What Are They – and Why Are They Vital to Business Success in the Era of Social Customer

OPEN SOCIAL NETWORKS CREATED NEW WAYS FOR PEOPLE TO CONNECT AND SHARE.

Today’s customers are highly social, so chances are, they are already talking about your products and services on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Teens, tweens, 20-somethings, 30-somethings, middle-aged moms and dads, and grandparents – they all share and interact in open social networks with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. These networks have provided a new way for people to truly engage with one another about what’s important to them and share their opinions and experiences with brands and products. At the same time, they have created new opportunities for your business to connect with consumers, develop trust-based relationships, and gain unique customer insights to fuel more effective marketing, sales, and service experiences.

– AND CUSTOMERS EXPECT MORE FROM INTERACTIONS WITH BRANDS.

For example, today’s consumers want the freedom to interact with your company and your customers whenever and wherever they want. Before making a purchase, they may want to hear directly from your customers about their experiences with your products. And increasingly, they prefer the ease of self-service – for instance, so they can find answers to support questions when it’s convenient for them (rather than calling your customer care center between 9 and 5).

OPEN SOCIAL NETWORKS AREN’T OPTIMIZED OR PREFERRED FOR BRAND- CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT.

The problem is that traditional social media channels like Facebook and Twitter aren’t optimized for these types of deeper customer engagement – or preferred by customers for direct brand engagement. According to a recent study conducted by The Incyte Group(1) involving nearly 2,000 consumers(2), people don’t participate in open social networks like Facebook to research products and services of a company. They go there primarily go to interact with individuals — friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and professional networks — not brands. And when making purchase decisions, websites — not social networks — are the primary place consumers go to research products of a specific brand.

Clearly, a big gap exists between how consumers want to interact with brands on social networks and how companies are actually using social networks. This gap helps explain why – after spending $17 billion on social media-related initiatives in 2012 – companies have largely failed to see expected return on investment (for example, higher revenues). And it’s why most companies have not kept pace with new consumer expectations about self-service support and connecting from customers.

WHAT IS A BRANDED CUSTOMER COMMUNITY?

Incyte’s research revealed that over 50 percent of consumers show a strong preference for branded customer communities when interacting directly with brands. Customer communities are new online social spaces where consumers can share their opinions, ideas, and knowledge – and companies can provide access to relevant, trusted information at every stage in the customer buying cycle. These communities are:

  • Proactively managed by companies.
  • Strongly linked to social networks so people can easily share information with like-minded friends and family.
  • Designed to help consumers assess the trustworthiness of peer answers and comments.
  • Tightly integrated with the company’s website so shoppers can easily view social conversations and opinions as they research products on the brand’s website.
  • Full of relevant, accurate content vetted for accuracy by the brand and easily accessed so that it’s relevant to members’ changing context (shopper, new user seeking assistance, and so on).

WHAT MAKES CUSTOMER COMMUNITIES SO APPEALING TO CUSTOMERS?

Communities connect customers to each other for peer-to-peer engagement and allows them to have conversations — such as questions about your products, praise, product feedback, and answers to support questions. These conversations are highly discoverable by search engines and available to others who have similar questions. They can be used to provide fast, community-based, self-service support around the clock. What attracts people to customer communities is trusted content from customers who are already using your products and the relevancy of the content, both at the point of sale and post-sale.

At the same time, customer communities allow your company to engage with customers at every stage of the customer life cycle around the topics they care about. For example, customers can:

  • Easily find your community and website, connect with existing customers, and discover offerings to meet their needs.
  • Evaluate your offerings by asking questions, browsing existing answers, or getting fast responses from your customers about your products.
  • Leverage persistent word-of-mouth marketing – in the form of customer feedback and trusted comments from peers – to make a faster, more informed buying decision.
  • Easily access FAQs, links to “how-to videos,” and other customers and employees to ensure they have a positive experience right from the start.
  • Form a bond and become repeat customers and even advocates by experiencing fast, reliable self-service and community support when they have an issue (for example, by searching the community knowledge base, posting a problem and getting an accurate response quickly).
  • Act as a customer advocate that provides free word-of-mouth content to prospects and customers. Without a community, your brand typically isn’t involved in these “back yard” discussions. Communities preserve and amplify favorable words so many people can be influenced by them.

CUSTOMER COMMUNITIES DELIVER SIGNIFICANT BOTTOM-LINE BENEFITS.

The benefits of customer communities go beyond deeper customer insights, extending right to your company’s bottom line. Using a customer community to build authentic engagement with consumers across the customer life cycle has tangible business value across your organization, especially customer service, marketing, and product development departments.

BENEFIT #1: REDUCE SUPPORT COSTS.

A customer community can help you reduce support costs by enabling you to:

  • Reduce your support tickets – by deflecting cases away from higher-cost channels and increasing agent efficiency by connecting customers to each other for social support.
  • Provide better customer self-service – by enabling customers to self-serve when they need support using a social knowledge base and community FAQ.
  • Enable peer-to-peer support – by recognizing and activating your best customers to become support Champions.

BENEFIT #2: ACQUIRE MORE CUSTOMERS.

A customer community can help you reduce support costs by enabling you to:

  • I mprove your SEO – so customers can find your business, products, and services more easily.
  • Make your website more engaging for prospects – by generating customer generated, company-vetted information they can trust and use to make informed buying decisions.
  • Leverage community content for word-of-mouth marketing – which is earned content, and yet is proven highly effective at converting prospects into buyers

BENEFIT #3: DESIGN BETTER PRODUCTS.

Customer communities can also be used to gain insight into what customers like — and don’t like — about your products, as well as capture specific ideas for new or improved products. For example, you can:

  • Get real-time voice-of—the-customer feedback – by including a feedback community as part of your new product releases and beta tests so product managers can quickly iterate on final improvements and ship better products.
  • Get business insight from customers – because community members freely provide feedback on products in the course of social conversations, build on one another’s ideas, and depending on your platform, vote for each other’s ideas, resulting in a “live” focus group at no cost.
  • Build the products customers want by gathering in-context feedback – because you have a centralized location to collect product-specific feedback from potentially hundreds of customers, and if your company has many products, you can separately collect feedback on each one.

KEEP IN STEP WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS. BETTER YET, BE ONE STEP AHEAD

nterested in learning more about how a Get Satisfaction customer community can help you acquire more customers, drive product innovation, and deliver excellent, low-cost social support? CALL: 877-339-3997 to schedule a demo

About Get Satisfaction

Based in San Francisco, Get Satisfaction provides an online community platform connecting companies with customers to foster relationships that unlock new value for both sides. Companies of all sizes and industries—from Kellogg’s, P&G and Intuit to Sonos, and SugarCRM—rely on Get Satisfaction to deliver online communities that modernize customer support, accelerate sales, differentiate their brand and inspire new innovations. Get Satisfaction’s community platform offers the fastest time to value for companies ready to embrace the way today’s customers want to engage.


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