Community will help your customer relationships -- they’ll feel more connected to you and to other people who use your product.
But will community help your entire organization?
When your organization fully embraces an online community, bringing every single customer into the fray, the beneficial effects of community trickle down into ever aspect of the organization. A customer’s entire journey, from beginning (researching and deciding which product to buy) to end (working with customer support on problems and becoming a brand advocate) can be enhanced by community.
And that streamlining process -- taking customer interactions to the community -- works it’s way into the organization, creating a customer-centric, effective organization.
So, how exactly do online communities make your entire organization better?
1. Retain customers
Engaged customers are usually happy customers. And happy customers often stay loyal to your organization -- which saves you the time and money you would normally spend to replace unsatisfied people.
By facilitating meaningful actions between customers and each other, and customers and your organization, you ensure that community becomes an important part of their overall experience. Even if your competitor's product or services are identical to yours, they won’t have the same community. As your customers form relationships on the platform you gave them, creating a niche for themselves, they dig themselves into your unique community. Why would they want to leave?
When that happens, your organization becomes about more than just your product -- it’s about the community you and your customers created. Sure, the community is grounded in your products and services. But it’s about more. And that’s what will keep customers happy and loyal.
2. Improve products and services
Whether you like it or not, you’ll receive mounds of feedback from your customers through your community.
Don’t waste it.
One of the biggest benefits of a community is that you get to learn exactly what customers think of your product, how they use it, what they like and what they don’t like. By setting up formal feedback programs, you can learn what you need to improve on -- making your product better, customers happier, and prospective customers more interested.
Unfortunately, most communities miss out on this huge opportunity. According to The Community Roundtable’s recent 2016 State of Community Management Report, only 30% of communities have formal feedback programs. But the communities that do actively seek feedback have higher engagement rates and stronger overall maturity.
Collecting and acting on that feedback will help you retain existing customers who want to work with you to create a better product and will also lure in new customers, who know you actually care.
3. Develop better customer support systems
Listening to customer feedback won’t just help you improve your products and services -- or even create brand new ones. It can help you create a faster, more comprehensive support system. One that can lean on community and is available 24/7.
By allowing customers to ask questions and answer each other through community, not only will response times shorten, but your customers will receive more detailed, in-depth answers than before. Of course your customer support team is excellent, but they know the product from a different angle than your customers, who are in it every day and rely on it to work smoothly.
Capturing these conversations -- detailed, insider knowledge of your product -- on your community allows your customers to build a living, evolving encyclopedia for current and future customers to learn from. Instead of your organization constantly creating and editing content as your product grows and changes, your community will do it for you.
And, if at the end of the day, a customer still needs more help, you can integrate your community with your customer support software, so that they can easily send a ticket to your support team with one click. Instead of having to re-explain the problem and process, your community support team (and members!) will see the full thread, and can cut right to the chase.
4. Reduce costs and increase ROI
All the points above -- retaining customers, improving products and services, improving customer support -- add up.
No, they don’t add up to tons of extra work for your organization or mean that community will steal the limelight from other departments.
They add up to big savings -- in time and money -- and increase the ROI of your community investment.
Using community and making sure it’s supported throughout your organization reduces costs because customers know exactly where to go for everything. If they have a problem with the product: community. If they want to host a meetup with other users of your product: community. If they want to find a mentor, become a brand advocate or find a volunteer opportunity: community.
Instead of looking around haphazardly, or having customer support answer the same question over and over again, community is the one-stop-shop for everyone, for any question. And the feedback you receive from those questions and discussions circles back into your organization, making it more customer centric and stronger.
It’s hard to calculate community ROI and the impact it has on your organization if you don’t have clear goals and metrics to measure. Decide what your main goals for community are -- reduce customer support costs, increase member retention, etc. -- and work from there. But when you do have clear goals and an effective way to measure ROI, you’ll have a clear picture -- and can continue growing your community into an even stronger and more valuable asset for everyone.
How has community made your organization better as a whole?