Why an Online Community is Key to Your Customer Experience
Looking to improve customer engagement, reduce churn, increase lifetime value, and grow the bottom line? This post explains how you can deliver a top-notch customer experience powered by an online customer community.
Although it has become a norm for companies to claim that they are "customer-centric", the actual point of differentiation comes from companies that truly execute what they claim. If we simply observe our interaction with different brands, this will become evident.
For example, personally, I have encountered my calls, and requests for help have been redirected several times between departments and overall time to resolution has suffered because of that. At the same time, some companies (e.g., Amazon) have been able to fix similar types of issues within a short span. Overall, I love the fact that I can easily straightforwardly approach the customer support team.
When it comes to customer experience, it can be summarized as the sum of all of the interactions a customer experiences across the touchpoints -- right from discovering and sales to post-sales and support experience. Delivering best-in-class experience across touchpoints is not a fresh idea. However, in recent years, it has picked up steam?
The reason behind that is the abundance of online platforms where people can share their experiences. It could be a blog, a review site, or a social media post. This means companies can't hide bad customer support, dubious pricing schemes, or any other issue. This trend is going to get bigger as more and more people become digital natives. Think of the times when you have posted something on social media to have your issues fixed.
This focus on customer experience is bringing different teams together to deliver beautiful experiences. Everyone from marketing and customer success to product development teams is working in unison with a singular goal of offering a better customer experience.
This helps companies delight customers and tap into the referral network of the customer via positive Word of Mouth. Although companies are still working on positioning their brand and crafting the right communication plans, there is a larger shift towards building brand evangelists. These evangelists are the ones who would drive social proof by spreading the word about their own positive experiences with the brand.
Managing customer Experience
Managing customer experience is all about taking control of how customers interact with your brand at every touchpoint. Although generally companies started looking at customer experience by examining the interactions from their point of view, this has gradually shifted to two-way management. This means companies are looking at the experience from the customer viewpoint as well.
Customers are interacting with companies across channels and perfect synchronization between different departments is pivotal to deliver an exceptional customer experience. This means practices for managing customer experiences will be evaluated to find scope for improvements for the entire customer lifecycle. This is critical for gaining a deep understanding of the customer, meeting, and exceeding their expectations.
Benefits of customer experience management
The ultimate goal of improved customer experience is to increase the revenue of the company by increasing customer lifetime value and referrals. Read on to learn exactly how better experience translates to better revenue.
1. Customer referrals and advocacy
When you offer a better customer experience, customers tend to share their experience with their network as well. Primarily because they would want their friends to have a similar experience as well. This can act as a powerful channel for winning customers.
According to a Forrester report, more than 70% of people trust companies that their friends recommended. Increasing marketing and advertising messages are having a lesser impact on the decision-making process. Hence, getting a Word of Mouth referral is crucial for acquiring new customers.
2. Boosting loyalty
Gone are the days when the customer and company relationships were purely transactional. In the modern age, it is all about retaining customers for the longest period by meeting and exceeding their expectations. This can be achieved by consistently delivering a remarkable customer experience which would drive customer loyalty.
3. Building a brand reputation
Finally, any company must build a trustworthy brand. The most credible way to do that is to encourage users to share their experiences and manage negative feedback effectively.
This requires active listening, feedback collection, and acting on the issues raised by the customers.
How online customer community impacts customer experience
1. Engaging across the customer journey
Online communities as an asset are unique in the way they seamlessly weave into the entire customer journey. This starts from the discovery phase and becoming a paying customer to support and loyalty.
For example, a customer can discover your brand from the user-generated content, learn about success stories, and get a first-hand experience of your customer support directly from the community, purchase the product and get onboarding resources from the community. Further, the customer can share feedback and get support from their peers.
Also, customers can stay updated with your product by consuming the content from the community, become your loyal customers, and work towards promoting your company when they get recruited via the MVP (Most Valuable People) program.
We have explained this in detail via our community flywheel concept.
2. Promoting self-service
Online communities are amazing support channels. Customers can get help from other customers and as well as your own team. Customer communities act as a central online space where your support, success, marketing, and product team can closely work with customers and deliver enough resources so they can find solutions on their own.
According to Forrester Research’s Customer Lifecycle Journey report 81% of companies already have a consumer community or similar support channel. Quite evident that this is key support and customer experience channel.
3. Building valuable networks
Online communities offer a space for people to connect and build valuable networks. These customer networks amplify based on shared use cases, geo locations, and improve the connections.
4. Direct communication channel
Businesses can directly connect with customers via branded online communities since there is no issue of an algorithm change that can happen on social media and other channels. In fact, the customers are empowered by proactively seeking answers -- they can easily mention your company people or leadership team and ask questions.
5. A holistic view of the customer
When your online community is integrated into your existing technology stack you can get a comprehensive view of the customer journey. For example, your CRM and support ticket software can show the community content that a customer or prospect has visited.
This behavioral data, their interactions in the community, content consumed, and contributed to the community equips your support team and sales team to meet customer expectations.
6. Improved product innovation
Online communities are candid in nature. Whether you proactively ask your customers to share feedback or not, your customers will always be inclined to report bugs, suggestions to improve user experience, and proposals for features.
After collecting feedback from the members, close the loop by acting on those suggestions. Innovate in your domain by co-creating with the customers and show that your brand truly cares!
7. Build a dynamic content resource and increasing brand visibility
Every company needs to educate its customers and help them get the best value from its product or service. This is essentially a key reason behind the myriads of services dedicated to helping businesses build a knowledge base and FAQ pages. In fact, the FAQ section is a de facto component of any modern website.
There is a space for both static and dynamic content, i.e., the content on which you would ideally not want your users to comment and the content on which you would need participation from the users.
The integrated knowledge hub allows you to do just that by having both the knowledge base created by your company and the user-generated content in one place. This can be done by moving the static content to community posts where you can disable discussions and allow members to post comments as feedback. Certain content on which you would need active participation from the community members can be enabled for discussions.
This way you can showcase relevant content when users search, browse or add questions. It would be the perfect merger of static pages and dynamic content where users upvote, discuss, comment, and share insights.
8. Identifying and recruiting brand evangelists
With authentic people and their recommendations and positive views, a product can sell itself. The reliability of the words of the public builds up the trust and reputation of the brand among others who are not a part of the brand’s community. A bad image can only be avoided by the positive reaction of people and response towards your product. The community collectively works towards establishing the brand as an upstanding product with a stellar performance and something to count on.
Learn more about advocacy via online community here.
9. Delivering better onboarding
A solid onboarding process helps community owners fully leverage the precious time that a new member has spent in joining your community. The general goal is to deliver an engaging experience from the very beginning to make them come back to participate regularly.
When you get a new customer, you can make them aware of the amazing resources you have created in the community to get all the help they need to succeed in the initial days.
10. Showcase the customer experience
Online communities are a powerful place for any brand to showcase customer success. When customers share their experiences of working with your company and how you help them succeed, it acts as a social proof. This helps you win more customers by convincing the prospects.
According to Esteban Kolsky, 72% of customers will share a positive customer experience with 6 or more people.
Examples of customer experience communities
Webinarninja, a popular webinar platform designed for entrepreneurs and coaches, launched a brand community powered by Bettermode to connect their customers. The whole customer community is deeply integrated into the WebinarNinja help center.
The community is now a thriving hub for entrepreneurs to learn from each other, connect over online events, get their questions answered, and share feedback. This amazing community created by Webinarninja helps them improve customer experience.
Here is the full case study.
ConvertKit is a renowned name in the email marketing domain specifically designed for creators. They have launched a branded online community for their customers (i.e., creators) to help them connect with each other, solve customer queries, and help them by sharing knowledge. This way, they can improve the customer experience by delivering better support, networking opportunity, and content resources.
ConverKit started working with Bettermode Platform because of the modern social media-like experience, customizability, and ability to support different content types.
Here is the full case study.
Deliver better customer experience with an online customer community
Improving customer engagement and retention are key factors that contribute to the growth of a company. However, companies that are truly inclined to make a difference are leveraging branded online communities to boost customer retention and engagement. As highlighted in this post, there are multiple benefits of a better customer experience driven by brand communities.
The customer insights extracted from online communities are valuable in gaining a better understanding of the customers, their needs, and their expectations. When you understand the expectation, it is much easier to manage the same and delight the customers. Once you have mastered the art and science of customer experience management, your company will be loved by the customers.