How online communities improve customer support?

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The business landscape has changed

The world is changing, especially in the community industry. This has always been true, but I feel it more because the pace of change continues to accelerate. With technology providing a lot of tools and opportunities in the community industry, it feels like businesses can pedal to the metal on every aspect of their customer journey.

But here’s the thing that we tend to forget amidst all these changes - people are inherently still the same. All they are looking for is to find a personal connection with you or your product.

Moreover, you realize that you are no longer competing in a specific city or country. You’re competing around the world with a product in your hand that is similar to half a dozen other businesses, maybe more. You have to constantly think harder to come up with a differentiating factor for your product/ business. And the only way to do this is to…

Become a customer-centric business. Make your customer support a differentiating factor.

Smart businesses have started doing this already. I think it’s a great way to stand out from your competitors as it builds loyalty amongst your customers.

However, you might have witnessed that most of the companies just claim to be customer-focused rather than truly being one. This will become pretty evident if you observe your interactions with different companies whose products you’re using.

For example, I have experienced delays in the resolutions of my issues/ requests of some products because my support tickets have been transferred many times between departments. But companies like Amazon have just nailed this part. They can resolve similar types of issues within hours. And most importantly, I love the overall experience because I can easily approach their customer support team get my issues resolved. 

Well, when B2B businesses think of customer experience, they should think about taking control of customers interacting with your business at every touchpoint of their journey. And while it might seem overwhelming because of the limited support hours that you could provide, that’s where an online customer community comes into the picture.

Let’s begin by addressing a question that you might be thinking about at this point:

Do online customer communities eliminate my customer support team?

The answer is NO - online customer communities do not replace your customer support team. The two work hand in hand. It’s about creating an environment where your customers come and ask questions, help, and learn from each other; giving your existing support teams some relief and improving their insight into customer problems. Also, online customer communities that provide options for peer-to-peer support while allowing users to connect to the support team directly work out the best in differentiating themselves from others.

In this story, we will look at the 3 ways in which you can improve your customer support experience using online customer communities and stand out from your competitors at the same time. 

Knowledge Management

In B2B businesses, the customer support experience is different because all conversations may not be about problems. There will be customers who would need advice on how they can better leverage your product, how a new update will help them, or simply a need to understand how a particular feature works. By building a rich knowledge base in your online customer community, you put essential documents in one place and establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry.  

Reduce support tickets

Usually, customers address their problems using emails and calls. Then they wait on customer support executives to solve their inquiries. But in the case of online customer communities, they can just come and first search the community to see if anyone else has had a similar issue. They can learn from other customers’ experiences. Or even better, customer support executives can tag your customers to a thread in the community that fully answers their queries. 

User-generated content

Conventional customer support often focuses on helping one person at a time. It’s inefficient. Think about the number of times your customer support team gets the same question? Or a similar type of query?

When customers look for help in an online community, they consistently contribute to self-generated, authentic content. This becomes easy for existing customers to find a solution and develops a rich user-generated manual for future customers. Future customers can just come into the community, search for their queries and follow the thread.

Glynk’s take

A B2B company in the telecom industry runs an online customer community and currently serves approx 900K users. Their community is just over a year and a half old. It answers 63% of all customer questions — resulting in a support cost saving of more than 660,000 Euros per year. Their knowledge base, which is constantly updated with company-created and user-generated content, has led to some very impressive results and they have established themselves as thought leaders in the industry. 

So, today's reminder is that community-based businesses can be MASSIVE as community compounds like nothing else.

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