A few years back, software company Thinkwise went from consultancy firm to license-based platform vendor. This is when they found themselves in a new customer engagement ecosystem, one that required new technology to deliver an optimal customer experience.
We caught up with Moller Toma, Project and Community Manager, and Jeroen van den Belt, Senior Innovation Engineer, at Thinkwise, to find out how they implemented a new customer engagement model and how the Thinkwise Community continues to fuel product ideation.
But first, let’s look at what led Thinkwise to implement a customer community in the first place.
New business model, new customer engagement model
Back in 2002, Thinkwise started as a software consultancy firm, delivering projects built in their proprietary low-code software development platform to clients across the world. But as the business matured, they realized this was no longer a scalable model. Plus, there was a lot of interest from other companies to use the platform to build their own software.
In order to cater to this demand – and to scale – Thinkwise moved to a new business model. This is when they started licensing the platform on a subscription basis.
But the new business model also came with a new set of needs. How could Thinkwise empower developers and give them autonomy in their work? The answer: A customer engagement model like no other.
One central hub for all customer needs
Being a platform vendor required a different approach to Customer Success and customer relationships. Developers, both internally and externally, needed a place to access information and knowledge on how to use the Thinkwise platform.
So Thinkwise created an e-learning platform and the documentation needed. The goal? To enable developers to share knowledge, best practices, and facilitate self-service. Ultimately, making it possible for anyone to become a Thinkwise Platform Expert.
But something was missing. To complete the customer engagement experience, they needed a community.
Funnily enough, a customer community already existed in various WhatsApp groups. This validated the need for a more dynamic environment, and soon, the mission of getting customers out of WhatsApp and onto a purpose-built community platform was in motion.
That’s why when Thinkwise first implemented inSided in February 2019, it didn’t come as a surprise that adoption among customers happened organically.
Today, the Thinkwise Community is the central hub that links to all customer education and Customer Success material such as documentation, knowledge base, and ideation.
“Thinkwise Platform developers can help each other by sharing their ideas and expertise and they can use the community to ask and answer questions. Thinkwise experts regularly post blogs on technology with practical tips and share their vision. Thanks to the sneak previews, developers will be the first to see a preview of new functionalities and the latest developments,” says Community Manager Moller Toma.
Reducing pressure on the Support team
A big part of investing in a community was to be able to offer a peer-to-peer experience. Previously, Thinkwise’s ticket management system was closed, giving customers no visibility into other customers’ questions and inquiries. This put more pressure on the support team and created limitations in customers’ ability to self-serve.
Today, customers can easily search the community and knowledge base for answers or post a new question, creating a dynamic peer-to-peer environment, and as a result, building a self-service environment.
Not just a customer community
When first implementing inSided, Toma and the team thought about what could be interesting to share in the community. So they decided to ask a couple of employees to set up profiles and share content. What started as an attempt to jumpstart engagement, led to a thriving community used by both employees, partners, and customers.
As Toma points out, “It's really a platform for everyone. All developers, both internally and externally, use the Thinkwise Community to share knowledge and ideas with each other.”
An evolving product ideation model
When Thinkwise implemented inSided, they already had a product ideation model in place. However, inSided’s Product Ideation Module gave them a better way of categorizing and prioritizing incoming feedback and ideas.
InSided’s voting feature gives the community the opportunity to indicate their preference for new functionality. Partly because of this, Thinkwise can prioritize better. In fact, votes are considered one of the most valuable assets in determining their product innovation roadmap.
The fact that inSided’s community platform had a product ideation component, made the decision to choose inSided as their community platform vendor even easier.
Customers quickly got on board with the new ideation process and started posting feedback and requests without prompts from the Community team. Today, they see between 10-15 new ideas come in per week.
A transparent ideation process
The ideation section in the Thinkwise Community is open to anyone, and the process of what happens to ideas after submission is clear.
While the number of votes for a specific idea is important, so is feasibility and strategic fit. New ideas are assessed by the product development team and are assessed based on three criteria:
- Product strategy fit
Following review, ideas are given the appropriate status, always keeping customers in the loop and managing expectations.
One crucial part of Thinkwise’s ideation process is to assess ideas on time.
Jeroen van den Belt stresses the importance of quickly giving new ideas a status, and also being transparent about them. "Managing incoming ideas means managing expectations. And the better you can manage expectations, the happier your customers will be.”
That’s why their goal is to always have the number of new ideas as small as possible, and always communicating to customers what’s happening with their idea.
Van den Belt adds, “I also try to encourage people to report their own ideas as much as possible, but also to vote for good ideas from other users. The more this is done, the more our users feel engaged in making the Thinkwise Platform even more powerful.”
Launching Groups for a more intimate product experience
Not long ago, the Community team at Thinkwise has added Groups to their community to be able to offer one of their core customer segments a more intimate product experience.
This specific customer segment has very similar needs, prompting the creation of a sub-community in the form of a Group. The group is private and allows them to interact with each other openly. But it also allows Thinkwise to develop a closer relationship with this specific customer segment by sharing concepts and ideas.
For Thinkwise, Groups act as an extension to their product ideation model. “Our platform is a very strategic choice for this customer segment as it's really the backbone of their company – it’s the technology that drives their business. So we want to give them the opportunity to think with us and see how we can better meet their needs,” explains Toma.
What’s next for the Thinkwise Community?
Recently, the team at Thinkwise started using a dedicated section of the knowledge base to publish marketing and sales collateral for their partners. This way, they’re all up to date on the latest materials they can use to resell the product, and in turn, Thinkwise can get their feedback and comments in a private setting.
Toma concludes, “We look forward to inSided delivering features to help us make our community even more personal by giving our members the ability to subscribe to specific product areas to further meet the needs of our customers.”
Do you want to learn more about how you can build and scale a community-driven product ideation model?
Find more resources here:
- Close the Loop: Improve collaboration between Customer Success and Product
- Customer feedback: the core of community-led growth
- A step-by-step guide to establishing a Customer Success-driven feedback loop
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