Companies today are acutely interested in becoming more customer-centric and increasing customers' lifetime value. One key way to deepen engagement with customers is by creating and cultivating a customer community, but many companies don't know how to develop a compelling community -- one that keeps customers engaged over time.
Whether you're building a support-focused or marketing-focused community, there are a few best practices that go a long way to driving up customer lifetime value and driving down costs. Here are some proven concepts that marketers and other community owners should keep in mind:
1. Develop a strategy and establish a core team
- Get staff to help, and create a core team. Communities are only as successful as those managing them and creating compelling content.
- Be sure to set up specific groups of people who will respond to certain questions based on their responsibilities. A core team in charge of answering a variety of questions will promote more accurate replies, and reduce the wait time for a well-formulated response. These are typically time-sensitive elements (whether complaints or questions), so the faster you can get a response, the better!
2. Create a workflow from your customer community to your social intranet
- Set up a process to identify trends and insights on your customer community and bring them into your marketing team to discuss and take action -- drive new product enhancements, improve customer service flows, strengthen your messaging, etc.
- Pulling these trends and insights into your internal team on a regular basis will create a culture of customer-centricity and help drive business decisions with the customer top of mind.
3. Create private spaces to discuss sensitive issues with customers
- Create a private space for each of your customers. This is critical to avoid privacy concerns and to allow open conversation between your customers and your employees.
- Create problem-specific groups in customer spaces. In the customer space, you can also create customer groups to address issues specific to your customer. This is an incredibly resourceful way of organizing your company documentation about your Support Communities.
4. Create public areas to share company information and provide access to subject matter experts to answer questions
- Create spaces for your different product or service offerings.
- Provide common Q&A information in each of public spaces.
- Link to these spaces on the homepage of your support community. Make it easy for customers to navigate to these different groups from the homepage of your customer community.
- Regularly share plans and pertinent information to build loyalty. Give people a reason to visit the community. This is the best place to talk up your achievements, plans and highlight customer success. It's also a great way to get your customers to be evangelists for your company!
5. Empower your customers to create spaces to share their expertise and interact with their peers
- Allow your customers to create areas where they can build up their reputation through blogging, sharing success stories or starting conversations with other customers.
- Recognize and reward your customers' contributions with badges or increased permissions in the community, but do it purposefully. Design a strategy for rewarding behavior you want repeated and that aligns with your business objectives.
6. Create standard responses
- You will want to develop standard responses for different social platforms. Depending on what you support, there are any number of ways to create an effective structure. Practice, and feel out what works best for your company to make a good solid frame.
Developing a company that's customer centric is contingent on having both an active customer community as well as a channel to funnel customer activity and discussions back into the employee network. Simply put, it's the Yin and Yang of a truly social business.
Editor's Note: Read more from this month's focus on customer communities here.