Your company's online community has a lot to do with customer success. That’s why you must invest time and resources into building vibrant communities around your brand.
Humans are social by nature. Smart SaaS and service-based businesses leverage this tendency to delight customers and grow earnings in one masterstroke.
Delivering a tremendous customer experience has become more important to users than ever. Studies by PWC show 86% of buyers are prepared to pay more for exceptional customer service.
A community built around your product or service helps you fine-tune customer experience among other benefits.
In this article, we will explore five ways to drive customer success with an online community.
1. Boost User Engagement
Nothing drives user engagement than a vibrant online community. User engagement is a key factor in customer retention. Here are four user engagement benefits of communities
First, an online community fosters a feeling of camaraderie. Customers feel they are part of something bigger. They can interact with a group of like-minded people who get them because they share similar goals.
In a community, customers learn from each other. Fellow users can also support those who are struggling with specific tasks. Users will surprise you with how far they will go to help their comrades. This drives higher engagement.
You can also boost engagement by taking advantage of human nature’s competitive tendency. We all love a bit of competition and the warm feeling of victory, don’t we? Leverage this bent by coming up with inspiring product-related games. Hand out colorful badges and fancy titles to the winners. Finally, spell out the game rules and have a transparent judging process.
Not only does getting timely help from community members provide rich self-serve experiences and a reliable trouble-shooting platform, but it also relieves pressure on overwhelmed support teams. To drive the most engagement, build your communities around customers’ industry segments e.g. e-commerce, hospitality, or healthcare.
Or, you can create location-based spaces as Pipedrive did.
Besides increasing user engagement, communities also boost customer retention.
2. Drive Retention
If you are a SaaS brand, you need to watch your core metrics like a hawk. Among them are these three pivotal ones:
Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) - MRR measures how much revenue your current customers bring in each month.
Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) - ARR calculates how much revenue your customers generate in a single year.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) - CLV(or LTV)means the total amount of money a typical customer spends during the entire time when they are your customer.
LTV:CAC - This is your SaaS ROI. It takes your customer lifetime value and divides it by the customer acquisition cost.
To a greater extent, these crucial metrics depend on your ability to attract new customers and your capacity to keep them in your funnel.
Since customer acquisition costs for subscription-based businesses can be quite high, retaining the customers you already have can be a powerful growth lever.
Plus, because research shows it costs 5x more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one, it makes sense to focus on the latter. Online communities are excellent for hiking retention rates and reducing churn because:
They allow you to listen to your customers
Social listening tools have exploded lately. Why? It’s simply because successful brands use them to spy on their customer conversations and then use the intel to improve customer experience. A company community gives you the chance to listen to customer concerns and desires, minus the fluffy social media chit-chat since conversations revolve mostly around your product.
They are a magnificent bonding agent
Communities glue people together on two levels. First, as customers interact and help each other out, they develop strong relationships. Because conversations center on your product, customers also establish strong bonds with your brand.
They double up as a support channel
You can’t build a successful SaaS brand without stellar support. Your customer community adds an extra channel to complement your existing channels — supported customers are satisfied, loyal customers.
As you can see, community building is a simple way to boost retention.
3. Creates A Support Channel
No matter a user’s level of technical ability, at some point they need help on how to navigate a SaaS product. Tech challenges are the nature of the beast. While companies have formal support channels like live chat, email, and phone support, these aren’t always the best because:
They may not be available 24/7
Some support channels are only available during business hours. But with a global community, you are likely to find someone available to help you any time you reach out.
Their responses may delay
Formal channels can take forever to respond to queries. This frustrates users with urgent needs that need immediate attention. But in an active community, you get help in minutes.
They are pressed for time
Help desk staff get overwhelmed. They can have a long queue of people waiting to be served. As a result, they can be impatient with people. In a community context, people have all the time in the world to assist you.
A thriving customer community has savvy peers who are happy to share their knowledge with fellow users. With online communities, the more members the merrier as seen from Payoneer.
With a community of 2+ million users, every conceivable question people may pose has an answer. Users can use the search feature to see if other customers have asked similar questions before, so they get answers faster.
While your community can answer most questions, some require formal channels. So it’s wise to link your community to your ticketing system. This allows support staff to jump in quickly and handle the tough questions.
4. Generates Product Insights
Customer feedback is an integral part of running a successful business.
It gives smart brands a massive pool of free insights they can use for:
There’s no better way to get solid ideas on how to improve a product than fresh feedback from current users who use it every day. Whether you are selling an online course, digital product, or physical item within your community, you need product feedback. This is more beneficial than guesswork. After all, you wouldn’t want to add a fancy new feature, only for users to reject it. A better product means happy customers.
Users provide a valuable stream of knowledge developers and startups can use to design and manufacture a product with the potential to succeed on the market. Without direct input from users, you can’t be 100% certain you are on the right track. Using an assessment tool to gather customer feedback ensures you can move from product ideation to market with confidence because you know you’ve created what the market wants.
Ideas for future products
Sometimes you can’t incorporate the features users long for into the current product. Don’t let such ideas go to waste. Incubate and validate them through input from your community. Then use the verified ideas later to produce new products that already have a waiting market. On release, such products please customers because they suggested them to begin with.
What makes customer feedback in a community context invaluable is that the responses are impromptu.
Structured formal interactions with users like surveys or usability tests can limit users from freely voicing their concerns and desires.
Organic community feedback empowers users to express themselves unrestrained. Therefore, you get more accurate worthwhile product insights for free. To obtain these golden nuggets, you can get them in a live setting by using a webinar tool to invite and chat with your most loyal customers.
5. Inculcates Advocacy and Referral Marketing
If ever there’s a golden opportunity brands miss that curtails their ability to generate more revenue, it’s not optimizing for the after-sell.
Companies put a lot of financial and time investment in lead acquisition and building funnels.
Besides the common upsell, most brands let other chances of maximizing revenue pass right under their noses.
Two after-sales growth opportunities that few brands tap into are brand advocacy and referral marketing.
A brand advocate is a satisfied customer who promotes your brand through word-of-mouth marketing.
They are so thrilled about your brand that they gladly rave about you and what you do to their friends on social media and other places.
These delighted customers are plenty in online communities. All you have to do is to tap into their excitement by:
Asking them to review your product on trusted third-party review sites. People trust third-party review sites more than what companies say about themselves. So many positive reviews will boost your brand’s authority and sales.
Giving them incentives so they get encouraged to tell more people about your brand. You can run contests or reward users who share a particular page or product you are promoting.
Not only are brand advocates superb for word-of-mouth marketing, but they are also perfect candidates for referral marketing. Recommending products to friends is a natural part of social interaction that takes place in communities. You can rope them into your selling system so they become an army of eager sales reps. Here’s how to make the best use of referral marketing in your online community:
Provide Proven Templates
To minimize the effort your customers exert to refer their friends, have tried-and-tested outreach and sales templates on hand. You’ll get happier affiliates and more customers will buy your product. If you don’t already have these, you can hire a freelance marketer to craft some for you.
Reward Referrers Handsomely
Compensate referrers generously, so they do more. Rewards don’t always have to be monetary. For instance, you can give them access to premium industry events or even provide premium support so they don’t have to wait in line like everyone else. Customers love such perks.
So then, partner with your community members through advocacy and referral marketing.
Customer success: easy to achieve with an online community
Certainly, you can drive customer success with an online community.
A well-run community produces multiple business benefits. As customers connect, they become more loyal to your company. They also draw closer to each other by sharing best practices on how to use your product. Ultimately, they feel more engaged.
It’s time to go to work.Scale customer success through a flourishing online community.
Director of Marketing, Bettermode
Articles on community building, customer engagement, customer success, and more