Improve your business with an online community

April 19, 2010

Imagine a world where your customers handle the bulk of your customer support issues, gladly sell (and upsell) your products, and identify any problems your products or services are having before a crisis occurs. Through the use of web community software, you don't have to imagine this any longer.

According to a survey by Deloitte, the greatest value of online communities is they increase word-of-mouth (35%), increase brand awareness (28%) and increase customer loyalty (24%). Every company knows that word of mouth advertising is the strongest form of advertising available. Regular people telling regular people about the benefits of your business will go farther than some of the largest marketing budgets. With the popularity of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace, savvy businesses are eagerly taking notes on how online communities can increase sales, marketing ROI and customer satisfaction.

Customer support can be one of the most challenging aspects of any business. With information traveling at the speed of light, disgruntled customers can quickly become negative online billboards when their concerns are not promptly addressed. Online communities allow others to shed light on customer concerns before they become real issues. When you allow satisfied customers to provide advice, aid new customers, and share their experiences through an online community, you can often times avoid PR nightmares that may spawn otherwise.

Online communities can also help to alleviate costs and decrease staff workload in this area. Communities focused on facilitating peer-to-peer support can deliver a customer service win-win by not only lowering support costs but by also by responding more rapidly than your customer support team may be able to. When calls that would typically be handled through the higher cost phone channel are deflected to the community your customer support staff can focus on improving current products and services while avoiding having to answer the same questions repeatedly.

Online communities foster an organizational culture centered on customer-driven innovation and co-creation. Engage employees who would not normally interact with customers - people from shipping, logistics, purchase, finance or HR and make them customer ambassadors. They can take back a customer centered viewpoint to their departmental colleagues. As a result, the organization as a whole gets closer to the customer than even before, inturn inspiring the staff to adapt.

By adding an online community to your organization's current means of satisfying customers, you will not only increase customer satisfaction, reduce overall costs, and improve the productivity of your support staff, but you'll gain valuable salespeople in the form of every customer's favorites sales reps - their peers.

If you wish to setup an online community for your company and would like to understand how can help, leave us a message. The Cynapse Community is an excellent example of how is being used to power an online support community.