Customer Communities Can Be Great For Supporting Customer, Or Really, Really Anger Provoking
Over the last decade more and more companies have launched online communities, because of the cost savings, particularly if you can get customers to help each other and answer each other’s questions.
Some HAVE been effective. Many more have ended up with even angrier customers, who turn against the company, or end up venting their increased anger in those forums and bulletin boards.
If You Won’t Commit To Your Customer Community, Don’t Do It Because You Will Harm Your Brand
You are much better off without a customer community, if it’s run badly and you are not willing to commit at least some resources to its running and maintenance.
What You MUST Do With Your Customer Communities To Succeed
- You must be able to create a core group of people who are loyal to your company, and LOVE helping others with respect to your products. They must be active, and helpful. If you have to provide them with some rewards to help, do that. If you can gamify it, do that.
- If your products do not inspire loyalty, don’t bother. Apple is a positive example. Their products are owned by people who love them, love to share with others. You need these advocates on your forums and communities, because not only will they participate, but they often have incredible knowledge about the products.
- You must have some staff/employee presence to help out and answer questions when other customers do not. That has a cost. If you can’t budget or allocate personnel to do this, don’t bother.
- Similarly, forums and communities need to have active, regular moderating. Spam needs to be eliminated or removed. Rules need to be enforced. Why? Because your customers will blame YOU if the community is damaged by spam posts, or nasty behavior.
- Have a management or executive presence. It’s important that at least occasionally, senior staff participate. It doesn’t have to be regular, but you’d be amazed at how powerful an occasional post from the CEO is. Consider having a special area, just for the CEO to say hello, thank people, and offer product tips.
Do It Right Or Don’t Do Customer Communities
Seriously. Build the community, let people know why it’s valuable to them, but be involved. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than to post a question, either pre-sale or after-sale, and be ignored, and that is currently the norm, even for companies like Google and Amazon.
Make the commitment.
There’s much more to running successful user and customer communities, so below, you’ll find a lot of additional and more detailed information about the practical aspects and issues you should address.