Where Do Businesses Get the Most ROI from Online Customer Communities?


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Creating an effective customer experience is a top priority for many companies right now. Businesses are spending a lot of time and money trying to understand and properly address both the pre-sales and post-purchase opportunities to engage their customers.

A CEI survey from last year revealed that 86% of buyers would rather pay more for a better customer experience—but only 1% reported getting the experience they wanted. With such stark data indicating what customers want, why is it so difficult for so many companies to live up to customer expectations?

Perhaps the answer lies in the various options for addressing customer engagement. While customer experience and customer engagement go hand in hand, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

Depending on the specific business goals, different companies are using different strategies to engage customers. Some companies leverage a live-person approach to solve acute problems using call centers. Others increasingly take advantage of online customer engagement strategies, like online customer communities, to impact a broad array of business objectives.

However, implementing and maintaining a customer engagement strategy is an investment. With that in mind, you want to make the best choice for your company, strategy, and customers.

Is your business planning to strengthen its customer contact centers? Or are focused on offering more engaging online self-service options? Regardless of which strategy you use, you want to know that you’re getting the best return on investment (ROI) possible. So, how do you know which approach to choose?

While we can’t make the decision for you, we can give you some more information on the main key performance indicators (KPIs) that online customer communities impact so you can make the best decision for your company. Even if creating an online customer community isn’t the right option for your business and customers at this time, you can arm yourself with the proper information in case your situation changes down the line.

How Do Online Customer Communities Provide Businesses a Positive Return on Investment?

Building community is one of the most versatile tools that business leaders have. It offers a flexible strategy and provides sustainable results. However, many of the companies that contact Socious about our online customer community software are just at the beginning of figuring out how engaging their customer community meshes with their business objectives.

Though the business-level goals of online customer communities can vary greatly depending on the needs of specific companies, we’ve identified three main areas where ROI is most commonly seen.

Sales and Marketing.

Online customer community software gives your company more visibility into the motivations and challenges of customers. This creates opportunities to effectively retain and upsell your current customers. Since you’ll be more aware of their problems thanks to their interactions in your community, you have greater insight into the add-on products and services they need and where they are in the buying process.

Your marketing team will be more informed than ever due to the addition of behavioral information to traditional demographic and transactional CRM data. We have seen higher customer engagement also helps to increase customer loyalty through higher repeat sales from current customers and stronger relationships with customer advocates.

Speaking of customer advocates, your online customer community can help make developing a customer reference program easy and accessible. You can more easily identify who your biggest and most active supporters are based on their engagement in the community.

By recruiting people for your customer reference program through your customer community, you’ll know who to turn to when you need customer quotes for your website, a co-presenter at a conference, or a case study from a specific industry.

Keeping customers engaged using your online community platform provides your company an efficient way to maintain strong relationships with your customer advocacy corps so that you don’t need to start from scratch when sales and marketing opportunities arise.

Support Costs and Customer Satisfaction.

Online customer communities offer the opportunity for peer-to-peer support. Shifting some of your customer support activity to your community can lower your support costs and take the burden off of your traditional call center support staff. With multiple outlets available to have their questions answered quickly, customers are less likely to get frustrated and more likely to be satisfied with their experience.

Your online customer community software also helps give you clearer insight into the concerns of your customers. When you know more about what people are struggling with, you can be more proactive in addressing their problems. Online customer communities provide a versatile platform for producing helpful resources and reaching out to individual customers to ease frustration.

With improved customer satisfaction comes higher customer retention. The importance of customer retention cannot be understated. It’s been proven time and time again that retaining your customers is up to 10 times less expensive than acquiring new ones.

Product Management and Innovation.

Innovation is driven by access to consistent market data from which companies can discover and validate how they can solve their target customers’ most critical problems. The direct engagement with your customers that an online customer community platform grants can help your company create more profitable, in-demand products.

Since your product management team will be able to more easily maintain closer relationships with small sets of your customers, such as product advisory groups, they can make sure your products and services are lined up with your market’s most important problems. The feedback tools and features in your community allow you to test enhancement ideas and potential new products so you won’t have to invest time and money in product development only to guess how they’ll be received in your market.

Online customer communities provide companies with a secure environment where product managers can seek out consistent and ongoing feedback. When you have a new product or service to test, you won’t have to waste time searching for viable candidates to give you feedback—instead, you’ll have an engaged community at your disposal at all times where you can target specific people or groups to learn about challenges in your market or get feedback on your idea.

The ongoing stream of market data and feedback that an online customer community provides can be invaluable to your company’s innovation and future product decisions.

Online Customer Community ROI Takeaway

The time and money you spend developing customer engagement strategies shouldn’t be rooted in guesswork. You want to know that you’re getting the highest ROI possible so you can ensure you’ve made the best decision for your company.

An online customer community isn’t the right fit for every business, but if you’re interested in improving your sales and marketing, support costs, and product innovation, it might be what you’re looking for. While strong relationships with your customers fuel all three of these areas, they represent only the beginning of how you can leverage your online customer community to positively impact your business.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joshua Paul
Joshua Paul is the Director of Marketing and Strategy at Socious, a provider of enterprise customer community software that helps large and mid-sized companies bring together customers, employees, and partners to increase customer retention, sales, and customer satisfaction. With over 13 years of experience running product management and marketing for SaaS companies, Joshua Paul is a popular blogger and speaker on customer management, inbound marketing, and social technology. He blogs at http://blog.socious.com.



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