In 2016, businesses lost $63 billion dollars due to bad customer service. That’s up from 2013 by a whopping $20 billion.
To make matters worse, almost half of customers will stop doing business with a company because of bad service – a percentage that will likely increase as younger generations (who are more likely to switch companies) become more prominent and influential.
Companies need to provide outstanding customer service to win new customers and build loyalty. But businesses work on budgets and tight ROI goals, so they also need customer support techniques that won’t breaking the bank. That’s where user groups come in. User groups provide customer support that goes above and beyond what your company can do on its own while also helping you spend less.
User groups add customer service coverage and reduce the number of customers who go through your most expensive support channels, such as customer service agents. Here are the top five ways user groups benefit support:
User groups can meet in person or interact online. Both formats provide an additional channel through which customers can seek support and find answers to their questions.
User groups that meet in person provide opportunities for customers to connect with peers and discuss their problems face to face. However, because 73 percent of frustrated customers try to solve their problems using the internet before seeking other support, user groups that also include online resource are even more effective when it comes to customer service.
To build an online presence, user groups launch websites and private online communities. These tools help members find information more quickly via self-service tools including:
When product information is kept up to date and customers are actively participating, your user group’s website and online community can become go-to resources for support.
User groups don’t work on traditional customer support hours. They’re available whenever members are active online or meeting in person. Your customers can therefore access the user group’s resources any time, instead of waiting for business hours to solve a problem.
This increase in availability will help customers get answers when they need them, which improves your chances of nurturing a loyal customer instead of one whose frustration has time to simmer. Your in-house support team will also benefit from this because those overnight or weekend concerns won’t end up in their inboxes every Monday morning.
Your customers have in-the-trenches knowledge about your products and services that makes them valuable support and advocacy resources. Most people are also very open to sharing that information, they just need a space to network and publish their thoughts.
A user group provides that environment. Customers can connect with one another and discuss how they’re using your products and services, share tips, tricks, and talk about the best ways to overcome challenges.
As the user group cuts off support inquiries and solves them without your help, it will reduce pressure on your in-house support team. With common problems taken care of by your user group, your support professionals can then devote their time to strategic initiatives and solving the more complex or unusual problems your customers run into.
In user groups, customers have access to more people who can help them for longer hours, which increases the chance that they’ll get an answer to their question faster. They can bring their questions to specific experts in their network via email, or open up their problem to the community at large by posting it in a discussion forum, for instance.
The questions that customers choose to post in the community will also be recorded for future reference. Customers who experience the same problem later that week, month, or year, can simply search for the issue in the online user community and find the solution without asking the same question again. Over time, this drastically reduces the time and effort customers need to put into solving their problems, providing a better customer service experience.
Customers, especially B2B customers, are incredibly innovative and knowledgeable about their industries as well as the products they use. In a user group, customers like this often surprise and delight one another with innovative workarounds that solve their peers’ problems. They may even come up with new ways to use products that your company had not considered.
These solutions and ideas are often just as effective, if not more so, than what your support team could produce. Workarounds and other ideas from user groups can also be implemented immediately, without additional product development or investment from your business, providing more value to your customers at no extra cost to your company.
Expert Tip: While user groups are creative in finding new ways to leverage your existing products, they can be even more helpful if you’re willing to dive into product development with them. Ask for user group members’ opinions on potential product improvements and new features so you can continue providing more value. Your user group’s input will likely help you build products with fewer support issues and more market relevance.
User groups help your business save money by providing cost-effective self-service tools and better customer support overall. Your customers, in turn, get top-notch support and build a network that they can use to be more successful with your products and services.
But, while user groups save money in the long-term, they aren’t 100 percent free. Company-run user groups have basic expenses including setting up and managing user group meetings, online community software, and creating website content.
These costs are well worth the investment. They expand support coverage, increase the expertise that customers have access to, and build up a knowledge base that helps customers find answers to their own questions – all of which reduces the pressure on your in-house support teams. Such positive support options are cheaper than the alternatives and pay long-term dividends in customer satisfaction and overall customer experience.