All companies look for ways to deliver customer support that's faster and better than their competitors because that's what customers want. And when customers get what they want, they're less likely to leave.
But most companies also think that delivering superior customer services comes with a hefty price tag. These companies, as it turns out, are happily mistaken. Delivering top notch customer service support doesn't have to be expensive, though many vendors who provide these types of services would like you to think so.
Smart and price-conscious companies tend to place online community forums at the centerpiece of their digital customer support strategy. That's because community can be one of the most scalable solutions out there, and can deliver exponential value depending on how many customers use it and how many different purposes it serves.
That is, of course, if community builders are able to use community correctly and make the most of everything it has to offer. You can't simply slap together a community and expect it to deliver fast and efficient support that saves you money—it takes time and careful planning to get the most out of community. That being said, if you do your due-diligence and build your community the right way, you're sure to be able to support your customers faster, better and for less.
This blog will outline how community is able to deliver these benefits.
Faster Support with Community
With a community, customers are able to search the wealth of peer-to-peer knowledge available and easily find an article or discussion that addresses their issues. Customers don't have to be put on hold with a customer service rep and be passed around multiple times just to get an answer that's adequate at best.
Online communities are highly beneficial because of their SEO benefits. They are unlike other self-service support solutions, such as a chatbot, how-to-videos or online chat, since content found in communities appear on the Google search engine results page. This means that they can not only be found easily, but they can also be found time and time again, eliminating the need to dedicate resources to address common and repetitive customer inquiries.
The best thing about having an online community is that it's available 24/7.
Better Support with Community
Online communities provide superior customer support because it enables customer self-support, which overwhelmingly suits customer preferences. In fact, studies show that when customers experience service or product related issues, 66% actually prefer to search for a solution on their own before contacting support. Additionally, a whopping 88% of customers expect organizations to offer self-service support options. Oh, and online communities are the preferred support channel for over half of your customers (52%).
Delivering self-service support is the best type of support since your customers want to be able to solve issues on their own. Further, when you take a closer look at what it is that contributes to poor support, it's clear that community helps to remedy these issues. For instance, the top contributing factors to poor customer service are outlined as the following:
Customers don’t feel appreciated.
Customers aren’t able to speak to a person who can provide them the answers they are looking for.
Customers experience rude and unhelpful employees.
Customers are being passed around to multiple people.
Customers are put on hold for unreasonable lengths of time.
Online communities eliminate these factors since they do not involve directly speaking with a representative and can deliver answers quickly and easily.
Cheaper Support with Community
Community can offer a huge ROI advantage for those who use it properly. That's because community is able to serve more than just one purpose. If you're using community primarily for customer support, you might come to find that your customers are using it in alternative ways.
For instance, Cireson procured an online community to address the large amount of support tickets their team was receiving, and while the community was able to deflect 90% of support tickets (saving them a ton of money) they also found that it was being used in other beneficial ways. Customers would show others what they were doing with the Cireson product, and bounce ideas off one another. These ideas would then be used by Cireson to help inform the development of future products.
According to the SPAN framework, introduced by Adrian Speyer, there are essentially four main types of online communities:
Support Community: The primary purpose of this type of community is to provide members with effective customer self-service, fueled by peer-to-peer support.
Product Community: This type of community empowers innovation by providing a space for members to share feedback and new ideas on products/ services.
Ambassador Community: This type of community largely focuses on supporting and getting feedback from a curated segment of community members (brand loyalists).
Network Community: This type of community relies on the network and could also be a space for people with a common circumstance, cause or career goal to network.
While support communities tend to be the most common, oftentimes, organizations will have communities that are made up of two or more of these types. When communities serve more than one purpose, they can show a huge return on investment.
Now, while this is all well and good, community vendors are also aware of the immense value and potential that community can offer, such as cutting costs, reducing support tickets and increasing customer engagement. That's why some community vendors would have you spending an arm and a leg to get their product. So while community can in essence offer faster and better support, it may not necessarily be cheaper if you choose the wrong vendor.
Sufficient to say, choose wisely folks!