As the head of inSided’s consultancy team, I help dozens of telecom brands maximize the value of their customer communities. The organizations I work with activate communities for a variety of reasons: Some leverage their community as a support channel, while others use theirs for marketing and engagement. Still others aim to conduct research and co-creation with their customers.
Regardless of a community’s underlying goals, it’s important to note that customer communities are a long-term play where tangible business value stacks up as you go. Look at it as a great wine, it gets better as it ages.
If you take the time to build a winning community, you’ll see results that outperform other marketing and service channels and that brings true scalability to your company.
So how do telco communities drive long-term business value?
Successful telco communities incorporate multiple elements to immediately begin producing results. Typically, three elements have to come together: content, traffic, and activation.
Content is what’s posted to the community. Early on in a community’s life cycle, moderators should seed discussions and respond to customer posts, when appropriate. What’s important is demonstrating that you’re actively involved and encouraging users to participate in conversations. Over time user generated content takes central stage which propels your community forward.
Traffic refers to the flow of visitors to the community from outside sources. The content you create will drive traffic to your community. We found that content in established communities drives millions of relevant impressions each month on search engines, with up to four times higher clickthrough rates than paid search. Imagine how this alone already drives engagement with your brand.
Activation addresses how you get people active on the community after a first visit. Communities are a human business. See it as building a relationship. The more you invest, the more you get back. Therefore make sure that you give people a warm welcome and that you motivate them to participate.
The content-traffic-activation flywheel in customer communities will drive business value for your brand.
Telco communities have a role to play at all stages of the customer lifecycle. In the pre-sales phase, for example, community Q&A can address prospects’ questions to help them make a more informed decision faster.
Not only do communities offer authentic peer-to-peer recommendations and advice, they also help drive potential buyers from search to your shopping pages. We found that well integrated customer communities help you generate extra leads, drive higher conversion and accelerate the online buying cycle.
What about after the sale? Communities have a role to play here, too. As a community gains traffic and activates users, more and more people will turn to the community to ask product and service questions. I believe that a community is your best scalable service channel of all.
Leveraging a community for post-sale support can produce impressive results. Some of our best communities achieve 65% peer-to-peer support (meaning that 65% of customer questions in the community are answered by other customers). Because each of these questions would otherwise be addressed by a support agent, community-based support can offset hundreds of thousands of support contacts annually.
And because communities build upon themselves, they tend to achieve greater and greater savings as time goes by.
We have found that telco communities in the construction phase (0–9 months) generate benefits of about $0.11—$0.50 per customer per year. Communities in the establishment phase (6–18 months) generate a return of $0.40—$1, while mature communities (>2 years) generate $0.80—$1.75.
After a few years of growth, it’s not uncommon for a branded community to achieve millions of dollars in annual savings—particularly in the telco space, where providing support scalably is a constant challenge.
And these results carry over to different kinds of branded communities (i.e., industries other than telco). When organizations commit to community success, the results will snowball. In other words, success begets success.
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