Word of mouth and user feedback have an enormous impact on any business. This is doubly true in the B2B sector, which is built on trust and high performance in customer support. That’s why it’s so important to build your B2B support community from the ground up: to encourage constructive discussion and inspire brand advocacy.
But don’t expect to achieve the above if all you have is a basic bulletin board that does little more than allow members to post and respond to messages. What you need is a sophisticated system, tailored to the needs of your customers and your corporate goals.
Don’t panic: it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Just start with a simple but robust foundation that you can configure and expand to suit your needs.
Here are five features that can benefit any B2B support community:
#1. Rich User Profiles
B2B support is heavily reliant on professionalism, trust and transparency. When customers turn to your community forums for solutions to their problems, they won’t be put at ease by a discussion full of anonymous faces.
That’s why members should be able to create complete user profiles where they can customize personal information and keep track of their posts and comments, as well as their standing on the forum and which features they have access to. Plus, the more information they provide about themselves and their businesses, the easier it is for other members and support staff to help them.
#2. Responsive Design
Although there’s little chance of people writing lengthy posts on a smartphone, you should never underestimate the ubiquity of mobile devices.
Busy B2B staff often get a head start on the day’s work during their commute, which means there’s a good chance they’ll look for any updates or replies to previous posts in your community forums. With a responsively designed forum, you’ll deliver an optimal experience on the small screen too.
#3. User Groups
Without proper organization, larger communities quickly become cluttered. This presents a serious problem: B2B customers don’t have time to wade through pages of irrelevant threads. Your customers need to be able to focus and find answers to their questions quickly.
The ability to define individual user groups, such as product- or service-specific groups, helps keep your forums clean and guides users in the right direction when they’re looking for support. Furthermore, you can define both private and public groups as needed.
#4. Content Resources
While there’s no denying the value and effectiveness of a peer-to-peer support community, it shouldn’t be considered a shortcut or a way to avoid having your customer support team work directly with clients. Peer-to-peer support communities are an invaluable knowledge base for everyone involved. As customers use it for support, you can use it as a content resource for product development.
By curating your highest-rated posts, your community forum becomes a valuable content resource for both customers and staff alike. For example, you might have a sticky thread that addresses the most frequently asked questions to quickly help your clients get more out of their purchases.
It might come as a surprise when you consider the seriousness of the B2B sector, but gamification is making its impact there as well. Younger generations have grown up immersed in the language and metaphors of games, which means gamification has transcended its original niche to permeate almost every industry.
Gamification tactics create a fun and engaging reputation or ranking system that rewards your most constructive posters. The sense of achievement that comes with having such recognition on your community forums also helps boost brand advocacy. It gives them something extra and gives you something extra, turning your community into a valuable marketing resource, rather than just a place people go for support.