Increasing numbers of businesses are recognizing the potential of the online community in providing support. Within a community, expert customers and representatives work together to assist others and share ideas about your products. Depending on your company’s identity and existing online presence, you may want to establish or re-brand a community space owned by you, build a presence on other social media sites, or some combination of both. In this final segment of our series on multi-channel support, we will look at points to consider when implementing community support as part of an overall support strategy.
Customers expect agility between channels
Once again, multi-channel success hinges on integration of data. If your other support channels are integrated with your community, then you can encourage customers to get involved in the community when they reach out through these other channels. Create forum topics and feature change posts from their support emails, or encourage customers to subscribe to forums or topics of interest based on their support needs. Likewise, give your support reps visibility into the areas of the community where customers express their frustration – particularly in cases where these customers later contact support via another channel. Your customer will not want to repeat their issue to a technician after having already taken the time to write up a long forum post, or be told to submit a support ticket after having done so the day before. Make sure community representatives and phone/email representatives have access to the same customer information.
Invest in your new community
Especially in the beginning, plan for a significant amount of involvement from representatives. The eventual goal is for your expert users to drive most of the conversation in the community, but those users need the incentive of an established, active community before they will get involved. Have your team take the time to encourage and appreciate customer involvement, and to contribute to the conversation as much as needed in order to keep up activity in the community. Seek help from other teams in your organization to identify long term, loyal customers, who may not have much contact with support but would be assets to the community forum. Make sure they have incentives to participate as well. Recognize that your community’s approach to moderation and representative involvement will change over time as the community evolves.
Encourage collaboration between teams
Because of the high visibility and brand importance of your online community, technical support agents working in this channel will likely need to collaborate with members of other teams in your organization, such as marketing and product management. Bring in stakeholders from all of these teams to help define your company’s community approach to issues such as scope of conversation, moderator guidelines and etiquette. In order to develop a sustainable community, you will need to strike a balance between too much and too little involvement on the part of company representatives- the perfect approach will be specific to your product and customer base. The technical support agents you select to monitor community forums should understand your community approach and adapt their support procedures to match. This may require a higher level of written communication, customer service, and flexibility than a typical outsourced support vendor can provide. We invite you to read more about our high touch approach to support at Hudson Software. However you decide to structure your team, having all resources on the same page will create an authentic community environment and make your customers feel that they are part of something great.