It’s simple: online communities are the most efficient tool for knowing what your customers think, predicting what they’ll do or need, and retaining them for the long-term.
And that all adds up to a better product.
When you listen to your community and respond to feedback, not only do you understand your customers more, but you can take that knowledge to improve what they already love. Whether you’re an enormous B2C company like Coca Cola or a B2B startup with a short runway, collecting user feedback quickly and efficiently is key to creating a competitive product.
Some things you learn might create a huge shift within your organization, but most pieces of intel will be small. And those small pieces of information, that help you incrementally tweak and change things within your product, will make the biggest difference -- and keep your product relevant in such a competitive world.
Natural Outcome of Community
Learning from your community is easier than you’d think. Although formal programs can create a strong feedback loop, community MVPs or surveys aren’t the only way to get useful information. Or even the best way to learn what’s working and what’s not.
Product feedback is a natural outcome of community. You’ll receive suggestions, criticisms and snippets of information from your community no matter what -- so you might as well use it to enhance user experience and make your organization stronger.
What does all this natural feedback look like? Let’s glance at just a few quick examples:
- When customers help each other through problems, you get incredible insight into what they think of the product, how they approach problems and where they continually get stuck.
- Sometimes when one customer asks a question, another customer suggests a product improvement that would fix the problem in the first place.
- Create a space so customers can go and ask for products, features or enhancements that they need or want.
But it’s not enough to just keep an eye out for actions you can take to improve your product. It’s what you do with that information that’s equally important, and can make or break the cycle of member feedback.
Products equal conversations
Mining ideas from your community isn’t just about building a better product. It has the potential to create deeper community connections and boost engagement rates.
But that doesn’t happen if you just take ideas. You have to give back.
When you use your online community to enhance your product, the process needs to be a two-way street, a give and take. Customers give you feedback, you take it with a thank you and update the community when you’ve made the change. Rather than a top down approach, it’s a conversation, where you really learn how people use your product and what’s important to them.
This back and forth -- and properly acknowledging where you got the idea in the first place -- is what creates community. When members feel valued and heard, their contributions become about more than fixing their problems. Their engagement is about working with your organization and fellow members to make a product they already know and love even better. That’s what brings people back time and again, deepening interactions between customers and each other, and customers and your organization.
And this creates deep customer loyalty. That’s because you created an environment in which using your product is about more than just the product -- it’s about being part of a large community with one common goal. If that’s the case, why would you switch to a competitor? It’s no longer about your product. It’s about your community, who’s in the community, and the social stature each member has within it.
You and your competitor can have identical products, but your communities are as unique as a fingerprint.
When people become socially engaged and take ownership over outcomes, the product becomes more than a product.
It’s been elevated to community.