From a consumer point of view, customer support has come a long way in recent years. The advent of omni-channel customer support has given customers a variety of choices for support, rather than forcing them to spend hours on hold for telephone service.
These improvements can put businesses in a tricky position. Improved access to support has increased customer expectations, and resources are finite. It’s crucial to be able to prioritise based on what your customers want, and those priorities are different for different customers.
"US online adults who want to stay in touch with your brand are three times more likely to visit your site than to engage you on Facebook - Nate Elliott, Forrester"
The answer to “What does my customer want from support?” should concentrate on the criteria that a particular customer has for that interaction. A user who chooses phone support is likely to have a very specific issue that they think will need back and forth with an expert.
A customer consulting your FAQ is hoping that they have a common problem that will already have an easy answer. The drawbacks of support channels are well known to users, and they fall along an axis of time spent to potential efficacy. Is the higher probability of a fix from a phone call worth a frustrating hour on hold? Is trawling through a FAQ going to turn up anything useful?
Offer Your Customers a Simple Workflow
A support community occupies an enviable place on this axis. When your customer wants a fast answer to a known issue, they can find one in an existing thread. If they have further questions, they can post and ask for further help from support staff, or a helpful user. Forum communities have great SEO, which helps to push accurate, useful results to the top of your customer’s search.
A solved problem lives forever, and each answered ticket adds to your knowledge base and helps deflect further tickets. Omni-channel support is fantastic for customers and a necessity for businesses, but if your support doesn’t include a support community, you’re leaving money on the table.
What Are the Pitfalls?
So why doesn’t everyone use support forums? In some cases of course, it’s simply that the idea has come to mind yet, or they’re unaware of the benefits. In others the issue is a knowledge gap; the team feels they don’t know enough about setting up and running a forum community. It’s one thing to talk about crowd-sourcing great support, but how does the community team attract and engage that crowd?
Forum communities don’t have to be complicated but they aren’t foolproof either. A mix of art and science goes into a great community, and it isn’t reasonable to expect every community team to build something great from scratch.
Our Community Playbook Can Help
Here at Vanilla, we have an interest in making sure that forum communities are successful. We hate seeing communities lie fallow or fail to reach their full potential. To help remedy this, we’ve launched The Customer Community Playbook, a free e-book that tells you everything you need to know about starting and running a community. You can learn:
- What kind of technologies you can use to build your customer community
- The key strategies for a successful launch
- How to attract and engage new users
- How to run your community forum efficiently and effectively
- How to find the best community moderators