How do you convince an exec that community is worth it when ROI is long-term? Who should be responsible for managing a community?
Mark Ace recently discussed the value of online community in customer success in a Higher Logic webinar. He answered the questions you had about ROI, community management, customer support, and more.
Q: Who should manage community? Does it need to be a full-time role, or can it be split among client success professionals?
Mark Ace: The most successful communities almost always have dedicated community managers, and it’s something we strongly advocate. We practice this within our own customer community, HUG. So whether that's one person, or a team of people, you want somebody who can pay constant attention to the community.
Communities don't run themselves. They're like a garden, and they need to be tended. You want to continually bring in best practices and promote engagement, which is hard to do without someone or some people who are totally focused on that task. Having committed resources will help you get maximum value out of your community.
Q: How do you use community to find customer advocates or to increase customer advocacy?
MA: You’ll most likely have a category of customers who want to find ways to participate, raise their hands, or volunteer. You'll want to nurture that instinct, and identify people who are most valuable players and then scale their engagement. Find ways for them to add more, for example, by becoming speakers, or participating in testimonials on behalf of your business. A good community platform should provide a lot of tools for that.
You can set up gamification, which lets people score points based on their engagement levels. You can track and run campaigns in the community based on response and success rates. Also, you can take it further by making it social with leaderboards and badges. If you’re using automation rules in your platform, you can use that tool to create targeted communication elements to those people to help them advance to another level.
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Q: How do you convince a sales executive of the power of community when ROI is long-term?
MA: One of the primary benefits of community is the opportunity to reduce churn. Decreasing churn by just a few percentage points pays off in terms of lifetime revenue, and that’s an ROI argument your sales executive will understand. Communities help customers participate in the products they buy from you and help them become lifetime customers.
Another benefit in community is improved cross-sales or up-selling to your existing customer base. Communities allow customers to observe their peers using your other products and services, do research, see success stories, and express interest that the sales team can follow up on.
Q: What volume of support calls and tickets are reduced from community?
MA: The Aberdeen Report suggests that companies with an active community of customers see 33 percent lower support costs (and those who don’t use community observe a 2.7 percent worsening, or increase, in cost). There's value there just in terms of crowdsourcing and creating a knowledge base from community participation.
- Aberdeen Report 2018: Online Communities: How to Improve the Customer Experience and Boost Financial Success
Q: Do communities normally reside in support, because customers are seeking issue resolution?
MA: If you're using a crowd-sourcing model where customers answer each other’s questions, it may divert tickets to a support platform. This can happen organically, or you can tune communities to this purpose. But customer support and success are separate functions (although connected). Support tends to be more issue-based and transactional, whereas success is more strategic and long-term. A community is an investment into the long-term life and health of the customer. So, they're slightly different focuses and probably under different management structures, but certainly connected.
- How to Develop a Long-Term Member Engagement Strategy
- Reduce Customer Support Costs the Community Way
Q: Is it possible to structure communities with different tiers of customers within the community? We have segments of customers who would benefit from interacting, but others, not so much.
MA: Companies commonly segment and structure their online community around their lines of business and customer interest. You may also want common areas for announcements or new product releases for all customers to see. The platform you use should provide the roles and security settings and permissions needed to customize that visibility on your end.
You want customers to be able to customize what they see on their end, as well, so they can manage the amount of communication they receive and the kind of input they're seeking. Having those configuration abilities available supports the customer model in your community.
Q: What indicators from the community do you use to determine customers at risk of churn?
MA: Churn is certainly one of the things we look for in our health scoring. We watch engagement with the community platform closely, as it’s a key indicator of customer success. If we see a severe drop in usage and engagement, that’s a red flag that triggers an action for the Customer Success Manager and will also show up in the health score.
Another churn warning can be changes in key staff at the customer site. If community engagement drops off, we can look at the usage levels for the community managers and administrators. If any of those key people have moved to other jobs, we can offer training and orientation for the new people and help the community maintain its momentum and value.
Sometimes the problem is easily remedied because we find out that a key community manager went on sabbatical for a month. That points out the importance of community managers, and how important they are to keeping those communities healthy. Lack of engagement with a product or survey is a great indicator of the risk of churn.
- How to Use Online Activity Data to Know If a Customer Might Leave You (Without Hearing It From Them)
To listen to the full webinar with Mark and learn more about how community plays a role in customer success, click the button below.