According to a study from CMX and Leader Networks, improving customer satisfaction is the number one reason why businesses start branded online communities.
That means that businesses are investing big bucks in online community software, community managers, and helpful content to keep their customers happy. But does it work? Do online communities really improve customer satisfaction?
Having worked in the online community sphere for over a decade, we can tell you from experience that the answer is yes. We've seen dozens of businesses build thriving communities that result in customers who are measurably more satisfied. Those companies see the results reflected in their own metrics, but even companies that don't yet have a community can see the connection based on data from around the web.
Here are four of the most telling statistics that illustrate how online communities improve customer satisfaction.
This statistic has been reported by many organizations, but it was first put forth by scientists including Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, Richard Thaler, and Robert Shiller.
It shows us that we're not as rational as we think we are. Instead, we're driven by how we feel.
For brands, how customers feel often corresponds strongly with engagement. Highly engaged customers tend to feel positively about a brand, while disengaged customers are less satisfied. That gives more context to another statistic from Gallup that you may have already heard:
Engaged customers represent a 23% premium in share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth over average customers.
Your online community is the ultimate engagement tool, providing an array of opportunities to connect with customers and increase positive feelings for your brand. Here are just three ideas for how you can build emotionally positive customer relationships using your online community:
Your online community provides a secure platform where your company can publish content for every stage of the buyer's journey. Start by creating a public section of the community so prospects can access customer advocates and pre-sales information, then create exclusive customer-oriented content that's placed behind a login.
When you separate your community into these two sections, you give both prospects and customers access to the material that's most relevant to them, which boosts satisfaction and loyalty.
Another reason why this statistic leads back to your online community is your customers' definition of "authentic content." For your customers, authentic content is usually created by other people, not your company. They put more trust in their peers, and even people they've never met, than they do in your brand.
Your online community allows your current customers to create and publish their own content advocating for your business. Since its created by their peers, not your company, this content will be seen as more authentic and convincing then your marketing and sales copy. And by providing a clear avenue for this content, you'll help increase prospect and customer satisfaction.
Your buyers have questions that they won't ask you directly, which could lead to a poor purchase or problems using your products and services. Both situations could easily send your customers down the road to dissatisfaction.
Your online customer community makes it easy for prospects to get in touch with brand advocates, helping cut down on this issue. Prospects can contact your customer advocates publicly through discussion forums, or send them a private email to ask more sensitive or in-depth questions.
Making communication easy will help your prospects get the information they need to make smart purchases and use your products and services in the best ways. That helps them get the most value possible from your solutions so they can feel confident about their purchasing decisions.
These statistics illustrate a major shift in the public's view of customer portals and online communities. An online community is no longer something that's nice to have, or an extra in your business's value proposition. It's an essential platform that your customers expect to have access to anytime, anywhere.
The self-service portals that customers are demanding today usually include file and media libraries with information on products, services, and troubleshooting. Tips and tricks from other customers or your business's staff are also well-received. If customers still need extra help after going through your portal's material, you can include a contact section for email, social media, and phone support.
What really drives home the importance of these self-service options and how much they influence customer satisfaction? The fact that 33% of customers also say they'd rather clean a toilet than speak to a customer service representative.
Your customer community has tremendous power to provide the access to content, advocates, and self-service that your customers want. But perhaps even more importantly, your online community is a channel that encourages continuous engagement and positive relationship growth.
Use your community to connect with customers in an authentic way that's beneficial for everyone involved. As you build your customer relationships, you'll see returns in satisfaction that improve your business's bottom line and help you reach your goals.