User communities

3 Min Read

What the Age of the Customer Means for Digital Business

With the rise of the internet industry, businesses in nearly every vertical are being digitally disrupted. At the same time, competition is fiercer than ever—meaning that brands must become customer-centric to stay relevant.

In this environment, when change is the only constant, what is the path forward—and what do successful digital investments even look like?

inSided customers offer an example of how to run digital CX in the age of the customer. As Rogier, inSided’s head of customer success, discussed in his overview of our 2017 Telco Benchmark Study, doubling down on CX pays dividends that grow with time.

Seventeen telco brands were covered in this study. What they all have in common is a successful digital strategy that includes an inSided online community.

As Rogier describes, communities are a powerful driver of economic value. The per-customer return of an online community grows from $0.50 in the first year to $1.75 by year 3.

What other lessons can be taken from digital CX leaders like the ones profiled in our telco benchmark?

Let customers lead

Increasingly, customer centricity means following consumers to the digital platforms they already use.

Lets Customer Lead

Many business leaders are already moving in this direction. When asked in late 2016 what was driving them to adopt digital transformation initiatives, executives picked “customer preferences and behaviors” by a wide margin.

In the survey, conducted for analyst firm Altimeter, 55% of respondents said customer behavior was guiding their digital transformation efforts. That’s 10 percentage points more than the next-closest influencing factor.

Embracing social networking is a good example of how to connect with the digital-first customer. Online communities, which allow consumers to interact with brand experts, are similarly compelling. Plus, unlike social media, communities are a brand-owned platform. That means they provide SEO benefits, as well as integration with e-commerce sales funnels.

Invest in platforms that enable listening and engagement

While customer centricity may be an imperative for today’s businesses, many struggle to know what exactly their customers want.

That was the finding of the same late-2016 survey in which executives noted customer preferences were shifting their strategic priorities.

EMarketer says:

“Some 71% of digital strategists and executives in the Altimeter survey named “understanding the behavior or effect of a new customer” as a challenge of digital transformation, making it the most cited barrier.”

This is another area where communities add value: They enable listening and engagement at scale with your customers.

Sonos is so bullish on the power of community to shape product strategy that it created a unique beta community—separate from the main, support-focused Sonos community —to gather ideas and conduct product tests.

Involve multiple parties from across the organization

This approach does require close coordination across your organization. Communities are typically managed by support or marketing teams. Getting product staff involved enough to leverage the community as an ideation tool may require some internal evangelism on your part.

As we talk about here, this kind of cross-coordination is essential when setting up a community, too. Getting teams and resources aligned is foundational to community success.

One of the best ways to get internal buy-in is to point to the results that communities can drive both pre- and post-sale. Our data shows, for example, that linking a community to an online store results in larger orders and better conversion. Meanwhile, brands like T-Mobile NL save millions annually by leveraging their communities for support.

Research firm Forrester, for its part, says investing in customer experience leads to better financial performance. Consumers, it turns out, are willing to pay more for a better experience.

And true CX leaders see the best outcomes of all, Forrester adds:

“Customers who rate an experience as outstanding are even more likely to say that they’ll pay extra for a product or service.”

The research is clear: Because consumers are all in on digital, businesses that follow will see higher customer satisfaction. That, in turn, provides a competitive advantage that’s hard to beat.