Do You Have The Right (Support) Bucket?

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Customer service and support is continuously evolving and great service differentiates brands and turns customers into advocates.  This blog will discuss three service buckets and how an online community can benefit your company while providing your customers an outstanding service experience.

The First Bucket: Phone Queue

Something we are all familiar with, but often hate using.  Because there such a high staffing cost to companies, customers are often burdened with lengthy menus or unhelpful automated responses.  To add further irritation, it is often difficult to reach the rep with the right level of knowledge leading to transferred calls, the need for a customer to start over; a horrible experience.

The Second Bucket: Self Service

Convenience and speed are appreciated by customers and allowing them to help themselves is very popular.  YouTube videos,  or a knowledge base created from solved customer problems are very helpful to customers and will free up support rep time, but what if a customer has a question?  If there is no way to ask a question or if comments are not monitored, the problem still exists and the customer remains frustrated.

The Third Bucket: Online Community

An online community offers customers many things they are seeking: speed of answers, access to a knowledge base, and most importantly, the ability to ask questions about their unique issue.  Like a knowledge base, a community cuts costs by documenting solutions and providing self service; both reduce demand on support reps.  Furthermore, most community solutions are provided by customers: a cost savings for the company, and trusted by peers.

An online community will deliver trusted and targeted support to your customers in a timely manner while reducing costs for your company.  If you have not done so, it is time for your community!  I look forward to your questions and comments.

Best,

Toby

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#SproutChat: Managing Online Communities

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Good day Community Managers, this is my recap and answers I provided for the 10/4/2017 #SproutChat hosted by Vera Flores  and guest Meagan DeMenna @SocialMeagan Join the conversation every Wednesday at 3pm EST.

Q1: What is a digital community? How do you define this?

  • Digital community: an online place where ppl can gather & trade knowledge & interests
  • The community is online and ppl share common interests and answer each other’s questions
  • A tweetchat is a great example of a digital community

Q2: What are some first steps to building a digital community? Where can these communities live?

  • Determine what your community will do: peer to peer support, marketing, internal, external, product development
  • Communities can live on Facebook or LinkedIn (free) – or (paid)
  • Determine what features you want – analytics you need – what is the customer experience?
  • What resources do you have: financial and personnel
  • Determine if your community and its content will be open or private
  • I believe community content should be open (for SEO), but you must register to participate

Q3: How do you identify community goals? And how do you measure the success of your community?

  • If for peer to peer support: Question volume (increasing or decreasing), Engagement Rate, Answer Rate
  • Rather than overall membership, focus on activity: members creating content, reacting to it (and each other)

Q4: How can you use content to fuel your community?

  • Content IS the fuel
  • Content: Answers, Best Practices, How-To’s, Blogs, Videos – these are why ppl come
  • Along with content, it is important for your to respond to and engage with your members

Q5: What are some tips for engaging and encouraging conversation with a community?

  • If you put out a blog or video, ask for questions AND respond to them
  • If there is an unanswered question, ask a Power User to chime in and answer
  • Acknowledge members by thank them for their answers and contributions
  • Identify your power users / MVPs, acknowledge them and recognize them in front of the community

Q6: Share some of the communities you belong to

This was a fantastic chat about Community and I thank you  @SproutSocial  @sproutvera ‏  @SocialMeagan for hosting.  Please let me know if you have any questions about building and managing online communities as well as Community platforms.  See you at the next #SproutChat.

Best,

Toby

 

#ContentChat: Designing Exceptional Community Experiences

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Good day Community Managers, this is my recap and answers I provided for the 10/2/2017 #ContentChat chat hosted by Erika Heald  and guest Arielle Tannenbaum @ariellemargot  Join the conversation every Monday at 3pm EST.

Q1: How do you define an exceptional community experience?

  • An exceptional community experience is all about engagement: members need to get answers
  • An exceptional community experience means interacting with & learning from ppl with shared interests / goals
  • Where everyone knows your name – and glad you came 🙂
  • A place were members feel welcomed and are not afraid to ask questions

Q2: What do you do differently as a community builder when you are focused on experience?

  • Rather than trying to give answers, I stimulate conversations and encourage others to answers
  • Focus on interaction and conversation – always say thank you
  • Train members on the features and layout of the community: help them use the tools & organize content
  • Ask members about their interests and what they want to learn
  • Focus on interesting content rather than pushing yours
  • Learn about your membership, identify your power users, and engage them

Q3: Why should community builders be focused on community experience?

  • Communities are like restaurants: the experience is as important as the meal
  • Members don’t only want answers, but friendly interaction and relationships as well
  • Like where you work, the environment is everything

Q4: What are the essential elements of an exceptional community experience?

  • Shared experiences, engagement, answers, relationships
  • Supportive environment where everyone can learn from each other

Q5: What are the primary issues or challenges holding many community builders back from taking an experience approach?

  • Management that doesn’t understand community
  • A community needs to have an environment & conversations before focusing on metrics
  • Not taking the time to build trust and relationships with members
  • Fear of companies, the CMGR, moderators of real engagement – show your personality

Q6: What is an exceptional community experience you’ve had? What made it special to you?

  • It’s all about being recognized by the CMGR and the membership
  • Having a community where you can always get answers – a knowledge base that talks to you

Thanks for reading, I would love your comments.  Please stop by #ContentChat and join the conversation.

Cheers,

Toby

 

 

Community Manager ROI: Customer Retention

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I have to take my hat off to Andrew Dennis (@AndrewDennis33) for this excellent piece on the importance of customer retention.  Andrew shows why it is important to retain customers, I am going to discuss who can help you make it happen.

Think about your online community and all the customers who visit and participate daily. These folks are not only paying your bills, they are potential brand ambassadors and peer to peer customer service reps.  Your Community Manager engages this valuable group daily, is their advocate, will triage their issues, and gains their trust.

When it comes to ROI, a strong community will:

  1. Provide peer to peer support: customers will answer each other’s questions and share tips.
  2. Develop a knowledge base from conversations and answers provided within the community into a two-sided knowledge base for customer self-learning.
    • Internal: what the product was designed to do
    • From Customers: what the product CAN do
  3. Provide trusted product reviews for potential customers.
  4. A reduction of formal cases filed with your Support or Engineering teams.
  5. A treasure trove of customer-centric content for your social media efforts.

Thank you Andrew for clearly communicating the importance of retention, now we must work with our Community Manager(s) to make it happen.  I look forward to your comments and questions.

Best,

Toby

 

Engagement Before Membership

As a Community Manager, I love interacting with my members as well as talking shop with my fellow CMGRs.  We agree that creating a supportive environment that encourages problem solving and knowledge sharing is the most rewarding part of our job.  We are also metrics junkies always seeking the quantitative data that helps us tell our stories.  Which to you think is more valuable: total membership or engagement?  It is true that the greater your membership, the greater potential you have for reach and engagement; too bad one does not guarantee the other.  No matter your social network or community, without engagement and collaboration your large count is just a list of individuals. Social media networks and communities are about interaction and the sharing of knowledge; the more members / followers who contribute, share, and collaborate with each other, the more valuable the network.

The charts below are from a personal foodie community I created, manage, and am very proud of: We Love to Cook (and Eat) : stop by, ask a question, post a picture, or get hungry.  This group is 564 members strong, very engaged and responsive to one another.

In the last 28 days, 416 of the 564 members are active, that’s 74%!  From the 2nd chart: for 136 posts, there are 426 comments and 1,609 reactions .  Numbers like this make me proud: not only are members active (4.85 posts per day), but they are engaging with and responding to one another.  No matter your social network or community, without engagement and collaboration your large count is just a list rather than an asset.

How can engagement make a positive impact in my B2B community?

  1. A better educated customer
  2. Reduced volume of formal cases
  3. A knowledge base of solutions and best practices
  4. Problems get solved by other community members (customers)
  5. A consistently growing volume of keyword rich content boosts SEO
  6. Company participation builds trust, rapport, and loyalty with customers

In short, build your community and engage within it; membership is easy, but engagement provides value.

I look forward to your questions and comments.

Cheers,

Toby

Please note: Facebook defines Active Members as: Members who viewed, posted, commented on or reacted to group content.

Your Utility Infielder & Company MVP

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I am often asked: “Under what department does a community belong?” As you see from my simple slide, the Community Manager supports and contributes throughout the company.

Social Media, Customer Service, Technical Support, Marketing, Product Development – these are essentials your community can deliver. Setting up a community and choosing the right platform is a different discussion, but before doing either, start with a qualified Community Manager.

Where does your community live?

Cheers,

Toby

 

Communities ARE Social Media

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There is confusion about the relation between these two and the misunderstanding that communities are not social media.  Not so.  Social Media is a form of electronic communication that consists of different platforms; communities are one of those platforms.  How do you want to engage?

Social Media defined by  Merriam Webster:

Forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content.

Online Communities defined by  CommonCraft.com:

An online community is a group of people with common interests who use the Internet (web sites, email, instant messaging, etc) to communicate, work together and pursue their interests over time.

Social networks like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook are fun and sexy: they are used for social listening, brand promotion, and limited customer engagement.  Communities are electronic Town Halls that enable conversations and deeper engagement: customers provide feedback, comments, and questions; brands have obligation to respond.

No matter brand promotion, customer service, or customer engagement, you must understand your audience: what networks are they using, and where you are comfortable engaging.  As with anything: you need the right tool for the right job.  For social media, you need the right network to reach customers and have the right conversations. Communities are social media.

Where do your conversations happen?

Cheers,

Toby