Ever had a question about a product and wished you could just ask someone who’s been in your shoes? That’s where support communities come in!
Our team at Bettermode has worked with hundreds of brands to launch and maintain thriving support communities. Drawing on this experience, we’re about to unpack what makes support communities tick, their benefits, and how some big brands are acing it.
Curious? Let’s jump in!
What is a support community?
A support community is a brand community designed with the specific goal of providing users with customer support.
Customers can access help in three main ways:
Direct interaction with support teams: Users can directly engage with the customer support team within the community, ensuring their questions are addressed by experts familiar with the product or service.
Peer-to-peer assistance: In a support community, users can connect with other members who might have faced similar challenges. This peer-to-peer interaction often leads to practical, real-world solutions.
Repository of answers: Over time, support communities build a comprehensive library of questions and answers. New and returning users can search through these posts to find solutions, reducing the need to create new support tickets.
Support communities are different because they let users help each other out, not just wait for a company rep to answer. Plus, they create a go-to spot for answers, cutting down on the same questions being asked over and over.
How does a support community fit into your omni-channel support strategy?
In simple terms, omni-channel support is about giving your customers a consistent and seamless experience, no matter how they reach out to you. It's like setting up a net to catch any issues or questions, no matter where they come from. But there's often a gap in this net, and that's where a support community fits in.
Bridging the self-service gap: While you might have FAQs and chatbots on various channels, a support community offers a deeper, more interactive form of customer self-service. It's where users can dive into detailed discussions, find similar issues, or even create their own threads.
Unified knowledge base: Different channels often have fragmented information. A support community can act as a central repository, ensuring that whether a customer starts their journey on social media and then jumps to your website, they're always directed to the same, consistent set of information.
Enhancing other channels: The insights and solutions generated in the community can be used to update FAQs on other channels, train chatbots, or inform customer service reps.
A support community is not just another channel; it's the glue that can hold your entire strategy together.
The benefits of a customer support community
Having a support community is a game-changer, not just for your customers, but also for your support agents and the overall business.
Quick answers: No one likes waiting on hold or for an email reply. With a community, customers can often find answers to their questions instantly by searching through previous discussions.
Peer insights: Sometimes, the best solutions come from someone who's faced the same issue. Customers can get real-world advice from peers who've been in their shoes.
Feeling heard: A community provides a platform for customers to voice their opinions, feedback, and even frustrations. It's a space where they know they're not just shouting into the void.
For support agents
Reduced repetition: With a growing library of solutions and discussions, agents don't have to answer the same questions over and over. They can direct users to existing threads.
Feedback collection: Agents can monitor community discussions to gather feedback, helping them understand common pain points or areas for improvement.
Skill development: By engaging in diverse discussions, agents can deepen their product knowledge and improve their problem-solving skills.
For the business
Cost savings: A thriving community can reduce the number of tickets and calls, leading to significant savings in support costs.
As shared by Richard Millington in a Harvard Business Review article, FeverBee had a client hide their community for four months to see how it affected the company’s performance. They found answering through the community was 72% cheaper than other support channels, and without a community, support tickets went up 58%, and response speed dropped 35%.
Product improvement: By keeping an ear to the ground in community discussions, businesses can glean insights to refine and enhance their products or services.
Brand loyalty: When customers feel connected to a community, they're more likely to stick around. It's not just about your product anymore; it's about being part of a larger group.
Key components of a support community
A support community is essentially your business's help center and a crucial piece of your customer self-service. It's where your users go when they have questions, need guidance, or want to learn more about what you offer.
Your support community should be a holistic hub designed to empower users, giving them the tools and platforms they need to understand, utilize, and get the most out of your product or service.
Let's dive into the core elements that make up this hub:
Knowledge base: Think of your knowledge base as your product's encyclopedia. It's packed with articles, FAQs, and guides that detail the ins and outs of what you offer. Whether a user is stuck on step one or troubleshooting an advanced feature, the knowledge base is their first port of call.
Support forum: This is the heart of your community. It's an interactive space where users post questions and share their own solutions. Over time, a customer support forum becomes a treasure trove of user-generated insights and solutions, often covering scenarios and edge cases that your official documentation might not touch upon.
Tutorials and resources: Different people learn in different ways. While some might be interested in text-based guides, others benefit from visual aids like video tutorials or infographics. You can create various channels or spaces in your support community to offer a mix of different resources and ensure you cater to a broad range of learning preferences.
Events: These are opportunities to engage with your community in real time. Whether it's a webinar introducing a new feature, a Q&A session with your product team, or a tutorial workshop, events bring a dynamic, interactive element to your support offerings.
Links to other support resources: Sometimes, users need direct intervention. Maybe it's a complex issue, or they're just not finding what they need in the community. Having clear pathways to live chat, call centers, or other direct support channels ensures they're never left hanging.
Best practices to build a thriving online support community
Building a support community is one thing; keeping it thriving is another. Here are some tried-and-true practices to ensure your community stays vibrant, helpful, and engaging:
Navigating your community should be a breeze, especially if you’re dealing with multiple products or a complex service. Categorize discussions, use tags effectively, and maintain a clear, intuitive layout. This will ensure users can quickly find what they’re looking for, reducing frustration and enhancing their overall experience.
Stay current and relevant. Regularly update the community with accurate and helpful information about your product and services. Spotlight popular discussions or particularly insightful contributions. And remember, variety is key – mix up content types to cater to different learning preferences.
Integration with other support channels
Integrate your community with other support channels such as chatbot, CRM, and ticketing system to provide a cohesive user experience. This makes it easy for users to navigate between the community and other support resources and improves the efficiency of your team.
When your customers turn to search engines with their issues, your support community should be right there in the results. Optimize your content with relevant keywords, use descriptive titles, and ensure that the community is indexed by search engines. This way, you’re meeting your users where they already are – on Google and other search platforms.
If your business serves a global customer base, providing community content in multiple languages is non-negotiable. It will break down language barriers and make sure that everyone, regardless of where they’re from, feels included and can access the help they need. Providing a seamless support experience to all your customers is the first step in activating support-driven growth.
Highlighted best answers
When a question gets answered or an issue is resolved, tag it as such, and don’t forget to pin and highlight the best answer. This isn’t just about visual tidiness; it’s about efficiency. It ensures that when someone comes in with the same question, they don’t have to dig – the solution is right there, front and center.
Advanced search functionality
Users should be able to effortlessly find the best answers to their queries. Use a platform with advanced search functionality that suggests relevant posts, allows for easy filtering of results, and uses the new AI advancements to further improve the search experience.
If your organization maintains a separate knowledge base, federated search is also crucial. This feature enables customers to find and access answers from the knowledge base when searching for their issues within the customer support community.
Listen and adapt. Actively seek and value feedback from the community, and implement changes based on this feedback. At the end of your help articles, add quick surveys, upvote and downvote buttons, or a comments section to give your users a chance to share their opinions about each piece of content. Also, consider using a chatbot to collect feedback on your users’ overall experience after each visit.
Communicating these changes effectively closes the feedback loop and shows that you’re in tune with your users’ needs.
Accessibility and inclusivity
Ensure everyone can participate by making the community accessible to people with disabilities and fostering an environment where diverse perspectives are valued.
Regularly analyze community engagement and performance metrics to identify areas for improvement. Common questions and topics can inform your content creation plans. Also, don’t forget about regular sentiment analysis that can help you spot your customers’ pain points, refine your community management strategies and optimize your content.
General community-building best practices
The foundational principles of managing any community are equally applicable to a support community.
Engage with the community members by recognizing their contributions, organizing interactive events, and encouraging discussions. Moderation helps in maintaining a positive and respectful environment, while clear rules set the expectations and standards of behavior within the community. These practices collectively contribute to building a thriving, respectful, and collaborative support community.
Case studies: Powerful support communities to learn from
Bettermode Hub, developed on Bettermode's all-in-one community platform, offers a streamlined and user-friendly experience. Their team has taken advantage of the platform’s advanced Design Studio to create a visually appealing community. An intuitive menu and quick links to essential resources like the Knowledge Base and Contact Support make navigation easy and efficient.
The Knowledge Base is also organized into practical categories such as "Get Started" and "Integrations," helping users find relevant articles quickly.
In the Support Space, a Call-to-Action encourages users to ask their questions. Community admins and peers can provide answers to the posted questions, and users can upvote questions or follow them to get notified when it’s resolved.
When a question is resolved, it’s tagged and the best answer is highlighted and pinned, making it easy for future users to find what the best answer to their question.
The community is well-integrated with other support channels such as the chatbot and the ticketing system, ensuring a smooth transition if users need additional support. Plus, Bettermode's real-time translation feature makes the community accessible to a wider audience by allowing users to view content in their preferred language.
An intuitive interface and well-organized resources improve user satisfaction.
Highlighting and pinning the best answer to each question streamlines the users’ journey in resolving their issues.
Translation features expand accessibility and reach of your support content.
Apple Support Community
Apple’s support community has a clear and intuitive layout that helps users effortlessly navigate through various product categories, find answers and share their own knowledge and experience with other Apple users.
A notable feature of this community is the active participation of experienced members who share insightful tips and solutions. These contributions, rated by other users, become a valuable knowledge base, covering a spectrum of scenarios, from basic troubleshooting to advanced feature utilization.
The community also features user profiles with levels and points, recognizing and rewarding active members, which fosters a sense of achievement and encourages further participation. To further celebrate the contributions of super-members, Apple has launched Apple Community+ Program that rewards the most active memers with special perks, white-glove experiences, and more.
A clear and intuitive community structure enhances user experience.
Recognition and points drive active participation and valuable contributions, but it’s also important to go beyond virtual points and celebrate the achievements of the most valuable community members with something more special.
Adobe Support Community
Adobe’s Support Community is a well-structured and engaging platform, designed to cater to the diverse needs of its creative user base. The community is organized into sub-communities, each focusing on a specific Adobe product. In the community’s homepage, filters based on creative fields such as Photography and Design & Layout are provided to enable users to swiftly locate the community and content most relevant to their needs.
Within each sub-community, content is systematically categorized into Featured posts, Bugs, Announcements, and more. This helps users effortlessly find the posts that address their queries or interests. The addition of tags like MacOS and Windows, along with quick links to related communities and FAQs enhances user navigation.
The Adobe Support Community can be proud of its helpful and invaluable content. A prime example is a comprehensive article featuring a compilation of handy Photoshop links, poised to be a go-to bookmark for any user seeking to maximize the utility of the software.
Additionally, badges, the ability to upvote valuable content, and rich user profiles contribute to an environment where users are motivated to participate, share insights, and learn from one another.
A well-organized community structure, complemented by filters and tags, significantly enhances user navigation and experience.
Rich and comprehensive content serves as a valuable resource for users, encouraging them to go back to the community whenever they face an issue.
Features such as badges, upvotes, and user profiles foster engagement and create a vibrant and collaborative community.
The future of customer support communities
As we look toward the future, customer support communities are becoming even more integral to the user experience. The integration of advanced technologies and a shift towards more personalized and proactive support are key trends shaping the evolution of these communities.
AI and machine learning integration
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are reshaping the way communities function. Imagine a community where moderation isn’t just about human vigilance but is enhanced by AI algorithms that can identify and address negative behaviors or misinformation promptly.
Moreover, AI and ML can automate responses to common queries, freeing up human agents to address more complex issues and enhancing user satisfaction through swift resolution.
These technologies can analyze user behavior and preferences to personalize community experiences. For example, by analyzing a user’s interaction history, the community can highlight relevant content, discussions, and support resources, making each visit more valuable and tailored to individual needs.
Users no longer want generic interactions; they seek experiences that understand and anticipate their unique needs. Enhanced personalization is about leveraging user data responsibly to curate content and interactions that are most relevant to the individual.
Imagine logging into a support community and being greeted with content and discussions tailored to your product usage, preferences, and past queries. This level of personalization turns the community from a reactive support channel into a proactive resource, where users can discover new features, best practices, and insights that are specifically relevant to them.
This shift towards personalized experiences is not just about user satisfaction; it’s about efficiency. When users can swiftly find the information they need, it reduces the load on support agents and fosters a sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency among community members.
In proactive support companies anticipate user needs and address issues before they become problems. Support communities are uniquely positioned to facilitate this by fostering a collaborative environment where users and support agents can share knowledge and insights.
For instance, if a common issue is identified within the community, support agents can proactively create content, tutorials, or discussions addressing this issue.
Support communities are a transformative approach to customer service. They’re about fostering peer-to-peer assistance, creating a comprehensive repository of solutions, and ensuring users feel heard and valued. By bridging gaps in omni-channel support and acting as a unifying force, support communities not only resolve issues, but also create connections and drive innovation.
If you’re looking for a platform to build a robust support community, Bettermode stands out as a top choice, offering features and integrations that align with the future of support communities.
How can we create a support community?
Creating a support community starts with defining a clear goal. What do you want to achieve? Understanding your audience is next – who will be the users, and what are their needs? Once you have this foundation in place, it’s time to choose a community platform that aligns with your objectives and assemble a dedicated team responsible for building and maintaining the community. This team will think through the finer details, such as establishing community guidelines and curating content.
How to measure the performance of a support community?
To measure the performance of a support community start by looking at how the community contributes to your overall customer support metrics – is it reducing ticket volumes or improving resolution times?
Then, dive into community-specific metrics like engagement rate. It tells you how active and involved your members are. Are they contributing to discussions, and are those discussions fruitful? Balancing overall support metrics with community-specific ones gives you a comprehensive view of your community’s performance and its impact on customer satisfaction.
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