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Reduce Customer Support Costs the Community Way

Written by Molly Talbert | on March 22, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Reduce customer support costs the community way

Do you want to make customer support fun for your customers?

And save money for your company?

Communities purpose varies, from growing brand awareness and loyalty to gaining valuable insight into your product. But one area communities are particularly effective in is reducing customer support costs -- Gartner found that communities reduce support costs for companies by 50 percent. And reducing support cost is a top three reason 30 percent of companies start a community, according to the in CMX and Leader Networks Keys to Community Readiness and Growth study.

How is it that communities can be such an important link in the customer support chain?

Faster response time

The faster you can solve customers’ problems the better -- any extra minute of frustration is bad for your business. So what happens if crisis hits after hours when your support team clocked out? Or if the wait time to talk to a representative is too long?

Communities are always there, available 24/7. Just because your phone lines are busy or you’re closed for the weekend doesn’t mean customers can’t interact with each other at all times of the day or week.

Customers immediately begin building a wealth of information as they ask questions and respond to each other. Rather than posting a question, customers can begin by searching the community for someone who’s had a similar problem -- chances are someone has asked, and someone else has answered, that same question.

Better answers for customers from brand ambassadors

Who would you rather get help from -- someone who uses the product every day, or someone trained to answer specific questions? Customer service representatives can be a huge help, but they don’t know the product the same way your brand ambassadors know it -- they’re the thick of it every day, and know it from a user perspective. They’re also your most loyal users, who enjoy promoting the product and recruiting new customers.

In your community, ambassadors can answer questions from a fellow customer’s perspective. Customers can also strike up conversations with those ambassadors, even reaching out to specific people who frequently post about certain topics. It builds connection and trust between your customers, furthering their trust and knowledge in the company.

Customer to customer interactions like that are powerful -- MVPs (the ambassadors) feel empowered and important, customers’ questions are answered and the company doesn’t need to raise a finger (or dollar). And easy, satisfying engagement is a recipe for customer renewal and longevity.

Integrate with support systems

Just because ambassadors are great at answering questions doesn’t mean your customer support team becomes obsolete. Sure, communities can do a lot for customer support, but what if a customer is still left hanging?

Many community platforms integrate with ticketing and support systems, which is the perfect way to segue them into a traditionally structured support system. With the push of a button, a customer can create a support ticket, sending an entire thread to a support representative. By integrating your community with a ticketing system, the support team can see the complete online history of the customer’s problem. Rather than having to fill in the support person in on the issue -- “Yes, I tried restarting, yes, I turned it on” -- they’ll have the all the details, suggestions and comments from the thread. That way they can go straight to the meat of the issue, rather than suggesting basic fixes a customer already tried.

Community doesn’t detract from customer support, and customer support doesn’t detract from community -- instead, it’s important to see them as partners, tag-teaming to give customers the best experience possible.

Transparency

Here’s another reason to connect online activity with support tickets -- if the support team receives the same thread ten times in a week, they can post a message at the top: “Several customers have had this problem-- this is the answer” or “we’re working on finding a solution.”

Communities allow you to be proactive and admit when there’s a problem. If the solution is easy, or if it’s a work in progress, you’ll save your support team time and money by posting an update at the top of the thread explaining what’s going on. You’ll also save your customer’s time and hassle trying to get an answer that everyone has.

Transparency can be scary, because sometimes it means admitting your company messed up. But it’s an important part of creating a positive community culture -- one where your members trust and respect your company. Instead of operating behind closed doors and surprising customers, be transparent so your customers stay up-to-date on what’s going on -- and can even give you valuable suggestions and insight.

Is a community the right step?

How do you know when it’s time to get a support community for your company?

First, look at all the tickets, inquiries or calls you receive in a month. How many of them are the same or similar? How many of them are easy answers? And how many hours/dollars are being spent to answer all those easy, redundant questions?

True, community can’t answer every question or solve every case, but community can probably help with a significant portion of the volume. Rather than have them wait on hold, or have your support team answer the same question over and over, let customers own a piece of the pie and help each other -- it’s empowering.

Topics: Marketing, Customer Support

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