archived discussions, utilize file libraries, and connect with each other to find answers more efficiently, they'll be able to get accurate answers and helpful resources in the hands of customers more quickly. Happy customers deliver dividends in the areas of sales, customer support costs, and marketing.
Reason #2) You Can Be Proactive in Serving Customers
If a group of customer-facing employees is collaborating to find a solution to a specific customer's problem, managers and other employees can listen in to spot familiar patterns in the discussion and offer additional value based on experiences with other customers that could prevent further problems or the next set of issues for the customer in question.
Reason #3) Your Teams Will Produce Less Duplicate Content
Using less open platforms to address the needs of customers, such as email, leads to several problems. Often the employees that need information are not aware that a document has already been created to resolve a specific issue.
This results in one group recreating a series of documents that have already been created by another group. This also leads to inaccurate information, incomplete documentation, and content based on outdated information because someone did not have access to the latest version.
Reason #4) You'll Retain More Industry, Institutional, and Customer Knowledge
In many corporations, employees are trained to purge their email inboxes to keep storage costs down. With the purge goes important information that can assist employees in helping customers in the future. In addition, information that walks out the door when an employee leaves the company costs organizations billions each year in rework, training, and industry knowledge.
Giving teams collaborative spaces in your online customer community creates knowledge repositories that enables businesses to more easily transfer knowledge from employees leaving your company to people joining your organization.
Reason #5) Searching For Information Adds Cost
Multiple reputable studies conclude that employees spend about 20-25% of their week searching for information, and they are only successful about half the time. That's one entire work day each week. That's 1/5 of your payroll expense going toward looking for information. Connecting employees in your online customer community could lower your unnecessary information-hunting costs significantly.
Reason #6) Using a Single System Reduces Inefficiencies
By using a single online community system where customers, employees and partners can collaborate with each other and among themselves, employees don't need to copy and paste customer community information and discussions into a separate employee social network where employees can't access all of the information they need about the issue to develop a solution.
It is all within one system with familiar tools. The security and segmentation are just set up to allow for collaborative employee-only groups.
Reason #7) Leadership Can Support Employees More Effectively
If your company is collaborating to solve customer problems, senior managers can spot trends more quickly to provide the human, content, and training resources to support their front line teams.
Reason #8) Employees Expect It.
Employees are already connecting and collaborating in their non-work lives. More and more employees expect to be able to find and share information as easily as they do on the consumer web.
Online Community Takeaway
There are two takeaways here. First of all, empowering employees to collaborate privately in your online customer community platform increases productivity, better serves customers, and reduces frustration.
Secondly, an important point made by Jacob Morgan in the ProCommunity interview is that "collaboration makes the world a better place." If you can make it easier for your employees to get their jobs done and get home to their families or other outside of work activities, you'll have a more passionate, engaged, and motivated team supporting your products, strategies, and customers.