We’ve heard it all before: customer service is changing, customers prefer self-service, drive customer engagement to increase retention, provide quality support or your customers will churn…
The list goes on.
But it’s precisely how B2B SaaS companies react to these changes and actually tackle the issues that really matters. An online community goes a long way to helping companies overcome these challenges. Whether it be for Customer Success or Customer Support departments, the benefits can be enormous. Not only does a community reduce pressure on your customer support teams through offering users a way to self-serve, it also drives customer engagement as users share best practices and give you valuable insights on your product.
That said, we could talk all day about the advantages of starting an online community, (and you can find out more about how they boost engagement, drive retention and should be an integral part of any Customer Success tech stack here), but without careful planning, correct implementation and efficient management, your community may fall flat on its face.
With this in mind, and 10 years of experience in the online community game, we have come up with our 10 steps towards a successful customer community. Here are three of them:
1. Create the right community concept
This is at the core of kick-starting your community the right way. If you don’t have a community concept, well, you may as well not have a community. The community concept is exactly what you want your community to accomplish for your users. It’s essentially the reason behind implementing your online community.
We find there are three main reasons why B2B companies build an online community:
◆ To reduce support costs:
B2B SaaS companies want to provide high quality support as their customer base grows, without needing to drastically expand their team.
◆ To improve customer engagement and retention:
Keeping current customers is of paramount importance in B2B SaaS companies. Online communities give your users a platform to self-serve and share best practices while also creating customer advocates who inspire others—a great way to increase engagement and retention.
◆ To gain insights and product feedback from customers:
Software companies want to build a product that fits the needs of their end users. An online community platform allows you to tap into the expertise of your customers and let them shape your product roadmap.
Of course, your community concept doesn’t have to be just one of these reasons and often it’s a mix of all three. Software company Infoland, for example, chose to implement a community to effectively scale their customer support. Now a massive 40% of new questions asked on their community are answered by other users, rather than their support staff. At the same time, their engagement metrics also increased, with almost 50% of their customers signing up to the community within the first 6 months of it going live.
Check out our case study on how Infoland used their community to scale support for more information on their community concept. Remember, defining the desired user experience is also crucial for guiding the design and layout of your online community. Here's how Infoland have nicely designed their community:
2. Train your moderators on conversation tactics and the backend of the platform
So you have your community concept and understand its primary goals, but how do you effectively moderate your community? This is a common question we get. The answer? Start by ensuring that your moderators are sufficiently able to understand and navigate the front- and back-end of the community platform.
At inSided, we have made the backend environment user friendly—you definitely don’t need to be a developer to manage our platform:
The backend of the inSided platform
Of course, community moderation training is not just about the technical side of things. Your community platform is a transparent forum and community managers should be trained on conversation tactics to be sure they engage with customers in the right way, at the right time. There may be occasions when moderators need to deal with sensitive issues, negative users on the community or police the language that is used—so it's important to arm them with the right tools to be able to do this effectively.
At inSided we offer moderation and community management training to all of our customers to ensure you both start, and build, your community platform effectively and efficiently.
3. Integrate your community with your Customer Success and Support tools
This is integral to the overall success of your platform. Communities are not the sole answer to all customer service or success woes. An online community should only be one component of your tech stack.
Integrating your community with your ticketing system, such as Zendesk for example, and/or your CRMs like Gainsight or Salesforce is the most effective way to reach your overall goals, whether it be improving customer support, scaling customer success or improving product adoption.
Not only do these integrations allow for the seamless escalation of tricky tickets to your support system, they unlock a wealth of data about your customer. They give you a full view of a whole host of metrics, from customer engagement, to satisfaction, to churn.
The inSided platform combines a community with a knowledge base in one integrated solution. This central knowledge base stores your company help content along with the best answers from your customer community to make sure users can easily self-serve at any stage of their journey. We find that with this combination companies can reduce support requests by up to 50%. Here is an example of where a customer engagement platform like inSided fits into your Customer Support and Success tech stack:
Of course, as your community grows, be sure to keep all stakeholders up to speed with regular reporting. After all, what use is data if it doesn’t drive action? Make sure you define what KPIs you'll report on (think number of community members, most liked posts), and set a calendar so there is a regular cadence of data flowing to the departments that rely on the community.
So there you have three steps to a successful B2B community platform. Did you find these tips useful? Download our 10 Steps to Community Success to find out more and make sure your online community drives real benefits for your users, and your business.