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Mapping the Journey to a Better Community Experience

10 minute read

June 23, 2021

 

About 

This GPS and Geolocation Technology Provider provides millions of people, leading car manufacturers, cities, governments, technology companies and developers with highly accurate maps, navigation software, real-time traffic information and APIs enable smart mobility on a global scale, making the roads safer, the drive easier and the air cleaner.  

They had previously worked with two community vendors that had not delivered in terms of price or functionality. That's where Vanilla stepped in.

The Challenges:

Even after switching to a new provider, the company was still lacking the tools and functionality needed to customize the community to match their vision.

The Search:

The company was surprised to find that with Vanilla, a good price tag doesn’t have to mean sacrificing features or flexibility; their vision could now be a reality. 

The Migration:

Migrating a community with 15 years of data and nearly half a million members in just one month was easily handled by the team at Vanilla.

Results:

With the array of new features at their disposal, super users, moderators and members alike quickly felt at home, while the company saw better numbers than ever. 

“We were tired of working with vendors that limited what we could do with our community. It was very clear from day one that Vanilla offered the flexibility that we had always needed!”

Manager of Customer Digital Services

The Challenges: Searching for Customizability

Since the beginning, this leading GPS and Geolocation Technology Provider has known that self-service is a must-have in order to give their customers what they want, and offering an array of options was never a question. For the past 15 years, an online community had served as the foundation to their self-help strategy and had amounted to nearly half a million members with Super Users that had been there since day one. What hadn’t, however, been there since day one, was a consistent community platform that would enable the company to scale their community. 

The first community platform that the company selected seemed to be working great, however the costs were monumental and their Manager of Customer Digital Services, knew that the amount they were paying was simply unsustainable. The end goal was to ensure that the community was self-sufficient and was able to provide cost-savings by deflecting support tickets—but found that this vision would be impossible to achieve due to the inability to customize the platform combined with the huge price tag they were paying.

As explained, “it was good, but the costs...they were astronomical, and for a support community, cost is something that you look at really closely. Our goal was to have the community self-sufficient, but it was nearly impossible to do that with the price that we were paying, and at the same time, we could only use existing templates to customize the look and feel of the community. At this point, we knew that we needed to move to another provider.”

And so, the company selected a new vendor and migrated to a much more cost-effective platform. Not only was this platform much less expensive, but it also initially allowed the company to have much more flexibility when it came to customization. This, however, did come with a sacrifice:  “as you do when you switch providers, you win some features and you lose some others.” But all things considered, the team now had the ability to push their own code to customize the community while paying less; it seemed like a win—but this wouldn’t last.

 

PAIN POINTS

High Costs

Lack of Customizability

Dwindling Support

The company was paying extremely high prices for their community and it came to a point where it just wasn’t feasible or logical to continue paying such high rates.

The platform they were working with was simply unable to be customized in a way that suited their brand, personality and values.

As the company grew, the  support from their vendor became more difficult to get and the platform itself didn’t allow for their  team to make necessary changes on their own.

 

While the company had stayed with this vendor for a few years, eventually, the team got to a point where they were facing the same issues that they had experienced with their previous platform; the customizability became an issue again. “The customizability had actually been removed from their roadmap, and it was no longer something that they were interested in doing the way we wanted,” noted the team manager. At the same time, the community vendor was also increasing their prices, and so again, the company was in a situation where switching platforms was a real possibility.

To top it off, while the platform allowed the company to support three languages, they existed as three separate communities; this meant that reporting capabilities were limited as a global community view was not possible. “This was something that made my role very difficult. My manager wanted to know how the community as a whole was doing, not how the French, English or German communities were doing on their own.” It simply was not possible to collect metrics that characterized all three communities without pulling the stats from each separate community and manually combining the results. This issue, coupled with the rising price tag and the discontinuation of customization options, led the team to start searching for a new platform.

 

The Search: Third Time’s The Charm!

After running into the same issues with the past two vendors, the team was cautious moving forward. They knew that they needed a vendor that enabled and empowered their team to customize the community and tinker with the backend on their own. “We wanted to avoid a repeat scenario where we were stuck with templates like we had been in the past, so that was one of the biggest things on our list.”

With customizability at the top of her list, the manager of digital services quickly found themselves considering Vanilla Forums. Unlike the past scenario, however, they found that switching providers wouldn’t mean sacrificing features; on the contrary, Vanilla offered more features than they had ever had at a very reasonable price. “We had Vanilla on our radar for a few years, but once we really dove into what we wanted and what we expected from a community platform, it became apparent that Vanilla was the frontrunner.”

 

THE COMPANY CHECKLIST

Affordable

“The price tag for Vanilla immediately caught our attention. It was hard to believe that we had found a platform with all the bells and whistles at such a good price!”

Customizable

“We were tired of working with vendors that limited what we could do with our community. It was very clear from day one that Vanilla offered the flexibility that we had always needed!”

Strong Moderation

“We needed a community platform that would allow our moderators to take control, mark people and trolls and sink their posts and Vanilla had fantastic tools that helped make it happen!”

Gamification

“Gamification was something that we missed, and we knew that this feature would help us recognize our members and show our appreciation!”

 

One of the features that the company gained from the Vanilla platform was more flexible gamification—a feature that complimented the drive to customize their community to a tee. “Gamification was something that our previous platform hadn’t offered. Just before we decided to move on from them, they introduced badges, but they had to be assigned manually, which is obviously something that was impossible to keep up with when you have a community the size of ours.”

And so, their team was confident that the third time would be a charm. They had finally found the perfect vendor that could make their community vision a reality.

 

The Migration: Meeting Tight Deadlines

After the company had signed with Vanilla, they became concerned about the upcoming migration. Migrations are always a stressful time, but with a deadline of just one month to get the new Vanilla community up and running and get all the data, information and members moved over. As the team manager explained, “The deadline was really tight and we had absolutely no room for errors—so we were pretty stressed out.”

To make matters more complicated, the platform that the company was migrating from gave them little leniency to export community data; with just a short window to get all the migration data, they found themselves in a situation where data was still being sent over on the last day before the cut-off. “It was a very stressful situation, but once we were able to actually get the data, moving it into Vanilla was relatively easy. Even though the team at Vanilla was on a different time-zone than us, they stayed up and worked overtime just to make sure that we were able to meet our deadline, which was absolutely amazing and very much appreciated.” 

The team found that the migration was smooth once they were able to get all the information they needed from their previous vendor. After a very short, but stressful journey due to such tight deadlines, the new Vanilla community was up and running with the company’s 15 years of community data and nearly half a million members successfully migrated over.

 

The Outcomes: Boost in Numbers and Morale

Once the new Vanilla community was live, the team got to work on a major undertaking that they had been really looking forward to: creating a gamification system that would not only reward valued members and encourage engagement, but also complimented the new customized themes of the community. Their first task was to create special badges for their Super Users who had been with them since the beginning.

“We’ve had Super Users that have been with us since the very beginning, but we have never been able to recognize them with any special badges. As soon as the community had been launched, our team got to work on creating special anniversary badges for these long-time members.” In addition to a wide array of new badges that garnered much attention and appreciation from their long term Super Users, a new ranking system and leaderboard also became a priority. “We’re taking it one step at a time with this feature; we are getting great feedback and want to make sure that all our decisions are well informed and support our overall vision. We are really excited to see what this will do for our community!”

One feature they quickly realized was hugely beneficial was the sink feature—a feature that is entirely unique to Vanilla. In short, this feature allows moderators to “sink” comments, which ensures that even if the comment is garnering engagement, it will go down in the queue as new comments are added so that it reduces the inflammatory nature of the comment. 

“In the past, it wasn’t uncommon to see people bump up redundant or repetitive comments just to get a reaction—it made conversations less productive for the people that were there seeking help. Being able to sink these comments was a feature that I hadn’t seen before and it has really helped our moderators a lot. We didn’t want to delete or hide these comments, but we didn’t want them getting bumped and dominating the conversation; having the ability to simply sink them is really amazing!”

 

10%

94%

15%

decrease in bounce rate

of questions answered

increase in organic traffic

 

While the new moderation and gamification features were boosting morale for the team, the moderators and customers alike, this wasn’t the only positives that had come from the switch to Vanilla. The company was also seeing a huge impact on their numbers.

Engagement was steadily increasing, with an average of 94% of questions getting responses. Moreover, 44% of these questions were seeing accepted answers. “The community is still relatively new, but with the results that we are already seeing, I know that our numbers will only continue to grow.”

 

Reflecting on the Journey

The journey to Vanilla was a long road. The company had already tried two other vendors, who had failed to help them fulfill their vision of having a self-sufficient, customized community that embodied and expressed brand values.With a reasonable price tag for more features than they had ever had, the company turned its attention to Vanilla and knew that it could serve as the perfect foundation to achieve their community vision. After launching the new community on an extremely tight deadline, the results were immediate. Super Users and members alike had taken an instant liking to the new customized community, not only boosting numbers, but also morale. If you would like to be the next customer to map yourself to success, be sure to connect with our team to learn how your organization can succeed with the most innovative platform on the market

Community

Nuala Cronin

Written by Nuala Cronin

Nuala is the Content Marketing Manager at Vanilla by Higher Logic. Nuala loves creating content, analyzing copy, and all things language.

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