Now more than ever, service trumps product when it comes to the returning business factor for customers. It doesn’t matter if your product is exactly what your audience wants, if they don’t get good enough service they will inevitably move on to someone who gives better service.
One of the best ways to improve your customer service is to build a customer community.
What is a customer community?
A customer community is a group of people that have come together on an online platform to discuss and help other users of a particular brand. These people are existing customers that have already experienced maximum services or products from that band.
Just because you have an audience does not mean you have a customer community yet. You interacting with your users/customers is just customer service. When your customers or audience start talking to each other on a dedicated platform or forum that’s when you know you have a customer community.
With us being in the era of customers and everyone strongly believing that customer is King, it makes sense to take into consideration all your customer’s wants and needs. Who better to support and encourage them than fellow customers. Once you build a community, there can be conversations between customers regarding your products and services. People can talk about tips and tricks to making the most of your products/services. They can discuss new products and how they may or may not benefit all customers.
Importance of a customer community
While the benefits of having a customer community are many, I’ve found that these 4 are the most important.
1. Customers helping customers
The whole point of a product or service review is so that a user or customer can see whether other users have had good or bad experiences with a particular brand. People can either post fresh reviews or contest what someone has already posted about a product or service.
With people talking to each other on the platform every day, there’s little chance for them not to find out about new updates. Once you post your new updates on the forum or platform, your audience will automatically discuss the pros and cons of the new features. Your users or customers who have had previous experience using your products or service will step in to help out the newcomers that have questions.
Once the conversation gets going between customers, there are high chances that they will eventually end up telling each other exactly what they expect from you as a brand. This leads us to our next point. Insights!
2. Customer Insights
Once your customers get to talk, you’ll know exactly what they think about your product or brand and all its features. You don’t have to conduct surveys and things like that. Just invite all your users to join the forum and you’ll get tons of raw data for business improvement.
When reviews are posted about a particular product or service and other people pick it up and add their own thoughts, you’ll be able to understand how your business is faring. You’ll know first hand where your customers think you might be going in the wrong direction. Or when you’re doing exceptionally well and deserve a pat on the back!
This raw data can then be analyzed by your strategists and then you’ll be able to plan and execute ideas that will help your business grow. This way your customers know that you’re reading their conversations and taking their advice on your existing or new products and services.
Once the community is full of people helping other people, you’ll be able to pick out and contact the ones that seem more loyal and seem to have a better understanding of your products and brand. You can offer them rewards for advocating your brand on this platform as well as others.
Getting your own customers to advocate for you and your brand is one of the most organic marketing techniques. This ensures that you’re not going and paying some agency exorbitant amounts for what your own customers can do for you for close to nothing in return.
New users will almost always trust what real customers have to say about a brand and then make their decisions based on that. The trick here is to understand who already has a good opinion of your brand, who understands and agrees to your brand values, and who’d be willing to testify on your behalf. Once you have a handful of these advocates, you can come to some kind of agreement with them wherein they market your brand for some rewards in return.
Even if there are customers who do not want to be part of a marketing or advocating program, they’re still subscribing to your service or buying your products. You’ll come across tons of these kinds of people that are loyal to your brand irrespective. They may not subscribe to a program but they will most definitely speak up for your products and services and help other users get a better understanding of your brand.
When a customer feels like he has the support of your brand and feels connected to the community, it results in retention, and lifetime value too. This in turn is going to help your brand grow and reach new heights.
4 steps to build a Customer Community?
1. Understanding and determining the purpose of your community
The first step to building a community is knowing clear cut what the purpose or goal for creating this community is. You need to decide whether it will be purely for idea tossing, for feedback, for support, etc. Once you have that locked down, you can move on to the next step.
2. Select a platform
Selecting a platform is mostly based on the goal of your community and your expendable resources. There are free platforms like Facebook Groups or Pages where you can start discussions with your customers. Or if you have the resources, you can buy a domain and create a forum for yourself. The benefit of this is that you have your own rules and can make changes at any time you want.
3. Set up and Kick-Off
You might need to conduct just one survey to understand how many people would be interested in being part of your community. If created well, the survey will also be able to help you understand who will be leaders in your community. Once you have your data and send your invites to these users, you can host an inaugural event where you can discuss in depth what the goal of your community is.
4. Build Engagement
Once the community is set up, the best thing to do is to spark a conversation about one of your own products or services, or even a trending topic that can eventually lead to a discussion that will benefit your brand.
Having a customer community gives you first-hand access to your customer’s and users’ thoughts about your brand and/or your competitors as well. This makes you a front-runner in your industry and the one to beat. If this isn’t the easiest, all-around solution for brand growth, I don’t know what is.