In this fast-paced arena of modern businesses, two vital objectives often stand at opposite ends of the spectrum: the pursuit of customer delight and the quest for revenue growth.
Achieving a good balance between these two can feel like a hard-to-reach goal in today’s highly competitive environment.
The benefits of a thriving online community for businesses are manifold. As customers actively engage and connect within these virtual spaces, their loyalty to your brand deepens.
Moreover, by sharing insights and best practices related to your products or services, community members foster closer relationships with one another, creating a network of brand advocates.
To delve deeper into the captivating world of online communities and uncover the future possibilities they hold, we’ve gathered a panel of esteemed community leaders:
- Omaïma El Kabili – Global Customer Engagement Leader, Schneider Electric
- Brian Oblinger – Chief Community Officer & Strategic Consultant
- Varun Luthra – Country Manager, ANZ Region, Grazitti Interactive
Couldn’t Attend the Live Webinar? Worry Not! Watch the recording here!
Connecting for Success: The Interplay of Online Communities and Customers
Brian explains the shifting relationship between online communities and customer success. About 8–10 months ago, tech companies pivoted from growth to customer retention due to economic concerns. Customer success teams now play a vital role, aligning with community-building principles, focusing on scalable and digital customer success.
Customers prefer self-service and digital education, reducing high-touch interactions. This shift also streamlines internal operations, making customer success teams more efficient by automating repetitive tasks.
In essence, the relationship between online communities and customer success is symbiotic, contributing to customer satisfaction, engagement, and operational efficiency in an evolving business landscape. It’s about finding common ground to deliver value amid changing customer-centric strategies.
From Interaction to Engagement: Enhancing Brand-Member Conversations
Omaima highlights her strategies for enhancing member engagement in online communities. These revolve around creating multifunctional spaces. Initially designed for digital support, these communities evolved to foster peer interaction and knowledge sharing, particularly during the COVID-19 era. To further bolster engagement, Omaima recommends broadening contributor participation to include various organizational departments, integrating their insights into product development.
Furthermore, she stresses the importance of staying updated on user experience and interface design, embracing modernization and AI integration for quick information access. Lastly, Omama discusses the value of seamlessly integrating communities across multiple touchpoints, offering support not only during sales but also pre-sales. She says that by following this approach, they were able to provide members with expert insights throughout their journey. In essence, it’s all about creating dynamic, inclusive, and integrated spaces to keep members engaged and satisfied.
Quantifying Success: Metrics for Evaluating Online Communities’ Impact on Customer Success
Brian suggests measuring the impact of online communities on customer success by focusing on four key areas:
Retention: Analyzing whether community members exhibit higher customer retention rates and lower churn compared to non-community users. This involves cohort analysis to establish benchmarks and demonstrate that community participation leads to longer customer relationships and contract renewals.
Expansion: Evaluating if the community helps expand customer accounts by encouraging additional purchases, upgrades, or transitions from free to paid services. The sharing of success stories and use cases within the community is crucial in driving expansion as it exposes members to new possibilities.
Happiness: Measuring customer satisfaction through metrics like Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), or customer health scores. Community members tend to be happier due to improved onboarding, enablement, and education about the product.
Efficiency: Analyzing improvements in both customer and internal community efficiency. Customers benefit from quicker support and access to resources within the community, reducing wait times for email responses or phone calls. Internally, the community can help lower the overall cost of customer retention by reducing the need for high-touch, one-to-one interactions.
These metrics move away from operational community metrics like page views and likes and focus on demonstrating the community’s tangible impact on customer success and business outcomes.
From Strategy to Triumph: How Companies Achieve Customer Success via Online Communities
Omaima provides examples of companies effectively using online communities to drive customer success. Salient highlights from her response:
Analytics and Education: Utilizing analytics tools like Google Analytics to track community engagement and placing a strong emphasis on education. Creating diverse content such as technical blogs and validated knowledge-based articles to provide quick solutions to members.
Member Recognition: Highlighting the importance of member recognition. Cisco’s community, for instance, has a “hall of fame” for its most active members, which enhances member satisfaction and engagement.
Content Strategy: Effective content placement, such as pushing informative blogs and industry-trained content to the top of the community. Encouraging user-generated content and interactions between users of the company’s products.
International Reach: Building an international community that caters to users speaking different languages, demonstrating the community’s success and broad appeal.
Successful online communities focus on diverse content, member recognition, strategic content placement, and listening to member feedback. This helps adapt and connect experts within the organization with community members effectively.
Expert Snapshot: Brain’s Take on the Matter
Brian emphasizes the need to learn from admired consumer brands like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Tesla, which set high customer experience standards. He encourages a shift in perspective from company-centric to customer-centric thinking. Instead of just focusing on internal goals, start by envisioning the ideal customer experience, making their lives easier. Customers primarily want the right answers, effective enablement, and a seamless experience. To succeed, prioritize building customer-centric experiences, as companies like Salesforce and HubSpot do. Brian stresses that shared value between businesses and customers arises when the customer’s needs come first.
Behind the Scenes: Strategies and Insights Into Moderating Communities
Brian discusses the ongoing integration of AI into community moderation and engagement. He notes the widespread interest in AI but clarifies that the development of AI products for community use is still in its early stages. It primarily relies on technologies like APIs and developer-specific tools. Many are eagerly awaiting more user-friendly AI solutions tailored to communities.
Brian emphasizes the importance of a thoughtful approach to AI integration, cautioning against hasty adoption for the sake of ticking boxes. AI should enhance the user experience, not merely replace existing features.
While acknowledging AI’s potential to significantly impact community building, Brian stresses that it won’t replace the essential human element in communities, where human interaction remains central. Currently, AI’s primary roles in communities are search and moderation, with further potential for enhancing engagement.
In summary, AI in community management is evolving, and Brian highlights the need for user-centric AI adoption while recognizing the enduring importance of human interaction in online communities.
Expert Snapshot: Omaima’s Take on the Matter
Omaima agrees with Brian’s stance on AI in communities, emphasizing that AI should enhance user experiences, not just fulfill checkboxes. She acknowledges the AI challenges in search and moderation, highlighting the importance of precise results and maintaining human interactions.
She warns against the mistake of focusing on internal goals over customer-centricity when building communities, advocating for a customer-first approach.
From Input to Impact: Strategies for Leveraging Community Feedback to Enhance Products and Services
To ensure product and service success through community feedback, Omaima outlines the strategies of a leading community-driven organization. They actively involve product marketing and R&D teams in the community, diversifying feedback sources beyond customer support.
Feedback is gathered through conversations in forums, particularly recurring issues. Product experts analyze this feedback for training, product development, or communication improvements. An ideation space lets customers and partners suggest ideas, which are voted on and reviewed by R&D.
Regarding community feedback, top advocates engage in early testing, offering input on interface changes. A dedicated feedback space addresses community experience enhancements.
Omaima emphasizes customer-centricity. Listening to feedback is crucial, even if all suggestions can’t be implemented. Maintaining open communication shows customers their input matters, aligning with the philosophy of putting customers first.
Live Q&A Session: Going Beyond Support
During the Q&A session, the speakers focused on the importance of not just gathering feedback but also acting on it. Brian highlighted the need for a commitment within companies to act on customer insights rather than just listening to them. He suggested using communities to detect emerging trends and build agile advisory boards for faster feedback and ideation.
Omaïma stressed the value of turning community conversations into self-serve content, creating articles based on common issues discussed in forums. She also underlined the importance of cross-functional collaboration within organizations to facilitate knowledge sharing.
Varun summarized the session as “customer first, AI second,” underlining the primary importance of customer-centric approaches. Overall, the discussion highlighted the significance of active engagement, listening to customers, and using their insights to drive improvements.
The experts highlighted that online communities are powerful tools for enhancing customer support, fostering customer loyalty, and driving business growth. The key takeaway is that success lies in prioritizing the customer and acting on their feedback to create a thriving online community.
Go Beyond Support to Drive Customer Success With Online Communities. Learn More!
In case you missed our exclusive webinar – Beyond Support:
How Online Communities Drive Customer Success, you can gain all the insights here. To know more about our community services, reach us at [email protected], and we’d be more than happy to help.
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