Category Archives: Community Building

How Can You Scale Your Customer Support?

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I was on Quora recently and saw this question: “How do you scale customer support? Aside from hiring more employees, how do you scale your customer support to handle increasing numbers of customers?”

There were lots of great answers. The best one answer, as chosen by Quora users, is from Greg Devore. He rephrased the issue, not so much about handling more customers, but on handling more questions. In other words, the real question is: “What are the questions my customers have and how can I scale my ability to address them?” As Greg pointed out there are really two types of questions your customer service team will face: Continue reading

Three Ways Your Community Can Generate Sales Leads

Online communities are often seen as simply the price of doing business. An entry on a ledger somewhere reads “Community Budget”, because it seems that Everyone Is Doing It. As great as online communities are for engaging your customers and cutting support costs, your CFO might still see your community as a cost centre. In fact, the ability for communities to generate leads can make them a great source of new revenue. If you’re looking to improve your community’s status on the balance sheet, here are are few suggestions for where to start:
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How Micromanagement Can Damage Your Community

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One of my main responsibilities as a Professional Internet (Editor’s Note: no it’s not a typo – it says that on Patrick’s business cards – long story) is to consult with clients about best practises and methods for running their community. These meetings are rarely with the moderators of the forum, but are normally with the project managers who are responsible for the oversight of the project. Needless to say, they aren’t in the trenches of the community themselves, but I can normally tell a lot about them from the way they speak about their moderators, and the tools that they use to manage them.

It’s not uncommon for a manager to want the specifics of how to remove as much power from moderators as they can. Specifically, they want to ensure that moderators can’t delete posts, edit content or ban users. They also want to use analytics to monitor exactly how much each moderator is doing, to ensure that they’re pulling their weight. The frequency of these requests raises three questions for me. Firstly; if a moderator can’t ban a user or edit content, what specific use does the manager expect to get from them? Secondly; if the people you’ve chosen as moderators are so untrustworthy that they can’t be trusted with this functionality, what made you choose them for the role? Thirdly; since moderation is invariably an unpaid position, why would a moderator want to volunteer to be on a team where they aren’t trusted?

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Product Community vs. the Social Community: Which Is Better?

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Art by Laura Wilson – http://lauramakesart.com/

The product focused community:  the hard sell approach

A product focused community will typically have a lower tolerance for off-topic discussion than a “social” community. These communities will normally be focused on support, product questions and discussions with existing owners. The main selling factor of these forums is aspirational, a prospective customer can read about your product, interact with existing owners and begin to develop a Gollum/One Ring style relationship with it. For a great example of this, you need look no further than the official Tesla forums. All content is product focused, and as a heavily aspirational brand it benefits hugely from this. With premium priced products such as this (or say, Apple products), customers will also be keen to talk to each other about how great your product is and reinforce the wisdom of their own decision to pay more. In communities like this, a wider focus and chatty atmosphere would detract from the value of the forum. They benefit from a tight focus and controlled environment.
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