Community Software: Why Your Customer-Centric Business Needs It
Not all goals are revenue-focused when you’re in the business of fulfilling customer expectations. Yes, revenue is important, but how you build it depends on your values. When you listen and engage with your customers, you create a sense of trust and belonging with your brand. In turn, a strong connection means increased loyalty, and loyal customers bring in more business. Hosting online communities is the best way to nurture these relationships.
66% of branded communities say that having a community has had an impact on customer retention.
This is why, in addition to social channels, your customers need an exclusive community to engage with your brand, discuss your product, give suggestions, and contribute to the community and advocate for your brand in tandem. Creating an online community is a pivotal part of maintaining a strong bond with your customers.
A strong customer community can supercharge your customer support. Give participants the support they deserve, and it won’t be challenging to reap the rewards of building a devoted customer base.
How does your business benefit from an online community?
From having direct communication with customers to being able to sustain a personal relationship with them, there are many reasons why your business can benefit from nurturing an online community:
#1 Get feedback and pool ideas from your community members through discussion threads
An online forum is a space where your customers can talk to each other and discuss openly what they really think about your brand. Tune in, and you’ll learn so much. Engage with your users as they give feedback and ask for new features— this information can help you build a product that customers love to use and recommend to others.
#2 Provide support for audience members, fans, and customers when they need it
Online forums or communities provide a self-service alternative to regular customer service channels like email or phone. And whenever your users are unable to find the answer they need, you can step in and clarify it right there.
#3 Improve brand and product awareness among your customers
A great online community occurs when people enjoy spending time on it – sharing tips, asking and giving information, discovering new features. Power users can share their tips and tricks, and new users can learn how to use more advanced features. All of this contributes to raising product awareness.
#4 Learn about your customers, their evolving needs, and expectations in terms of content, features, and solutions you put out
Pay attention to the topics that people discuss the most and collect valuable data so you can focus on critical areas. Moderators can also keep track of your community’s general mood and get involved whenever needed to create a better experience for your users.
#5 Create a personal relationship between audience members and your brand
An online community offers a unique opportunity for you and your audience to talk to each other in a public space. As a brand, it’s not just about putting your message out – you need to listen in, too. You’ll be able to create memorable experiences for those who participate. You can also encourage engagement within your community by rewarding those who participate the most, make additional purchases, or refer friends. Offer value to your customers beyond a product standpoint.
What is community software?
Online community software is a centralized solution to create digital experiences around your customer base, like hosting a forum, moderating discussions, or creating a custom knowledge base. Digital community software makes it easier for you as a brand to control how your audience connects with your business and other users.
Do you need a dedicated community software solution?
A dedicated solution can offer several benefits over using make-shift tools, including moderation services, analytics, and a online helpdesk integration. Investing in software may cost more than a Facebook group or free Slack community, but it will pay off.
For example, some businesses decide to enter the world of brand communities through social media, but the move comes with limitations. While hosting a community on a social media forum is generally free, the amount of control you can have will always be limited, both in terms of the page’s layout and the services you can offer.
For example, it’s not possible to build a robust knowledge base within your social media page. When it comes to moderating, you’ll be limited to the social media platforms’ guidelines. If yours is an international community, social media offers only one language per page, making it very time-consuming to moderate multiple pages.
With the right kind of community management software, you’ll be able to manage your online community at its full potential.
What are the features to look out for in community software?
Choose a community forum software that offers the functionalities you need to keep your audience engaged. Look out for these features if you want a community software that lets you reap all the benefits of hosting a thriving online community – from tracking requests to monitoring new trends.
#1 Offers intuitive layouts and brand themes
Having the option to create customized layouts and brand themes is necessary if you want your customers to recognize the community as part of your brand. Make sure you can give your page a complete make-over to adhere to your brand’s look and feel.
#2 Integrates with your helpdesk
An efficient relationship with your helpdesk is crucial for community software, as so much information comes from it that you might have to act upon. Look for community software that integrates with your helpdesk so you can track customer requests in real-time.
#3 Helps set clear community specifications
A good community software will help you set uncomplicated expectations, guidelines, and moderation protocols for your customers.
#4 Has a built-in self-service functionality
Bring the collective experience of everyone on your team into creating a knowledge base with a scalable content management system. Use self-service functionality to encourage customers to solve their problems and understand concepts by themselves.
#5 Gives access to real-time analytics to track community trends
Use analytics to track community trends, topics, and other variables. Get insights into the health and engagement of your community.
Tips for handling customer engagement through community software
Maintain your brand’s voice
No matter where your brand shows up, be it a social media story, or a post on a forum, you need to have a consistent voice. Remember that everything you do and share is part of your brand, including your community software.
As part of that ongoing conversation with your customers, all communication must be perceived in a deliberate and consistent way. That’s why you should maintain your brand’s voice when you communicate through community software.
Keep exploring new avenues to engage with your community
Organize events in your popular customer locations (online or maintaining social distancing), set up rewards and prizes for your most active users, ask for user-generated content like recipes using your products, share webinars; there are many ways to keep your community engaged. Engaging your community helps build stronger relationships.
A solid relationship means higher loyalty, and loyal customers bring in more business over time. That’s key to scaling your business.
Define the performance metrics for your community
Online communities are diverse. Defining what success looks like for each community will depend on your business goals. Here are some of the metrics you might want to keep track of:
- Boost in audience members/increase in followers
- Overall engagement
- Increase in brand awareness
- Increase in customer satisfaction
- Traffic to your website
Keeping your customers engaged through online communities
Building an online community is an essential part of maintaining a solid relationship with your users. If you’re a business that cares about your customers, having an online community is a great way to keep them engaged by hosting events, creating a self-service knowledge base, or offering rewards.
Ultimately, online communities are a tool to promote engagement. When you hook a customer in as a member of your online community, they’re more likely to become a loyal customer for life.
Use community management software as a tool to make the most of your online community. By simplifying how your online audience talks with your brand, you’ll be able to keep a strong connection with your customers.