The use of online communities for support doesn't correlate to customer engagement being on autopilot.
When you launch an online customer support community, it does not mean that you've created a customer experience where all customer issues are handled by the community.
Once the community reaches critical mass, customers and partners in your online community will do their best to provide answers and insight to your customers. However, that does not by any stretch let your organization off the hook.
If anything, bringing customers together into an online community ups the role that your company has in serving your customers.
Before online customer communities, your customer service teams could engaged customers based on their support tickets and calls. Now, online customer communities give your organization more data on the challenges your customers are facing and your opportunities to solve their problems.
Here are four things that your customer support teams should be checking in your online customer community everyday (and why they are important).
Task #1) Check Activity of Assigned Accounts: Be Proactive
Online customer communities offer insight into what your customers or prospects are thinking, what they are struggling with, and how they feel about your product or service. Online communities provide customer service teams this information without the need for an explicit interaction with your customers, like a support ticket, inbound email, or phone call.
The addition of behavioral information to existing transactional and demographic data is the essence of social CRM.
Peeking in on the customers that they are responsible for is a top priority in the daily activities of customer support professionals. Transparency on this level enables customer service teams to be proactive if a customer is struggling, frustrated, or has posted a question that has not yet received an answer from other customers.
While some companies fear that their customers won't like company representatives listening in on conversations in their online customer community, the reality is that a vast major of your customers will appreciate that your team is there to support them quickly and has answers to their problems.
Tip: Just as you wouldn't in any other public or private social networking channel, don't be creepy when you reach out to customers who didn't explicitly ask for your help. (i.e. "I've been watching you...")
Task #2) Browse New Conversations: Impromptu Engagement
A daily scan of new discussions and comments in your online customer community serves two purposes.
- It helps support people address customer challenges quickly and generate more conversational, human engagement by chiming in on issues where the customer support rep has a helpful answer.
- It cross-pollinates support information and experiences. With multiple customer support reps reading and responding to customer conversations, they learn from each other and give the customer a better experience (even if that specific customers is assigned to a different territory or account manager.)
Tip: Make a game or contest out of getting your support team to respond to questions in your online community. Offer recognition or rewards to customer service reps or account managers whose responses generate the most activity in your community or receive the highest ratings from community members.
Task #3) Find Helpful Conversations: Customer Nurturing
Customer service teams can use the discovery tools built into your online customer community software to find helpful advice and insightful documentation added to the community by other customers or partners. This information could be in the form discussions, documents uploaded to the community's resource library, or videos.
Your customer service and account management teams can use this information to nurture and build closer relationships their assigned accounts. Here are three steps to nurturing existing customers using your online customer community:
- Look at this helpful content through the lens of current and past situations that your customers are in.
- Make note of resources that your customers would find valuable.
- Email specific resources to specific accounts that would find the information useful.
This approach will help your company create closer relationships with your customers and cut down potential support issues.
You will also help your customers feel comfortable in, and see the value of, your online community. By driving customers to your online customer community, they may engage other customers and remember to check for solutions in your community next time they run into a problem.
Task #4: Scan Active Conversations: Be Prepared
The best customer support professionals anticipate issues that their customers might struggle with. They read up on solutions, proactively send relevant information to customers, and work to correct pitfalls in the product and processes that they see their customers repeatedly encounter.
To be so prepared, they scan the activity in their company's online customer community. Keeping up with the most active and popular conversations enables your customer service department to crowdsource the hot topics that they should be thinking about and preparing for.
Customer Support Community Takeaway
Online customer communities fundamentally change the "customer submits a ticket/support fixes the ticket" nature of customer service that dominates the landscape. The linear relationship between customers with problems and the customer service department has been supplanted by relationships within the community (this includes customer service people from the company, other customers, and partners).
With this change in the relationship paradigm and the addition of online community platforms to a business's customer support strategy, comes a new dimension of data. Customer service representatives can now identify customers in trouble before they contact the company and their frustration spikes.
However, your company can only take advantage of this additional insight if your customer service and account management teams know what type of data to look for in the online customer community and how to find it.