5 Steps To Revamp Your Online Support Community

6 minute read

April 30, 2020

5 Steps To Revamp Your Online Support Community

Communities are Part of the Customer Journey

No matter how well-designed your community strategy is, it will eventually need to be revamped—the same as anything that becomes outdated.

As a Carleton Alumni, I’ll draw from the example of the MacOdrum Library. Built in the 1950’s, it was once considered to be modern and beautiful. In 2013/14 (just after I left, unfortunately) construction began to revamp the outdated library to be modern and beautiful once again.


Times change, and much like the MacOdrum Library, when the time comes, your community will need to be revamped.


This is especially true for self-service support communities since you need to have the proper tools in place for your customers to serve themselves. Not having the tools to do this correctly is not only a waste of time and money on your end, but it will ultimately make your community as redundant as they come. And your customers will probably take their business elsewhere. 

I’m going to be honest—the stakes are high.

It’s been shown time and time again that today’s customers prefer self-service options. But that statement comes with a caveat — customers like self-service options that work. Moreover, they’re just as likely to punish a business for providing a poor self-service experience as they are to reward it for providing a positive one.

In this environment, the community manager’s role to properly and adequately assess their community and make changes where necessary is essential.

5 Steps to Revamp your Community

Of course, as with all self-critical activities, this is much easier said than done, and sometimes it’s nice to have some guidance along the way.

Here are 5 steps to revamp your community.

1. Do an Empirical Evaluation

Numbers don’t lie. They can’t be argued with, and they provide real insight to what’s happening inside your community.

Given the reliability that numbers provide, it’s no surprise that the best way to measure what’s working and what isn’t working is by taking a closer look at the stats…so fingers crossed that you’ve been collecting them. If not, I’d advise you to check out this blog on community KPI’s before you read any further.

Setting KPI’s and collecting community stats are one of the most important things that you need to do as a Community Manager.

webinar how to set the most impactful KPIs

Once you know what your KPI’s are, and you’ve collected and analyze your data, you’ll be able to find some answers. Some KPIs that you should probably looked at when you evaluate your support community include, but are not limited to:

  • Average time to first response
  • Average time to solution
  • Average number of page views
  • Average number of responses
  • Costs savings
  • Average amount of time spent on the forum
  • Average number of customers that have to follow up by filing a support ticket

The importance of not only collecting, but analyzing your KPI’s can’t be understated. Knowing what needs to be improved is the first step in revamping your community, and without this knowledge, you’ll really just be grasping at straws. 

Take a look at RapidMiner, they recently made the Vanilla Switch because they knew what their KPIs were and what needed to be improved. Equipped with the knowledge of what they needed, they were able to find exactly what they were looking for in Vanilla.

2. Complete a Content Audit

Once you have an idea of what’s actually happening to customers that use your forum, you want to apply these statistics to the content in your forums. What do these stats tell you about the quality of the content you are providing your customers? 

For example, if the stats tell you that the average time to the first response is very long, it may indicate that your customers aren’t engaged, or that they simply aren’t motivated to answer.

If the stats tell you that a lot of customers end up contacting support after browsing the community, it could be an indication that your content isn’t strong enough. It might also indicate that the content is lacking the correct type of topics. 

No matter what the problem is, the content audit is an opportunity to think critically about why your support forum is underperforming. This will prepare you for Step 3.

3. Consider the Tools You Need to Improve

There are so many tools at your disposal, but with the right knowledge under your belt from your content audit and your analysis of community stats, you’ll have a good idea of what you need.

Though obviously, it’s easier said than done! 

For starters, you might want to take a look at some features that could be added to your community to increase engagement and participation. Increasing your community engagement can almost always boost all the KPI’s that were listed in Step 1. The key is to create an excellent customer experience. Great CX means more engagement, and more engagement means a better community.

Here are two good tools that you could consider implementing into your support community, that have proven to increase engagement and CX:

1) GamificationGamification refers to the application of game mechanics into other things that are traditionally non-game related, with the broader goal of increasing user engagement.

Gamification applied to a support community simply means to “game-ify” your community.  In order to “game-ify” your community, something, all you need to do is sprinkle in some game elements – this will make your community more interesting, fun, appealing, exciting and engaging.

2) IdeationIdeation is defined as the process involved in generating ideas, including gathering information on ideas and collecting thoughts about those ideas. Ideation is used to make improvements to existing products or services, in addition to generating new ideas and concepts for future developments.

Applying ideation to your support community means that, among other things, people will be able to “up-vote” ideas or questions about your product, and answers provided. This is a great tool to have because it can help you to determine the questions that are most in demand.

Take a look at the King, who made the Vanilla Switch to be able to incorporate both of these elements into their support community.

4. Do a Beta Test

After devising a plan to revamp, it’s tempting to simply plunge in head first. Temper your enthusiasm, and take time to do a proper test of any changes that you plan to implement first.

Of course for smaller things, such as adding a single question that might be missing, this doesn’t apply. But for larger changes, such as optimizing the way that you use your support forums, testing is a critical step. Adding features such as gamification can be a big change and may be disorienting to customers. So it’s important to get it right.

If you can’t do a true beta, then select a sample of customers to survey before implementing anything new.

5. Implement Incremental Change

Finally, it goes without saying that doing a full revamp of self-service options is a stressful, difficult and time-consuming process for customer support and community managers. 

Take the time to implement processes that will allow you to more easily collect metrics in the future and are flexible, so that any future re-vamp can be easy-peezy.

Further, take it one step at a time. Doing so will not only enhance your customers’ experience at all times, because it won’t be a full shocker overnight change. Better yet, implementing change incrementally will will also save you the stress and headache that comes with doing a full revamp.

ebook-driving adoption and increasing engagement



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Sarah Robinson-Yu

Written by Sarah Robinson-Yu

Sarah is the Content Marketing Specialist at Vanilla Forums. Prior to Vanilla, Sarah worked in the public sector where she led and coordinated the strategic framework and operational policy development of business processes.

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