In today’s do-it-yourself, get-it-now world, customers expect you to show up in online communities. These communities are a way to meet your customers at any time of day or night, where they want to be met—on your web page, on Facebook, within an actual product, and via any device.

Research shows an increasing adoption of online communities. In a recent survey of 800+ companies, 60% of respondents said they already have a dedicated community and another 25% plan to launch one in the next twelve months*.A community with a customer support charter is the number one starting point for these respondents. But some deploy communities with other goals in mind— like differentiating their brand with a more social experience, accelerating sales with customer-generated content, or pinpointing innovation opportunities.

Are you among the companies yet to commit to an online community? If so, what’s stopping you? Our research surfaced five key obstacles still preventing some companies from taking action. Let’s tackle them one by one, so no company is a no-show for their customers online.

#1: “I’m Not Sure How to Get Started.”

Companies all around you are engaging with customers via community—including your competitors. Some have been up and running for years. In getting started, don’t try to boil the ocean. Pick a strategic pain point to address and build your community around that. Here are a few of the most common support community charters among our customer base of more than 1,000 enterprises:

  • Scale support in the face of rapid growth
  • Meet customers’ increasing demand for self-service
  • Enhance traditional support with peer-to-peer content
  • Reduce support costs through ticket deflection
  • Support a ‘freemium’ product model with less expensive support
  • Automate FAQs to focus support on higher value interactions
  • Deliver a modern support experience with heart and personality

Once a community is launched and engagement begins, logical expansion areas are revealed. You may widen the scope from self-service to integrating the community with your helpdesk application or launching a customer champion program to develop and support the most actively engaged members. Your colleagues in marketing could leverage the community to improve retention or better understand customers. Product marketing could get input on existing products or ideas for new ones. They could even run a beta program or share the product roadmap in a private section of the community. Now you’re improving the overall customer experience and bridging your own potential organizational silos.

#2: “I Don’t Have the Resources Needed to Manage the Community.”

The amount of human energy needed for your community is directly linked to your specific strategy. When cost reduction and self-service are business drivers, resources may actually be liberated after an upfront investment. But if world-class, speed- of-lightening global support is your objective, you will likely end up with a dedicated community manager or small team of managers who have community as part of their responsibilities. And there’s lots of white space in between these two points.

Here are a few support community staffing scenarios. One often naturally leads to the next:

  • Your support team builds a knowledgebase of FAQs in the community. This can take time, but once
  • the content is available, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of staff resources spent answering the same common questions over and over.
  • Support staff regularly answer customers’ questions in the community. This requires the most time and effort from the team.
  • You encourage customers to answer one another’s questions and the support team marks the correct answers as the “Official Response.” This still requires someone to moderate and help drive the community, but it’s less time-consuming.
  • You develop a robust Champions program to recognize your most influential and passionate customers with badges and moderation privileges, and they do the work for you. This approach requires up-front time and effort but once you have a strong group of champions, you can expect less support team involvement.
  • The most active communities have a dedicated
  • (or mostly dedicated) community manager at the helm. This is a new and challenging role that makes a big difference in the success of the community. This person needs a strong mix of communication and organizational skills, along with a healthy dose of domain expertise in your company’s offerings. Often companies can convert a headcount from the support organization into a community manager position with support cost savings.

Keep in mind that all employees can participate in community duties. Some of our customers require a few hours each weeks from every employee. Others integrate community involvement into their new hire training programs. These practices distribute the workload and get everyone across the company engaging with customers.

#3: “I’m Just Not Sure I See the value of a Community.”

To determine the value of a support community, first examine the potential financial impact. What would you save by deflecting support tickets, reducing resolution times, or improving agent efficiency? There are a number of standard support metrics that are strongly influenced by a community. But don’t stop there. Factor in the strategic value such as increased customer satisfaction, higher retention, or an ingenious product or service idea suggested by a customer. Although sometimes harder to quantify, these outcomes can be priceless.

Forrester Research developed a return on investment model to calculate the possible financial impact of an online community. Companies can multiply the support calls that could be answered by a community by the average cost per call. Let’s assume you receive 3,000 calls every month at an average cost of $25. If you divert 25% of those calls to the community, that’s an annual savings of $225,000** (We’d be happy to provide a customize ROI report upon request, or check out the ROI calculator on our web site home page at getsatisfaction.com).

The opportunity cost of going without a community is another consideration. Google processes more than three billion searches every day. How many are on topics concerning your company, your industry, or the problem you solve? Because community content is mostly user- generated, it ranks very highly in search engines. If your competitors have an active community and you don’t, you may be coming up short when your customers search with their support questions. Even worse, a question meant for you might be directed to content in your competitor’s community.

One last thought: As the support function partners more with marketing and product development, it’s smart to recognize the financial and strategic value of community for those business units—greater brand awareness and advocacy, shorter sales cycles, faster product feedback cycles, more ideas around innovation, and more. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

#4: “a Community will take too long to Deploy.”

Getting a community off the ground can happen very quickly. An average implementation of a Get Satisfaction community is three weeks, but we’ve seen it done in a few days when there’s a pressing business imperative.

Below are some timing considerations:

  • Technology implementation:The technical aspect of a community is relatively straightforward. A basic community can be implemented in a single day. It’s the integration points that add some time and technical resources to the process. This might include adding community to an existing single sign on process, enabling federated search so the community displays content from other company knowledgebases, or integrating the community with CRM, helpdesk, analytics or other systems.
  • Community planning: Upfront planning can take a few weeks, depending on the number of stakeholders involved and your own sense of urgency. The important thing is to make sure the plan and all associated tactics and metrics cascade down from your original strategic objective. This will accelerate the planning itself and your ultimate time to value. A smart plan can be built based on our comprehensive library of best practices. We have detailed how-tos on everything from moderating and curating content to promoting customer engagement and managing negativity.
  • Ongoing engagement and analytics: Community analytics begin to flow right away. A community dashboard tracks the basics: engagement, number of active users, most popular topics and the volume of replies. From there, it’s a short leap to extracting more advanced data like site traffic segmentation, content generation activity, individual user activity and more.

#5: “It’s Going to Be too expensive.”

With the right community, a company’s initial investment should be recouped in less than 12 months. A big part of keeping costs down is selecting a technology platform with attributes that accelerate that return:

  • Affordably priced solution based on a SaaS business model and offering flexible pricing.
  • Easy to deploy so you are up and running in days, not months.
  • Easy to use so customers engage faster and more frequently.
  • Personalized to give customers a more contextual, customized experience.
  • Multi-channel so community content is discovered on web sites, social media, search engines, and via all kinds of mobile devices.
  • Easily integrated with CRM, helpdesk, analytics, social media, and other business systems.
  • Easily expands beyond support to serve marketing, sales, and product development agendas.
  • Offers support, resources, and expertise to make sure you build increasing value over time.

We Can Show you the way

You can invest in every traditional form of support and it’s still not enough. That’s because companies around the world are already capitalizing on community—in many cases due to increasing pressure from their customers. It’s not hard. We will show you the way. Get Satisfaction was founded with the belief that the relationship between companies and their customers is ready for higher ground. When you’re up for that next level, we’re here—with the fastest time to value for you and your customers.

Case Studies

P&G

P&G’s Braun and Oral B brands deployed a support community with a specific goal—reach customers faster and in a more cost effective way. Mission accomplished: The brands reduced support costs 67% while increasing customer satisfaction by 10%.

SPS Commerce

SPS Commerce has the good fortune of a rapidly- growing customer base, many of whom expect a self-help option. By the end of the first year of its Get Satisfaction community, the company estimates it deflected over 28,000 customer contacts—300% more than it had forecasted.

Koodo Mobile

With a customer base of over one million, Koodo Mobile wanted a community that would mostly run itself. After establishing a comprehensive knowledgebase, Koodo actually freed up resources. The results are eye-opening: More than 95% of community questions are answered without employee involvement and there’s been a 44% increase in call deflections.

TechSmith

TechSmith’s community serves as a great way for customers to let the company know when products are on track, when something isn’t up to snuff, and where they want TechSmith to go next. The community provides a scope and diversity of feedback that would be cost prohibitive by traditional methods. In the development of one new product alone, TechSmith estimated nearly $500,000 in savings.

Prezi

When Prezi launched in 2009, it embedded a Get Satisfaction community into its strategy right out of the gate. Today, the community of 60,000+ members delivers customer support, product feedback and peer- to-peer idea sharing. It also has two newer communities in Spanish and Portuguese.

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, HootSuite 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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