We all know business can fail or succeed based on how people respond to a brand offering, product, or service. From our own research, we also know that customers react negatively to poor customer experiences. Today, many companies will invest in several pieces of technology to help improve customer onboarding, support, retention and yet have no focal point and no central area for their customers to gather. Bouncing customers from system to system creates a frustrating experience.
If we really want to wow customers with a great experience, we must go beyond a couple of links in the menu of a brand website. The goal is a seamless, integrative, and straightforward experience for all customers. We believe community is the core element where your customers can go and interact with you – and your brand can then connect them to all the things they need to be successful.
It might sound like utopia to some, but it's happening now. More than ever, community spaces are becoming integrated into the customer experience – because at its root – community is about people, and it's the front door to which prospects and customers will experience your brand.
So how do we take this concept and move to reality? Let's deep dive into the way towards creating this experience.
Community is the hub
The ultimate goal of placing the community at the center of your brand is to create a unified experience for your prospects and your customers. It streamlines everything from discovery from Google (via SEO) to creating a special experience for customers and, finally, seamless workflows that allow for collaboration into internal tools. Your visitors don't need to see behind the curtain because when done right, it just works.
So, what does it come down to?
A Community at its heart is about sharing and capturing knowledge, having discussions, asking questions, connecting, building relationships. However, because the people that matter most to your brand will also be congregating there, it is the natural spot to direct them for all activities associated with you and your brand. This is how your community becomes a hub -- by interconnecting their experiences from prospect to advocate.
We see more and more companies investing in their community teams but making the community an integrative experience as a customer hub is the next big thing, and the expectation customers will demand.
If you are on this blog, we will assume you understand the value of community – but we want to take you on a journey to understand this vision to get you to the next level. With that in mind, here are some of the key pieces of a customer hub and how you can make it all come together – today!
Knowledge Base for Documentation
Community is the backbone of customer knowledge, but the Knowledge Base (KB) is the core of organizational product knowledge. Having the community integrated with your KB allows for the quick conversion of community knowledge into organizational knowledge.
Your teams can identify items that need updating and post KB articles to appropriate conversations. Most importantly (as we will see), having it all in one spot makes finding what a customer needs a lot easier if they are searching from one location.
Ticketing for support
The natural default of support in some organizations is ticketing. However, it's a costly proposition if you think about it. You must have someone on your staff to see the issue, and they need to reply back to the customer. They are only responding to one customer at a time. This can also be very repetitive, with customers asking the same question repeatedly.
Having the community as the hub allows the support requests to be funnelled into the community, allowing a one-to-many conversation to happen. However, being integrated into your community hub means moving customer-specific tools into the ticketing workflow. Your community team does not need to go into another tool, and your support team can still use the tools they are familiar and comfortable with.
Advocacy to recognize
As your community is humming along, there will be special individuals who will show their passion. Your community is the perfect place to identify these individuals and recognize them. The earliest signals will be them jumping into the conversation and participating. Your community analytics will help your community team identify them. Your community platform can assist in awarding badges, special titles, or access as they level up.
Best of all, with the community integrated into other systems, you can share this info into your CRM (such as Salesforce) or connect it to reward platforms for sending out swag and gifts as appropriate.
The community also becomes a natural spot to identify those customers ready for case studies, referrals, references, and other marketing activities.
Training/LMS to level up skills
In almost every industry, there are ways to show your knowledge or level up skills. In a community, your members can showcase their skills and connect with others. Maybe they are taking similar courses or need more info for their educational goals.
The community is a central spot for your own company to know who the experts are or to get inspired to create education based on popular discussions, questions, and content consumption. It's also a spot for you to highlight training your company creates relevant to the various community cohorts.
PM Tools for Product Feedback
We hear a lot about the voice of the customer – but it really means feedback – and specifically feedback about you and your product. The community is a great space for these conversations – because you can have honest conversations tied to the customer data you have. However, the challenge in most companies is that customer feedback can come from a dozen places. If you centralize feedback into the community, it gives you one spot for the conversation.
PMs have their own favourite tools and workflows. By integrating the community with PM tools, the customer can share the feedback or vote on ideas – and the PM can use the tools they know. So, for example, an idea comes in, it ends up in Productboard. They can assess the idea, provide feedback, and build their roadmaps in a tool they already use.
However, your customers don't need to know these details. They will see the results: they give feedback and receive transparency from the product team, which allows them to feel that giving feedback was worth their time.
CRM for Customer Data
What are the things your customers are looking at? Who are your advocates? What information does your Customer Success Team need to know? How is their NPS?
The community hub will be able to create a sync where anyone in your company who needs a fuller picture of a customer or community member can see it in a CRM. It's not some random person – it's Bernadette, an advocate who is looking at upgrading to a new plan – and is a happy customer. She is stuck on a problem – and you can deploy resources or respond as necessary. You can tie this data into your Marketing Automation and do even more – such as creating lists of community members to deliver targeted community content. This is the community hub in action.
Federated search - find all the things that matter
This is the crown jewel that brings it all together. It's one search bar to access it all. From community discussions/Q&A, KB articles, LMS courses, blog posts, etc. It's right up front on the community – it's one spot to direct everyone to any interaction with your brand.
When these resources are scattered across multiple places, you create a terrible experience. People don't have the time to remember where they should go for what. By investing in bringing your customer-facing systems together into one central community hub, it becomes a customer hub to gather around your brand. Now they have one spot to find the info they need, share product feedback, level up their skills and connect with their peers. The best part is that it's all behind the scenes.
Internally your community becomes a hub, where your departments work on the tools they are used to, but it appears conveniently seamless to those on the front end. So, it brings efficiency while continuing to deliver a simple experience for anyone outside your organization.
The companies that spend the time creating a hub and investing in their community teams to execute will quickly deliver the best-in-class experience in their industry. Their competitors better watch out!