For many community managers, it’s not uncommon to build their community strategy from scratch when coming into an organization. However, Mary Poppen, Chief Business and Customer Officer at involve.ai, and Brigid Colver, Senior Manager of Customer Intelligence Community, had a repeatable playbook ready to execute from their work together at SAP and Glint.
We talked to Poppen and Colver about the evolution of community in organizations, how inSided’s community platform has helped increase efficiency by 50%, and why community is not only a pillar for customer empowerment but the foundation for it.
From outdated delivery to immediate customer service
Over the course of Poppen’s career, she’s seen the rise of CS and change in behavior and expectations from customers. Customers were demanding self-service, training started trending towards just-in-time learning, and CS needed a way to scale. CS was no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have. To adjust to all of these industry changes, Poppen created a customer empowerment team.
The formula for customer empowerment includes the right people, processes, and technology. She merged Community, Training, Enablement, and Comms within CS. With the proper tech stack, including inSided as the chosen community platform, she could also reduce redundancies in training and education and cultivate a self-serve culture.
Laying the Community foundation
Although customer empowerment includes Training, Enablement, and Comms, Poppen’s approach has always started with Community first. According to her, “Community is the customer springboard.”
When joining the leader in Customer Intelligence solutions, involve.ai, in October 2021, one of her first initiatives was to bring on inSided as the Community vendor to serve as the base of all customer empowerment activities.
“If you start with a Community strategy and platform, it makes for the perfect foundation upon which to build your education program. A big part of the reason for that is you’re building your program around the voice of the customer,” says Colver.
Poppen and Colver both have worked with other Community vendors, including Khoros but they say there were a few differentiators that made inSided the best fit. One of the largest draws to inSided was that it was a purpose-built tool for community individuals and not just a large software company jumping on the Community bandwagon.
“I think community platforms have always started with the customer at the center. [InSided] was always a portal to engage customers versus an account management internal tool. They were built with a customer in mind,” says Colver. “Now they [community platforms] are seeing that community managers have over the past years been hacking things like adding knowledge bases or creating process documentation just by posting and forums, and they said, ‘hey, we can build that.’ And they’ve become what inSided is: a true resource center and customer portal where Community is one channel of several, but all of which are focused on that relationship with the customer.”
Colver also says as a team of one, it was important for her to be able to do things on her own, so inSided’s no-code page builder was the out-of-the-box functionality she was looking for when building involve.ai’s Customer Intelligence (Communi)ty (or better known as the CI.ty). The 25+ OOTB widgets made it easy for her to customize with ease.
Scaling with a Digital-Touch approach
Their approach to Community has allowed Poppen and Colver to utilize a better blend of human and digital touch across their customer journeys. They have been able to deliver personalized engagement at scale with the ability to trigger the right touchpoints in the right channels across every stage of a customer’s journey. They do this through their Customer Success center, with automated customer comms, and in-product chat bots guiding users to other helpful community content. Their digital-touch approach has resulted in a 50% efficiency gain in SMB business at prior companies.
“I think that’s the experience customers are starting to expect more and more, and we all want the ability to self-serve where we can. I love having a CSM, but I don’t want to wait for a call with a CSM when I can go find an answer myself,” says Colver.
The duo says that it always goes back to putting themselves in the customer’s shoes and thinking about the most seamless experience for them.
Colver emphasizes, “It should feel well-integrated and curated so they can be guided to what they need or search and find what they want.”
involve.ai’s community future
Even though they are still in their first year since launching the community, 60% of involve.ai’s customers are registered members, and they are aiming to capture 100% membership.
The team continues to focus on developing the peer-to-peer relationship between members. One initiative to kickstart this more organic engagement is customer storytelling so each member can truly learn from one another starting from the day they onboard.
But just like most things, the goals and objectives have evolved beyond the initial use case. What initially started as a means to help reduce redundancies now plays a much larger role in bringing together the right people to engage with one another and the product.
A big focus is building awareness around the new category for Customer Intelligence. Poppen and Colver have enlisted help from their customer advisory board to assist with this. They have also pulled in the perspectives of thought leaders to contribute to the conversation in the Community.
“It isn’t just a website, and it isn’t just a support mechanism, or even an educational tool, but truly a place where people can come and gather and share thought leadership and get educated,” says Poppen.