In today’s world, customer service is changing rapidly with greater expectations for reduced customer effort and brand transparency, as well as increasing preferences for digital customer experiences including online self-service.
According to Forrester Research, online self-service is now the most-used channel for customer service over any other channel including phone and email. (In Microsoft’s own Global State of Customer Service Report, more than 90% of consumers now expect a brand or organization to offer an online self-service portal.) And speaking of online self-service, since 2012, the use of communities for customer service alone has risen from 31% to 56%.
If your brand or organization does not leverage communities as part of its customer service offering, what would be the benefit of doing so? Here are six ways that communities can complement customer service:
1. Building additional trust by giving customers a public communication platform provided by the brand. Communities often provide what consumers view as the two most trusted resources for brand, product and service information: (1) a technical expert and (2) a “person like me.” In its 2016 survey of more than 30,000 global consumers, the Edelman Trust Barometer shows that consumers trust a technical expert (67%) and “a person like me” (63%) over an industry analyst (53%), a brand or organization employee (52%) or a company CEO (49%).
The report goes on to say that when consumers trust a company, people are more likely to buy their product (68%), recommend them to a friend or colleague (59%), share positive opinions online (41%), defend the company against criticism (38%), and even pay more (37%).
2. Enhancing the availability of 24/7 service and support. According to the Aspect Customer Experience Survey, 73% of consumers want the ability to solve product or service issues on their own.
Citing Microsoft’s own Global State of Customer Service Report, 75% of consumers have used a search engine to try and find the answer to their customer service question or issue. The addition of community for customer service greatly increases the chances that when customers search online for service and support related answers, they’ll be satisfied by your brand or organization.
3. Assisting with self-service knowledge creation. As a related benefit, the questions posed and correct answers provided by a community provide some of the best and easiest content additions and updates for a brand’s self-service knowledge base. Customers can often deliver some of the most wanted and viewed Q&A content – providing and answering questions that many customers have, but the brand or organization has not thought of yet.
4. Alerting to trending issues so that brands can proactively provide support. Communities provide a known gathering and conversation spot for customers and brand or organization loyalists to raise questions or alerts first when an issue or problem arises. A well moderated and monitored customer community can catch this conversation at the start and immediately begin proactive service, support and information delivery to the greater customer base.
5. Influencing product, service and brand direction and development. Customers using your product, or even having a problem with it, provide the best feedback and ideas not just for improvement but for development of new products and services. When one customer comes up with an idea, the conversation and ideas that stem from it can provide a gold mine of information for the brand.
6. Deflecting a noted volume of what would otherwise be assisted service interactions or escalations. The self-service benefits of customer communities are a win-win for both customers and customer support. When customers can find the answers they need without having to wait on hold, wait for assisted support during regular business hours or for a reply email, satisfaction increases. In turn, assisted customer support volume is reduced, empowering agents to spend additional time helping those customers with more complex issues or improving processes.
While the idea of communities for customer service isn’t new, the ideas and information that come from communities can serve your customers and brand well.