What did you do the last time something broke? Did you pick up the phone and call customer service? Probably not. According to Forrester Research Inc., 70 percent of people expect to find the answers to their support questions online. Today that includes an online community, emailing support or jumping on Twitter. Channels for support are multiplying, and customers are looking for help in a growing number of places. Businesses know that a good customer experience is critical to their company’s success. But so often they miss the mark.
With new social and interactive ways to get help, share information and buy products, the companies that listen and react win. Companies are turning more often to social customer service. It is peer-to-peer support – enabling customers to help one another – provided through a social community on your website. Social customer service connects your current and prospective customers with the appropriate information and people so that they can receive help and make better decisions.
Curious as to the part online communities play and how a social customer service community could benefit your organization? To gain a better understanding, take a look at these tips for using online communities for customer service.
1. Go Where Your Customers Are
Wayne Gretzky – one of the world’s best hockey players – was famously told by his father, “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
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It’s the same with your customers. You need to anticipate where they are going to go for support. It’s the norm for customers to turn to their mobile phones, tablets and computers to get help online – this makes social engagement a logical next step. Make it easy for your customers to share advice and best practices in Q&A forums, access files, view videos and track topics with #hashtags, likes and @mentions.
2. Make It Easy to Share and Find
Ask most companies who is in customer service, and the answer you will likely get is: everyone. By training employees and, most importantly, customer service teams on how to use a social community, they can redirect customers for peer support and issue resolution through Q&A threads, discussion forums, member profiles and more.
For example – Dell created a global online community (Dell TechCenter) to serve as the education and engagement hub for IT administrators that provides ongoing advice and resources that allows them to optimize their use of Dell Enterprise products. In the Dell TechCenter community, members and Dell employees are able to engage in conversations and exchange ideas related to Dell’s products, solutions and services on topics including cloud computing, virtualization, storage technologies, networking and many more. Dell’s online community has increased sales and expanded customer engagement by giving enterprise IT administrators worldwide access to best practices and learning resources, and the ability to have direct conversations with Dell team members. This improves the customer experience, while enabling more efficient sales support processes at Dell.
Additionally, great content like knowledge base articles, product documentation and how-to videos help customers find solutions and solve problems. And, great content also helps people find your social community.
3. Crowdsource From Your Customers
Smart companies listen to their customers and make product enhancements based on customer feedback.
Healthstream, the software-as-a-service company that services millions of healthcare organization employees, gets product development and product enhancement ideas from its online community, resulting in hundreds of ideas submitted and many implemented. Overall, customer satisfaction has increased and customers have benefited from new product improvements.
To make sure you are getting the most from your community members, invite new product ideas and feedback from customers through discussion forums or directed ideation sessions. Another good recommendation is to make sure employees and customers can access the community at a time that is most convenient for them by making your social community accessible via mobile and tablet.
4. Manage Reputation Through Recognition
An engaged community is a healthy community. Just ask Kaseya. As the leading global provider of automated IT Systems Management Software, Kaseya consistently looks for opportunities to take its existing customer community experience to the next level. Kaseya recently found a solution with Kaseya Connections, an online community that enables members to crowdsource technical problems, access product information and training, and provide feedback on product development.
To increase community participation, top contributors of Kaseya Connections are recognized, which increases customer loyalty; this also enhances their reputations and professional networks in the community. Recognizing top participating customers, experts and employees with badges and acknowledgment to keep engagement high is actually a best practice for a healthy online community.
5. Track, Measure and Analyze
Analytics are essential for anyone measuring the effectiveness of a social community and to better understand your customers’ experience. Key metrics include member participation, community/group vitality, average time-to-resolution, customer sentiment and number of answers provided by customers versus employees.
AvidXchange has recognized that 80 percent of its customers use its online community for training, support or chatting with employees. The organization also measures its support cases, which reduced 40 percent in just six months and 60 percent within one year. Additionally, the organization’s support case turnaround times have been cut in half, now averaging only 15 minutes. And, AvidXchange concluded that by improving customer service, the company increased its customer base five times over by adding only one additional support technician.
For more insight on building better customer service strategies and examples of on-domain customer service communities, download this new, complimentary Social Customer Service eBook. Or join social media and online community experts from Dell and Forrester Research, Inc. for a live discussion on social customer service February 5 at 11 am CST.