It’s been said that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. This is definitely a sentiment community managers know all too well.
Although it gets less attention than its sexier cousins in the Marketing or Sales department, community management strategies are evolving; expectations are always changing; new technological tools are constantly being created.
Unfortunately, it’s not always thought of that way.
Communities Should be a Part of the Customer Journey
No matter how well-designed your community strategy is, it will eventually need to be revamped. This is especially true for self-service support communities — where the customer is on their own and can't rely on a human service representative to guide them to the right solution.
This makes the stakes extremely high. It's been shown time and again that today’s customers prefer self-service options. But that statement comes with a caveat — customers like self service options that work. Moreover, they're just as likely to punish a business for providing a poor self-service experience as they are to reward it for providing a positive one.
In this environment, the community manager's ability to continually evaluate options and make changes where necessary is essential.
5 Steps to Revamping your Community
Of course, as with all self-critical activities this is much easier said than done. Below are some ways to revamp your community.
1. Do an Empirical Evaluation
The best way to understand what is and isn't working is to look at the numbers. Start by developing key metrics to evaluate performance. When doing this exercise, think about what you're hoping your community will accomplish from an empirical perspective.
For example, a self-service support community needs to deliver customers the answers they're looking for as quickly as possible. For that reason, two metrics that every customer service department should look at are the amount of time spent on the support forum (an indicator of how quickly customers’ questions are answered) and the number of customers that use it but follow-up later with a customer service representative (an indication of whether customers can find the answers they need).
2. Complete a Content Audit
Once you have an idea of what’s actually happening to customers that use your forum, think about how you can maximize the effectiveness of its content.
For example, if you find that a lot of customers contact support representatives after checking the discussion threads, it's an indication that the content is not strong enough. Or it might be that many customers are coming to service representatives with the same question, indicating that the community is lacking content in a certain area.
No matter what the problem is, the content audit is an opportunity to think critically about why your support forum is underperforming and make changes accordingly.
3. Consider which Tools Will Help Improve Self-Service Options
Just because your self-service community doesn't use a customer service representative, it doesn't mean it is a static resource. For example, many community managers make the mistake of assuming that self-support forums simply consist of a few message boards. The reality is far more complex. Self-support forums require tools to facilitate user engagement, maximize design and efficiency and even collect actionable data about leads and customers which can be used across departments.
This is but one example which illustrates the broader reality that many customer service problems have technological aides, if not solutions.
4. Do a Beta Test
After devising a plan to revamp, it's tempting to simply plunge in head first. Temper your enthusiasm, and take time to do a proper test of any changes that you plan to implement first.
Of course, for smaller things such as adding a single question that might be missing from a community platform, this doesn’t apply. But for larger changes, such as optimizing the way that you use your support forums, testing is a critical step. Adding features such as gamification can be a big change and is always disorienting to customers. So it's important to get it right.
If you can't do a true beta, then select a sample of customers to survey before implementing anything new.
5. Implement Incremental Change
Finally, it goes without saying that doing a full revamp of self-service options is a stressful, difficult and time-consuming process for customer support and community managers. Take the time to implement processes that will constantly evaluate self-service options in accordance with the latest trends and changes in customer attitudes and technology. Doing so will not only enhance your customers’ experience at all times but will also save you the stress and headache that comes with doing a full revamp.