2014-15-July-Contact-Center.jpgThe business benefits of customer communities are well known: call deflection, search engine optimization (SEO), product ideation and even revenue growth. While some of these benefits directly benefit customer support teams, others benefit the broader organization.

Customer engagement helps sales teams drive incremental revenue, ideation helps inform the product roadmap for product management and SEO helps the marketing team rank higher for particular keywords. Ask customer support managers and they’ll tell you how customer communities can make their teams more valuable.

My Lunch with a Customer Support Manager

I recently had lunch with a friend and the conversation turned to his new job that he had started one month earlier. He leads a team of 10 people as customer support manager. I asked him to name his top objectives with the new job. He named these five:

  1. Getting more customers to complete customer support surveys
  2. Understanding customer issues and concerns
  3. Increasing retention rates on the team
  4. Leveraging the idle cycles of the team
  5. Keeping the knowledge base updated

“Wow,” I said. “That’s a lot.”

My friend’s company does not have a customer community. In talking through his five objectives, however, we both saw the light on how a customer community could help him achieve his objectives.

Let’s take a look at each one:

1. Getting More Feedback from Customers

While customer communities won’t increase the number of survey completions, they address a similar need: getting valuable feedback from customers. Surveys are a mix of quantitative and qualitative feedback. On the quantitative side, customer support managers can see how well they rank (e.g., “we scored a 4.6 out of 5.0 on the customer satisfaction scale”). On the qualitative side, managers can read the freeform comments submitted by customers.

For my friend, the quantitative factors are important, but he spends far more time reading through the customer comments. Why? Because comments can tell him far more than the 4.6 out of 5. They provide the context associated with the ratings: they explain how he can make up those 0.4 points towards a perfect score.

Customer communities are a qualitative survey that has no end. They’re an “always on” vehicle for giving customer support managers an ongoing stream of customer feedback. They’re a great complement to customer satisfaction surveys.

2. Understanding Customer Issues and Concerns

My friend read through a lot of trouble tickets in his first month on the job. He’s going through an exercise in pattern matching: as he reads through the details of each ticket, he’s trying to understand whether there are common concerns or product issues.

While I’m sure this exercise is valuable, it falls short in painting a complete picture. By definition, trouble tickets are created when a problem exists. Looking solely at trouble tickets would give you a clouded view of how your product or service is being used.