When planning the experience for customers accessing support through your customer forum, it is important to keep in mind the different member roles you will set-up and what privileges or permissions each member role will have. Within Vanilla this is governed unsurprisingly by the Roles and Permissions tab in the administrative dashboard.
At the top of the hierarchy you must decide who will have the highest level of administrative access to the forum. This role can generally make system wide edits to the structure, presentation and availability of the forum; therefore it is important that this top-level administrative role be kept closely guarded. For this reason, you may want to create a second-level admin role that can help to manage users but can’t make any changes to the forum itself.
At the next level are the moderators who will be able to make changes to most type of content. When considering both how your customers will navigate the service experience and how you will manage providing it, you may want to delegate the administrative moderation responsibilities for different products or versions between different members of your own team.
The goal of this strategy is to having the most knowledgeable moderators able to quickly respond to questions as they arise. By creating specific roles that are tied to access of different categories of discussions, it is easy to delegate these tasks to team members with those assigned roles.
Here is also where you may start to enlist some of your most-frequently-contributing customers to help in the moderation of your forum. Certain companies have gone to great lengths to recognize and reward these contributors, the best example of which is probably Adobe, who created a special class of contributor and brought them into the inner-circle of product development and marketing for certain products, to help both with evangelization and support. What Adobe realized is that the customer experience is greatly enhanced when different customers help each other, and so they created a healthy competition to reward their best customer contributors.
Next are the members who have permissions to access different categories of posts that you assign to them, are able to post questions themselves, and possibly answer questions themselves, if you give them that permission. Here again, you may create different classes of general members to allow some members to answer questions and not allow others, or to allow some members to view all categories, products, or versions and some other members not. As contributing members demonstrate a commitment and ability to enhance the overall community, you can progressively give them more of access and permissions to help you to improve and nurture the customer service experience.